A 3 park morning

I was out early one morning right before Christmas.  My first stop was the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular but thought I would do a quick lap around the gardens.  The gardens were decorated for Christmas and you could see the lights all over the bushes and trees. I thought this owl statue was cool and would have loved to see it all lit up but I didn’t make it here for the night holiday lights this year.

The usual birds were in the main pond. A green heron at attention, a wood duck (the entire family was floating around the pond) and there were lots of moorhens.

After the botanical gardens, I stopped at nearby Largo Nature Preserve to see if there was anything new. A grebe spent some time preening close to the boardwalk and there have been some northern shovelers there for several weeks now but nothing new or different.

My last stop before heading home wasn’t really a park but the Dunedin marina. I was hoping to see dolphins or manatees hanging around the marina but I didn’t see any on this trip so after walking around for a while it was time to go home for lunch.

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Flappers at Circle B Bar Reserve

Some of the little birds that are often seen at Circle B Bar Reserve are the house wren and common yellowthroat.

We were looking for the yellow billed cuckoo along the trail and someone spotted this summer tanager from across the marsh. It’s the first time I’ve seen one here.

We found the pair of cuckoos but they were doing their best to hide high up in the trees.

The usual birds to find in the water here. A common moorhen taking a bath and the grebes have returned for the winter.

“Mom, pay attention. That lady is watching us.”

“She’s not going to bother us unless she’s willing to wade through alligator infested marsh”

“Okay, so we can relax. It’s been a busy morning eating bugs.”

Later I passed the black bellied whistling duck family (looks like the other parent is here) and the babies were all napping. It’s such a treat to see these babies here since the main trails are closed in the summer. This is a late family for late October.

Fun things at Lake Mirror

Color at Hollis Garden in Lakeland in early May.

I thought these lily pad were cool holding the water in their leaves. Lake Mirror in downtown Lakeland was full of them.

There’s a reason they are called “common” moorhens. They are everywhere and they have tons of babies starting in the spring.

I noticed this baby grackle screaming at his Mom for food. He was hopping around behind Mom but I think she was trying to get him to feed himself. He was old enough to be able to do that.

Across Lake Morton a new building was going up. The flags would have looked very magestic if they weren’t so worn out.

I don’t alway stop at Lake Mirror after a walk at Circle B Bar Reserve but this morning in early May I only did a short walk at Circle B and then went over to Lake Mirror. I was in the mood for some spring flowers that were in bloom at Hollis Gardens which sits right on the lake.

SkyWatch Friday

A late afternoon walk

At the end of April I went out late in the day instead of the morning. I had something I had to do in the morning but I didn’t want to miss a walk outside. I headed to Largo Nature Preserve not expecting much since it was hot. I caught the screech owl peeking out of her hole. I knew this was the tree that had a nest but hadn’t seen anything until now. I didn’t know at this point if there were babies. I waited a while but she just sat there staring off so I kept on going.

I did a quick walk along the boardwalk before heading out. It was interesting to see the spotted sandpiper on the boardwalk rail. Those guys are usually skittish and only here in the winter. Lots of dragonflies around and I saw a moorhen sitting on a nest.

A quick stop at Possum Branch on the way home. I had the entire preserve to myself.

Green herons were everywhere.

A black and yellow flash went by me and when it landed on a branch I realized it was a bobolink. It was with another male and a female that landed farther down the canal. They stopped for a few seconds before taking off again. It was the only bobolink I saw this season.

Little critters in the weeds.

The trails around the ponds were covered in this mimosa ground cover. The purple flowers were covered in moths and bees. You could see the tiny path where people had been walking on it. Quickly they will die off and the trail will get mowed again but the blanket of purple was really pretty this afternoon.

These yellow and white flowers are weeds and they were also everywhere.

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Winter visitors at Possum Branch Preserve

A few of the wintering ducks at Possum Branch Preserve, a lesser scaup and a horned grebe. They were both far out in the channel that runs along the preserve.

A moorhen posing on a tree branch in the pond. Seems a little dangerous standing up there with all of the hawks and eagles that could come by.

The robins were still hanging around in early February. They were picking off the few remaining mulberries left on the tree.

At least two sora rails were spending the winter in the pond.

This is the 2nd winter I’ve seen a Virginia rail here. He’s pretty skittish and rarely comes out from the reeds. After standing there for a while, he finally came out for a few minutes before running back into hiding. He’s much prettier than the sora rail.

Pretty things in November

I always love coming around the corner on the sidewalk and seeing the big burst of pink in the air. The huge silk floss tree at the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo blooms in the fall. I was there at the end of the blooms but there were still some left on the tree and the fruit was starting to come out. I could also see a parakeet high up in the tree.

Other plants at the gardens.

The giant milkweed plant was covered in caterpillars in the middle of November. This was before it was starting to get cold so I hope these guys all made it through.

It was a quiet day for birds.

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One last visit to the turtle pond.

The squirrels were getting frisky in late May at the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo.

Not many birds at the gardens. A pileated woodpecker and a young moorhen.

Grasshoppers are everywhere right now. They can wipe out a plant in no time. You can see them eating the leaves in both of these shots.

It was a quiet morning at the gardens but I wasn’t quite ready to go home yet so I went for a quick walk at nearby McGough Park and to visit the turtles there. Most of the trails here are very narrow so I stayed off those to keep away from having to pass people. I probably won’t make it back to this park until next spring.

The wooden owl in the parking lot.

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Pretty things in early April

Blooming things at the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo.

Critters at the gardens.

Baby moorhens are popping up everywhere now.

Yes, the botanical gardens were open during the “Stay At Home” phase. Lucky for me most people must have thought they were closed because there was only a few other people there. Lots of space to move around in.

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Last visit to my favorite place for a while!

In early March I hurt my back and ended up with a compression fracture. I had to take it easy for a while and after two weeks without long walks in a park I decided to take a road trip across central Florida to look for the whooping cranes. I figured it was easy to sit in a car and I’ve been saying I was going to go over there but just never took the time. This was also right before the big lock down. On the way home I decided to stop at Circle B Bar Reserve for a quick walk even if it was just a few minute in the parking lot. I felt pretty good (was wearing a back brace around my waist) so I walked a little ways down the main trail. It felt good to be out. I’m glad I made the effort because they closed the reserve down the next week for a while. I found the whooping cranes, more on those later. Above are sandhill cranes that were right up on the trail.

Lots of the usual birds there including the great blue heron yelling at an intruder.

It must have been soft shell turtle day because I saw three different ones on my short walk. They were up on the trail. They are usually skittish but one stopped for a pose.

I’m going to miss the tree twins.

A small part of the marsh at Circle B Bar Reserve on a beautiful day.

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