Road trip across the state

In late July I headed out to the Raptor Center of Tampa Bay in Brandon to transport some critters to a rehabber in St. Pete. Penny lives down in south St. Pete and helps with the over flow of critters. She rehabs and has a team that releases them. In the back of my car I had 4 baby mockingbirds, a baby woodpecker, a box of baby opossums and juvenile osprey.

A week later the call went out for a transport that would be double stops from Brandon to areas near Orlando. One of the critters was a swallow tail kite. He had an injured wing and the best place for him to get better was at the Avian Reconditioning Center in Apopka, not quite 2 hours east of Brandon. They have huge flight barns that he could fly around in to build back up his muscles. I never thought I would have a swallow tail kite in my car!

A baby kestrel was also going to the Avian Center.

But first I had to stop in Mt Dora, almost 2 hours northeast of Brandon ( and then 20 minutes to Apopka from there).  A baby racoon and a box of 10 squirrels (all different ages) were going to the Wright Rescue Ranch. There were so many baby squirrels getting separated from their Mom’s that the rescue ranch is taking them in to help them grow up before they are released. We had a heating gel pad in the box to keep them warm on the trip. Many of the babies didn’t have fur yet and get cold quickly. I love the way they all cuddle together.

Since the trip would be a little long, Nancy fed the littlest one before I left. He was so cute holding it with his little feet.

I stopped halfway to swap out the heated gel pad for a hot one and they all woke up. The bigger ones started climbing around so I had to be quick and swap out the pad.

I got to the Avian Reconditioning Center much earlier than my last trip so I took a few minutes and got out and walked around. You can see some of the big flight barns in the back.

The center houses a handful of permanently injured birds and the volunteers were out sitting with them. One of the volunteers was holding a red tailed hawk. It looked like they were having a serious conversation.

There were 2 owls sitting out. The barred owl in front was missing an eye. The great horned owl in back had a wing injury and they both are great surrogate parents to lost babies that come to the center.

I walked around the back of the tree and saw the eagle sitting farther away.

He couldn’t see out of one eye and tilted his head to look at me. I stayed pretty far back and these are all cropped up shots with my phone. It was finally time to make the 2 and half hour trip back home but it was nice to spend some time with these guys.

an image of a red sports car with a lady caricature going at Vroom Vroom high speed, Senior Salon Pit Stop Vroom Vroom Linkup

🎵”To all the owls I’ve loved before” 🎵

I was a little bummed that I missed baby owl season this year. Most of the nests are deep in the woods and required a little hiking and with a hurt foot I just didn’t feel like looking for them this year. Of course my husband says “Don’t you have like a million pictures of baby owls?” Yes, but, every year is different. Different nests, different personalities. I was thinking back to when I first saw babies and started digging through my old pictures. These are all just a few of my favorite ones. The two above are of my first time seeing baby great horned owls. These were taken at Kapok Park in April of 2009.

These above were at Kapok Park in 2012. That was a great nest, in the open part of the tree and fairly low down. At some point they stopped nesting here. I think something happened to one of the adults.

Barred owls at Lettuce Lake Park in 2014.

Great horned owls at Fort Desoto Park in 2014. This was another great nest. It was low in the V of the tree. These babies were famous with tons of people coming to take their pictures. The park rangers had the area roped off so the shots were far away. They nested in this tree for 2 years and then moved to another area of the park the next year.

The next year the great horned owls picked the top of a dead palm tree on a trail at Fort Desoto (at least everyone thinks it was the same couple).

Barred owls at Lettuce Lake Park in 2015. They nest here deep in the swamp so it’s hard to see them until they are big enough to move around.

Great horned owls at Circle B Bar Reserve in 2016. They nested right on the main road into the park so they were pretty easy to find.

That same year the reserve had barred owls nesting on the main trail so they were also easy to find.

The great horned owls started nesting in the big oak tree in the parking lot at Philippe Park in 2017. I was able to see the babies here through 2022. This is where so many of the babies did not survive due to rat poisoning. In 2021, 2 of the 3 babies died. Last year both parents and 2 out of 3 babies died.

Barred owls at Lettuce Lake Park in 2018.

The great horned owls nested in a very visible nest out on the beach at Fort Desoto in 2019. They took over an old osprey nest. These babies were fun to watch and had a lot of personality.

Above is the only time I’ve seen a screech owl baby and he was pretty big. This was April 2021 at a nearby park.

To paraphrase Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias (their song “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before”

“To all the owls I’ve loved before
Who travel in and out the park
I’m glad they came along
I dedicate this post to them
To all the owls I’ve loved before”

A 3 park morning.

It was early December and I was ready for another morning out with my camera. My first stop was the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo. I ended up only taking a few pictures while I was there. I was busy looking for birds of which I found none.

I left the gardens and stopped at nearby McGough Park to see if there were any birds there. No birds but a lot of other critters. The bees have taken over this owl nest box.

A few of the turtles in the turtle pond.

Some of the permanently injured animals that live here (the nature center here houses animals that cannot be released back into the wild). Both owls had injured eyes.

On the way home I stopped at the Largo Nature Preserve and did find a few birds here.  You can usually find limpkins along the boardwalk here and they are use to people walking by. This one was sitting on the railing and made no attempt to move as I walked by. This is not cropped.

Not surprised to find the usual birds here. A blue gray gnatcatcher, a black and white warbler and a yellow rumped warbler.

Another usual bird, a pine warbler, was pigging out on caterpillars. He ate several while I was snapping and I was lucky enough for him to show them to me.

Save Our Seabirds

When my sister was here visiting over Thanksgiving weekend we headed down to Sarasota for the day. After spending the morning at Selby Gardens and having lunch nearby we stopped in at Save Our Seabirds to walk around for a while before heading back to Tampa. SOS is a non-profit bird sanctuary and rehabilitation facility. They rescue, rehab and release injured birds. Many of the birds that can’t be released have found a permanent home here.

Many of the birds had missing wings, eyes or legs. It was late in the afternoon when we stopped in so it was quiet and most of the birds were napping.

They do a lot of work with injured sandhill cranes including ones that lose a leg after being hit by a car. They fit them with prosthetic legs so they are able to move around easily but are still not able to be released.

Linking to Wednesday Around the World