Brett and I were sitting at home late on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, not doing much since it was so hot and my foot was bothering me, when I started surfing through Facebook and saw a post from a rescue group needing a transport for a sick bird. I have been following Raptor Center of Tampa Bay on Facebook for a while but I really wasn’t paying attention until I saw the transport request. They needed a pick up of a sick red shoulder hawk at a 24 hour emergency veterinarian and brought to Nancy, the rehabber out in Brandon. I thought “I could do that”, sent them a note that I was coming and jumped in the car. Someone had found the hawk sitting on the side of a busy road and stopped to pick him up and took him to the vet. When I got to the rehabber she pulled him out of the box and said he was a juvenile and was very undernourished. He didn’t even fight her. She was going to try and nurse him back to health.
A few days later the Raptor Center needed another transport. This time from Nancy’s home in Brandon where the Raptor Center is located to another rehabber in south St. Pete. Since there isn’t one big rehab center in the Tampa area for raptors they get placed in smaller rehabs around the area. Penny in St. Pete had room to rehab these critters so off I went to pick them up. The original hawk I had transported earlier was the first one loaded in my car. He looked comfortable and ready for the 45 minute ride.
The bat was found by someone who kept it for a week, feeding it powered milk and ground mealworms. One thing I learned is you should never feed any animal cow’s milk (except cows). Even cats really shouldn’t have milk.
Four baby screech owls made the trip. I think all of them had fallen out of the nest or the nests couldn’t be relocated. Look at those eyes!
Two juvenile crows came along as well. These guys were scratching the box so I didn’t even peek in. Nancy took this picture.
The rehabber in St. Pete lives near the Bay Pines National Cemetery where my parents are buried so I stopped in before heading home.
They decorate with flags for Memorial Day weekend and they were still there a few days later.
I decided to visit the small McGough Park to see if there were any migrating birds in the trees behind the turtle pond. Of course I had no luck on the birds but the pond is always full of turtles. Many were already coming out on the bank to soak up the sun early this morning.
It’s easy to see how the park got it’s nickname “The turtle park”.
There are also gopher tortoise hidden along the trail and if you look on the ground through the trees you might find one wandering around.
A green heron posing for me.
I was sitting on a bench under a tree and this Carolina wren came down next to me and started singing. I didn’t even have to crop this shot.
The park is also home to some permanently injured birds. They are well cared for here and I was able to see this screech owl (missing an eye) on his daily walk with his care taker.
This barred owl is Eugene and was also out for a walk with his care taker. He’s missing an eye as well.
This beautiful hanging orchid plant was blooming in mid-April at the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo.
I love these spikey pods that bust open and are filled with fuzz. I still can’t figure out what these are.
A butterfly had landed high up on this silk floss tree.
Tiny critters in the butterfly garden. There were a lot of monarch caterpillars on the big milkweed plant. I think the bottom caterpillar is an orange barred sulfur butterfly.
Usual birds here are the dove and the brown thrasher.
And of course I can’t walk by and not take pictures of the wood ducks floating around. This time I also saw some on the fence.
A crow flying by with an egg in his beak. Probably a turtle egg.
I stopped at nearby Largo Nature Preserve after leaving the botanical gardens and it was pretty quiet there. I did notice some heads sticking out of holes in some dead trees near the parking lot. A screech owl had been nesting in one. I never made it back here to see if there were any babies. A red bellied woodpecker was checking out the other hole. Probably just started to work on a nest.
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.
I was watering some hanging plants right before dark in the backyard when I noticed this face peeking out of my neighbor’s dead palm tree. The house next door had been empty for at least 2 years. I think the lady that lived there was now in a nursing home. This was the first time I had seen a screech owl in our neighborhood.
Over the next two weeks I was able to catch the above. He (or she) would stick his head out right before dark. In the last two shots, he woke up earlier during the late afternoon. I would sneak around the backyard and hide behind a short palm tree to get pictures. I didn’t want to scare him away.
After 3 weeks of peeking out the side window right before dark every night, I came home from work and saw that the dead palm tree was gone. I ran outside and realized my neighbor’s entire backyard had been gutted and cleaned up. I was heartbroken. After 2 years it gets cleaned up now??? Then I heard a peep and saw the owl sitting in a palm tree that was still standing next door. He was looking at me like “Where’d my bed go?” I would assume he was sleeping when someone came in and started to saw the tree down. He must have flown out in panic. I can only hope he didn’t have eggs in there yet. I had not heard any baby noises yet. I stood there in the backyard crushed that my new friend had lost it’s home. I never saw him again after these shots were taken. I’m sure he moved on. I don’t know if it’s too late to put up a nest box in our yard.
Other critters in the backyard.
I was able to catch the sunset in the backyard while I was trying to get shots of the owl. One night I caught this rainbow driving into my neighborhood.
All of the above are permanently injured birds that live at McGough Nature Park . They were at the Craft show greeting people so everyone can learn about the birds. The hawk in the first picture was showing off his missing eye.
I saw this big beautiful dog and was watching him make friends with a much smaller dog. The smaller dog was trying to be a big tough dog and the bigger dog just sniffed him and gave him a kiss. They played together for a few minutes before their owners had to leave.
I’m not sure what kind of dog this was but there was two of them and the ladies were brushing them and weaving their fur into blankets and scarves. They just sat their and enjoyed the people walking by.
I picked a good day to drive across town and walk around the Largo Botanical Gardens. Next door at the Heritage Village, they were having a Fall festival and craft show. I wandered around for a while and watched the huge crowds of people have fun on a beautiful fall day (even though it was still 86 degrees). I was tempted to get a funnel cake but the line was too long.
An early morning walk at the Lowry Park zoo produced a lot of funny faces. A baby marabou stork all grown up, a screech-owl missing eye that found refuge at the zoo and a loving boat billed heron couple among a few I saw. The caracara in the last picture was shot in the wing. He has a permanent home at the zoo where he can do his hop/fly low on the ground. We don’t really see any caracaras on the coast since they mostly live in central Florida so this is a good chance for kids to get up close and see one.
In the morning, I saw this great blue heron on my neighbor’s dock.
Later in the afternoon, he was sleeping on our dock.
Every once in a while he would look around. I call him Mr. Grumpy Face.
Back to sleep.
The neighborhood osprey was back again with lots of annoying visitors.
A ring billed gull sat across the boat lift from the osprey. Watching his every bite.
That’s a big fish. I don’t know why he wouldn’t share.
Then a kingfisher landed on the same side.
The kingfisher took off after a few minutes when he realized the osprey wasn’t giving up his lunch.
Then a few minutes later, a little blue heron starts to bother him.
Not in my backyard but in my in-laws front yard. A screech owl has been sleeping in the roof overhang on the corner of their house. He’s there sporadically. I finally put my camera and long lens in the car on Christmas day and was able to get the above when we pulled into the driveway. I think we’re going to have to name him.
All of the above except for the last picture were taken through the bedroom window during Christmas week.