A hidden gem

I had heard about a small park not too far from my home that had a community vegetable garden and a butterfly garden so I thought I would stop by on the way home from Chesnut Park. As I got out of my car I saw two swallow tail kites cruising right over the park. I thought that was a good sign. One of the kites had what looked like a frog in his talons but he cruised over the trees before I could get a second look.

It was right before lunch and the sun was straight up and hot so there weren’t many butterflies around although the small garden was very pretty.

I saw a juvenile brown thrasher high up in a tree but he was gone in a flash.

A lot of yellow was blooming this morning. It was quiet and hot so I’m thinking I’ll come back when the weather cools off, maybe during fall migration.

Looks like a perfect log to take family pictures or take a break.

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All of the usual things

Right when I got to Largo Nature Preserve and was getting out of the car this swallow tail kite flew so close to me that I cut him off. He flew over some trees and I couldn’t find him again.

The usual birds were there. A cattle egret, limpkin and a night heron.

The usual Florida critters were also there.

I did a quick lap around the paved trail and saw this almost grown baby screech owl peaking out of the hole in the tree. I looked for a while for the parent in the area but couldn’t find one. Those tiny owls are good at hiding. I did not stick around to find out if the parent came in to feed the baby but I’m sure it did at some point.

A red bellied woodpecker was popping in and out of this hole but we were all interested in the flickers nesting in the tree next door. More on that to come.

My Corner of the World

Everyone was eating this morning

A chickadee hanging on the moss. He was picking the bugs off the moss.

I found these two woodpeckers that were eating peanuts from the ground at the bottom of a cypress tree near the main trail at Chesnut Park. I don’t know if someone left them there for the birds or if the woodpeckers stashed them there before. They both kept coming down, grabbing a peanut and then going up the tree and eating it. They did this several times.

Heading home, I was driving down the road in the right lane when this swallow tail kite cruised really low right in front of me. I turned into a neighborhood and pulled over and got out as the kite was cruising around. He was circling low all over the neighborhood and then took a dive behind some trees.

When he was visible again he had a lizard in his talons. At this point he started heading out of the neighborhood and across the busy road. It was fun seeing him cruising so low.

Pretty things at a quiet place

Pretty things at Bok Tower Gardens in June.

Boring birds at the feeder but not lacking in color!

A quiet place to reflect.

Heading home from Bok Tower Gardens in June, I stopped on a dirt road to get some shots of the swallow tail kite that was cruising over a cow pasture. I’m sure those cows were thinking “What is that girl doing?”.

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Summer critters on summer flowers

Lots of little critters buzzing around at Lettuce Lake in August.

Not many birds but I did see a juvenile northern parula and a red-eyed vireo.

This was the last time I saw the swallow-tail kites, in mid-August. One was flying over the boardwalk. They all left town to head south for the winter.

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Birds at Lettuce Lake Park

Usual birds at Lettuce Lake Park in north Tampa.

A rare bird you only see soaring high in the sky in the summer, two swallow-tail kites were cruising by while I was on top of the observation tower. One looked like he had something in his claws.

It looked like it was part of a duck or maybe a baby bird. These guys snatch baby birds right out of a nest. They eat while they are soaring, mostly dragonflies though.

A cute black bellied whistling duck cruised by as well.

I stopped by the teeny tiny golf ball size hummingbird nest before leaving the park. At first the almost grown baby was sitting alone on the nest. Then mom flew in to feed it.

Go fly a kite

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After driving around some cow pastures, I saw this up ahead. I pulled over and took the above. It looked liked was raining swallow-tail kites.

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I drove a little farther and found a large group of people standing on the side of the road, next to a watermelon field. They were all watching the swallow-tail kites flying around catching the dragonflies in mid-air and eating them while they were flying.

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I took all of the above while standing on the side of the road. Some were flying over a melon field and some were flying over the cow pasture next door. I’m sure all of the farmers driving by thought we were all crazy. Standing there taking pictures of birds flying that they see each summer. The kites all stop over in central Florida on their way south for the winter. They fill up on dragonflies and other bugs hanging around the fields. I don’t see these kites often. Only a handful in the Tampa Bay area in the past several years. Once word gets out on the bird forums of the kites eating their summer meals, people come from all across Florida to watch the hundreds of kites.  In a few of the pictures, you can just barely see the kites holding a bug and trying to eat it while flying. I struggled to get decent pictures. The kites were flying so fast, zooming across the fields.

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Not a good picture but there were a few Mississippi kites flying around but they stayed pretty far away from the roads. They look smaller than the swallow-tail kites and are almost all gray so they were fairly easy to spot. My husband calls them the ghost birds.

 Skywatch Friday

On the boardwalk at Lettuce Lake Park.

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The first thing I saw when I got to the boardwalk was a swallow-tail kite flying by. I heard they were nesting across the lake. I would need a canoe to even get remotely close.

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A great blue heron flyby.

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Juvenile night heron along the boardwalk.

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A white eyed vireo.

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I thought this was a brown thrasher but the grey eyes are throwing me off. Brown thrashers have orange eyes. Any ideas?

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The swamp was full of these flowers. They were growing in the shade.

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Built in Christmas ornaments on this fir tree.

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Is that a yawn?

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Another bunny.

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He was on the side of the road. I pulled over and took these pictures before leaving.

I hadn’t been to Lettuce Lake Park in months. The lake was full and the swamp under the boardwalk was full of water. I saw very few wading birds. I heard a lot of northern parulas all over the park but they were all high up in the trees. No sign of the barred owls this trip. I’ll keep looking.

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Flying kites high in the sky

Swallow tail kite.

Swallow tail kite. It looks like he was about to grab something.

Two swallow tail kites.

Mississippi kite flying right over my head.

Mississippi kite.

I had heard the kites were back flying over the cow pastures up in Hernando county. The area is about an hour north of Tampa. Last year in July I made it up there but only saw the swallow tail kites from very far away. This year I got up there around 8am. There were a few other cars driving along the dirt roads looking for the kites. I saw the swallow tail kites pretty early. It wasn’t until 11am that I saw my first ever mississippi kite. There were several of us standing on the side of the dirt road taking pictures of the red headed woodpeckers when what looked like a ghost bird flew right over our heads. It’s a pretty rare bird here so everyone was excited to see it come close enough to the road to get pictures. But in reality, it’s not that cool of a bird. It’s kind of boring. My hubby said later “You drove all of the way up there for that?” I replied “Well yes, it catches and eats dragonflies in mid-flight.” Of course, I didn’t get a shot of that. Maybe next year. Besides the kites, there were other birds I don’t get to see too often so more to come on the dirt road trip.

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