Baby bird season

I headed up to the bird rookery in north Tampa in early April. I knew it was a little too early for a lot of babies but it was a nice afternoon out and this is an afternoon shoot spot since the sun comes up across the lake in the morning.  Great egrets were in all stages of nesting. Some had eggs, some had small babies and some looked like they were still flirting and working on nests.

There were at least 2 nests up front with baby wood storks. They look so pretty when they are babies with that orange beak and blue around their eyes. Woods storks are listed as a threatened species since their numbers are still small and are vulnerable to changing water levels. We are fortunate that they are a common bird in the Tampa bay area. I see them at many of the parks I visit as well as in the ponds in my neighborhood.

Birds were busy flying in and out of the rookery, bringing food to the babies and adding sticks to the nest. I was able to catch a great egret and a tricolored heron going by.

A tricolored heron was picking up sticks from the water and bringing them back to a hidden nest.

A rare thing to see in the Tampa bay area. It looks like some glossy ibis have been nesting here in the last few years. The nest is on the back side of the island so I haven’t seen any babies yet. For a long time I only saw them at Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland but I’ve seen a few here lately.

Back out in the wild

I headed back over to the Manatee Viewing Center at the electric plant when my sister was visiting in February. We got there right when it opened on a weekday and it was already crowded. Everyone was here to see the hundreds of manatees floating near the dock. I first noticed a girl out there floating with them. She worked with an enviremental agency and was counting the manatees and making notes of each one’s distinct markings. There was also one on the dock counting. Can you imagine floating around with all of those manatees? It seems like a dream job.

Standing on the dock looking down, you could see lots of them floating close together. I took this one with my phone.

It was hard to single them out and get close up shots.

When we first got there we had heard there was going to be a manatee released back into the wild. We got a good spot on the dock railing and I was able to get pictures of them bringing it down to the water.

They carried that heavy manatee down to the water and carefully placed the tarp in the water and the manatee swam away. Everyone cheered as he swam out of the blue tarp. The thing I find interesting is that it was all women who carried that manatee that could have weighed from 1500 to 3000 lbs. Many of them were volunteers.

The manatee had been rehabilitated at Zoo Tampa, probably stranded from cold stun or starving (which many of them have been lately due to changes in grass beds).The zoo has a manatee hospital on site and you can see some of the resident ones there.

A few of the birds cruising by as we were waiting for the manatee release. A bald eagle was flying over by the electric plant and a tricolored heron flew right by the dock.

One of the cute statues at the viewing center.

My Corner of the World

Critters in Lakeland in early March

Out at Circle B Bar Reserve in early March, I was greeted by a tricolored heron and a kingfisher, both flying by.

Green herons are common along the trail but I can’t help but take more pictures of them.

I saw this great blue heron high up in a tree doing a mating dance. They look straight up and bob up and down. It looks like he, or she, was sitting on a nest already. I guess she was ready to start a family.

Here comes another one. Maybe a looking for a mate? She did not want any part of him as she screamed at him.

He flew around in a circle and still came back to land on the same tree. She chased him off so maybe that wasn’t her boyfriend.

I stopped by Lake Morton near downtown Lakeland on the way home. This male black necked swan had already started a family. I saw him walking over to the nest and his mate, a mute swan, left. He checked the eggs out and then sat on them while she went out for a walk (or to look for a snack). The black neck swan had a mate, also a black necked, for several years before she was hit by a car in early 2020.  They were the only pair so now the lone male has taken a mute swan as a mate so it will be interesting to see how those babies turn out.

A blue winged teal taking a nap.

I’ve been told the gray swans here are offspring of mute swans and black swans that had paired up. There are several on the lake.

An anhinga posing for me.

The baby black swans are growing up fast. They looked so cute cuddling together.

Early November walk

It was a beautiful morning for a walk at Circle B Bar Reserve in early November.

A pretty mushroom on the trail. I rarely see them with color.

Critters on branches include a black bellied whistling duck, a tricolored heron and an anhinga that looks like she’s going through a full moult.

The whistlers have been regulars along the trail during the winter.

I thought this juvenile night heron was sleeping but he popped his head up after a few  seconds. That pattern on his wings is very cool and goes well with his bright orange eyes.

Far across the lake I could see both eagles sitting high up in a cypress tree.

I saw the crowd as I was walking down the trail and realized they were watching a tiny alligator cross the trail. He looked so tiny compared to the big ones along the trail. It was almost comical to watch him cross.

My Corner of the World

At the baseball park

In early August I stopped by the baseball fields near my house to see if any parakeets were nesting. Getting out of the car I could see the nest high up in the light post. The clouds were moving in over the sun you could just make out a faint rainbow around it.

I could hear loud screaming coming from below the light post in the big pile of sticks. The parakeets build their nests at the bottom of the osprey nests and go in from underneath. The osprey have long left since they nest late winter. These monk parakeets were busying flying in and out but I didn’t see any young ones. There were several entrance holes to this one big nest.

A few of them flew over to the tree and hung out there for a while.

Some of the other light posts that didn’t have nests were full of pigeons taking a nap.

A tricolored heron posing on top of the ballfield fence, in the outfield.

There weren’t any games going on while I was there and the park was pretty quiet with a few people on the tennis courts. There were at least 8 empty osprey nests here but it’s hard to get good shots of the babies since the nests are so high up. Years ago I saw some loggerhead shrikes juveniles here but I didn’t see any here today. I’ll check back on another quiet day.

My Corner of the World

Pulling off in a ditch

I was heading home on a quiet road that was being widened when I saw the bright pink spots in the ditch. The ditch was full of water from the storms and was more like a river at this point. Of course, since I had my camera in the car, I turned around and came back to the spot, pulling of the road. It’s not often you see this many spoonbills hanging out together, even if it was noon and the sun was straight up.

The angle of the bright light was bad and it felt like being in a swamp but I was still determined to spend some time watching these beautiful spoonies going about their lunch. A tricolored heron walked up and the spoonies ignored him as he cruised right through their party.

The spoonies were busy sleeping, preening, feeding or yawning or really just chilling on this hot day.

I looked down and this fiddler crab was not happy I was there, shaking his claw at me as he was trying to hide in the muck.

Early morning at Lettuce Lake Park

The lake was low in early June. The summer rains weren’t in full swing yet. The birds above were standing knee deep and they were pretty far out in the lake.

A few spoonbills were feeding close to the boardwalk.

Other birds along the boardwalk were storks and a tricolored heron, posing on a snag.

I saw this northern parula singing his heart out.

A very young titmouse.

Black bellied whistling ducks were cruising by the overlook tower and landing in the trees. They kept hopping from tree to tree, calling out to each other. I saw them when I first got to the park and was on the boardwalk. They were gone 20 minutes later so timing is everything.

My first robber fly sighting. What a cool bug. Although I probably would have freaked out at first if he flew on me. I saw him land on this branch and was wondering what it was.

Views from the boardwalk, not so early in the morning. Although I was there right when it opened at 8am and before there were lots of people on the boardwalk. It was so hot. I can’t image being out here after 11am in June.

SkyWatch Friday

Spring migration was a bust

McGough Park in Largo is another spring migration hot spot so I stopped there in late April but all I got was turtles. After walking around for an hour and seeing very few birds I left and headed to Largo Nature Preserve.

Not many migrating birds here either but lots of other stuff. I thought the bottom shot was just a weird looking butterfly but then realized it was two butterflies. Not sure if they were mating or feeding on something but they stayed there for a while.

I caught this osprey cruising by me with a really big stick heading to a nest. What is that saying? “Speak softely and carry a big stick”. This is more like “Fly high and carry a big stick”.

A tricolored heron creeping around in the muck.

A big family and almost grown babies in the bottom shot.

This was the first time I’ve seen black bellied whistiling ducks here, much less any where in Pinellas county so I was surprised. They were on the golf course across the canal.

This lone spoonbill was busy feeding and wandering around looking for the best spot.

As I was walking the path something blue whizzed by. Wait, what was that? Finally, a migrating bird. It was a blue grosbeak and when I cropped this shot up I realized there was an immature orchard oriole with him (the yellow one on the right). The oriole took off and I wasn’t able to find him again.

The blue grosbeak had a lady friend with him (the brown one on the top) and they stayed in the area for a few minutes before taking off across the park.

This guy sleeps under the boardwalk. I took this with my phone but I was on the boardwalk at the time.

image-in-ing: weekly photo linkup

Our World Tuesday Graphic

Are there babies yet?

The trees were still bright red in early February, showing a pop of color across the pond.

The usual birds were still at Possum Branch Preserve. A grebe and a tricolored heron were easy to photograph.

We had a new visitor to the pond. A few glossy ibis showed up. It’s the first time I’ve seen a glossy ibis in this part of Pinellas county and the first I’ve heard of one being at this pond. They were pretty skittish but one let me get some good shots when I hid behind the tree. He was busy eating the pond bugs.

I stopped by a nearby park to see if the great horned owls were still nesting. It was quiet this morning and the other photographers there thought there were babies but no one has seen them yet. I was thinking it was a little early anyway. When I got home and cropped up the shot of the mom sleeping in the nest, I could just make out some white fuzz under her chin so there was at least one baby in the nest. It was going to be a while before we really got to see anything.

Dad was on a branch farther up the tree.

Some cute little squirrels were hiding in a tree nearby.

More shots to come of the baby owls and those cute little squirrels from a later trip.

My Corner of the World

Gorgeous males in my neighborhood

For the past several years we’ve had hooded mergansers spend part of the winter swimming around a small pond in my neighborhood. The pond is fresh water but they also cruise up and down the salt water canals occasionally while they are here. Coming home from running errands in late November I saw them and ran home and got my camera. I parked a little ways down the street and snuck up behind a tree. They are very skittish but didn’t seem to mind me as long as I didn’t get to close. There were 2 males and one female. They kept swimming around diving for food but I didn’t see them get anything. They were still there through late January. Hoping they return next year.

I think this tricolored heron was wondering what I was doing there.