When thinking of a bird that could represent Halloween I think of vultures. Crows or ravens would be scarier but I didn’t come across those recently. On a day off in September I headed down an hour from my house to Myakka River State Park. I had not been in over a year and wasn’t expecting to find much there in September but I wanted to get out of the house. I found a little obscure trail that led to a dead end with a small dock across the river. The roof of the dock was covered in vultures and there were more nearby on the ground. I think there had been a dead alligator in the area. They were looking at me very curiously, probably wondering what I was doing in their spot.
Up close. This one has a small boo boo on his face.
On the ground next to the trail.
Taken with my phone, you could see how close they were.
I was keeping an eye on this guy right below me in the water.
Fun at the zoo in early June. The manatees are back at the zoo which is good and bad thing. The zoo has been updating their water system in the manatee hospital so any injured manatees had to go to Homosassa Springs for rehabilitation for 6 months. Now that the manatee hospital is updated they can take in injured manatees. The bad thing is that the manatees have to be here at all. It’s great that visitors can see these big guys up close and that the zoo treats them but it’s sad that so many are injured due to boat strikes or sick from red tide.
On top of the manatee pool, a few juvenile blue herons are learning how to catch their own fish. These were all probably born in the nests over the alligator exhibit next door.
Vultures were drying off in the bear exhibit. They do this in the morning to easily warm their body up. Not sure why, it was already 85 degrees at 10am. The bear eventually came over to check them out. The vultures didn’t fly off but just moved over. They didn’t seem to scared of the bear.
The last of the wild baby blue heron birds that were growing up over the alligator exhibit.
I had heard about Raptor Fest at Boyd Hill Park for several years but never went. I’m not keen on going to big festivals at my favorite parks. I’d rather go when it’s quiet and not crowded. This year peer pressure got the best of me when I had several friends saying you have to go this year. I got there early and got a good spot for the Earthquest program in the open field. Earthquest is a non-profit environmental education program that introduces the public to different raptors, all of which have come from rehabilitation situations that cannot be released in the wild. They gave examples of how we impact the raptors lives and ways to lessen that impact. Above is a hawk, I think a red-tailed hawk which is not rare here but not as common as the red shoulder hawk. He was to fly into the tree and then fly to the perch in front. He flew to the tree but never made it to the perch and took off across the park. He eventually came back but everybody got a good laugh at the handler’s expense.
Above is a Harris’s Hawk which I had never seen before.
Black vulture and turkey vultures, both of which I see a lot of around here. One thing I learned is that black vultures find their food by sight, which is why they soar high in the sky. They have amazing sight. Turkey vultures (with the red face and big nose) find their food by smell, which is why they are mostly seen on the ground.
The above condor stole the show. He’s an andean condor but we learned about California condors and their brink of extinction as well.This guy had so much personality. He was supposed to hop up on the perch to get his food but he showed the handler there was an easier way (although I suspect it was planned all along).
A golden eagle which you can’t find in Florida.
Several local bird rescue and rehabilitation groups were also there with injured birds to get close to. Most were missing a wing or an eye.
My friends were right, it was a fun morning. Crowded but fun to watch the kids see these great birds up close. It was also a good morning to practice flight photography as some of the birds flew from tree to perch. There were tons of big cameras and lenses there. Can’t wait until next year’s in early February. I also got some good pictures of an eurasian eagle owl in flight which I’ll post later.
Some of the critters in the water at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park north of Tampa. I made my annual winter trip in mid-January, hoping to see manatees along the river but the weather had warmed up for a few day and the manatees had scattered around the area.
Yes, this guy was on the other side of the glass. You usually see them sleeping in the back with their eyes closed.
It seemed to be mating day that morning. Both pelicans and some wild vultures were getting frisky in the warm weather.
There was a small fish kill on the lake due to the freeze we had for several nights in January. Even thought it got just below freezing here, the fish aren’t use to the cold and there was a small amount of fish floating near the trail per the last picture. The clean up crew (vultures) at Circle B Bar Reserve moved in quickly and were dragging the dead fish up on the trail and feasting away the weekend I was there. They didn’t even bother to move as we walked down the trail. Just kept eating.
The trees were full of fat and happy vultures.
Several alligators were up on the trail. The vultures didn’t move away when the alligators came up.
This was Momma pig right before she had her babies when she was hanging around the nature center. She walked by so close I could only get her face in. She has since had a litter. More on that to come.
The barred owls were still hiding under the palm tree in mid January. They have since moved to the nest in the hole in the tree.
Vultures are usually plentiful at Circle B Bar Reserve but in mid January the place was covered in them. They were in the trees all along Marsh Rabbit Run Trail and along the trail feasting on the dead fish. The smell was a little ripe in some places but they were busy cleaning up the place. I went back several weeks later and there was no sign of any dead fish.
A bittern hiding in the swamp. Shout out to Peter and Capt. Jake for finding this guy. Don, where were you? You missed out on this one.
A black vulture and a turkey vulture hanging out together.
One of the many “Osprey” trees along Alligator Alley trail.
The baby great blue heron is almost grown up.
The parent was still watching over him.
The baby was still getting excited when the parents came to visit. He was still getting fed by them.
I’m starting to see dragonflies everywhere.
A quick visit to Circle B Bar Reserve in mid-March. I think there were more people than birds on the trails. It’s that time of the year when big groups of bird watchers descend on the park. They move a lot slower and I’m sure they see a lot more birds than I do. Most of the time they are seeing they with binoculars or scopes so I usually can’t get a shot of what they are looking at. I usually try to keep moving. It all started with getting exercise so I try to get in a good long walk on the weekends.Seeing the wildlife is a bonus.
One of the parents from very far away. Last year this nest lost both babies. I never heard what had happened. I have heard there are two again this year.
Looks like a couple to me. I think the one on the left is a female. I’ve read they have a brown fleck necklace around the chest.
First time I’ve seen a kestrel at this park.
Woodpecker inside a palm tree.
Cutest critters at the park.
I had not been to Honeymoon Island in a long time. I went to see all of the usuals but it was still too early to be able to see babies yet. If they were there, they were still to small to see from the nest. I found the owl nest but the parent had been sleeping on the nest all morning. I heard here were eagle babies but they were still too small to see from as far away as we could get (over 500 feet is roped off at this park from the trail). No osprey babies yet as well. This was the end of January so another trip in early March is in the plan. After several days of rain, it was nice to get out and walk in the sun.