Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lunch time at Circle B Bar Reserve

Spoonbill got a big one!

Ibis caught a fish.

This ibis took his catch up into a tree.

Another ibis eating.

My visit this past weekend to the Circle B Bar Reserve was a bird eating festival. I saw one ibis eat 3 fish in a row. How can they fit all of that in their tiny bodies? There were counts of over 1000 each of ibis, storks and egrets. Not sure how long they will stay there. I've heard that last winter white pelicans were living in the lake there so I can't wait to see if they come back again this year. I also saw a group of glossy ibis out in a field but they were pretty far away to get decent pictures. I plan to get back there in the next couple of weeks to look for the eagles.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A magical place

Pond full of storks.

Marsh full of egrets. The trees in the back were also full of birds.

Stork tree. A natural decorated Christmas tree. (Sorry, already thinking about the holidays.)

Big alligator sleeping in the same pond as the storks.

Big spiders were everywhere.

I recently discovered a new place for wildlife thanks to my flickr contacts. The Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland. It was so easy to get to from Tampa, just off the Polk Parkway. It's an old cattle ranch with a big lake. Lots of walking trails, ponds, nice nature center and lots of animals. It felt like what Florida would feel like 50 years ago. I got there around 9am Saturday morning and there weren't a lot of people there. I think as the weather cools off it will get more crowded. The ponds or marshes were full of little fish which meant there were tons of birds eating right in front of me. There were so many different types of birds all together. (More bird pictures later). The alligators were huge. I saw at least 7. I can't wait to get back there in next couple of weeks, especially to see the eagles. I heard there were 3 nests on the property although I didn't see any eagles while I was there.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Getting ready for bed.

I stopped by the beach on the Courtney Campbell causeway on the Clearwater side one night last week to see what shorebirds where hanging around. It was almost sundown and there were lots of different shorebirds all hanging around together getting ready for bed. They were preening, swimming and getting a last few bites in. Some were already trying to sleep. Lots of willets, sanderlings, plovers and lesser yellowlegs among them. They seemed to be staying away from the gulls and terns on the beach.
It always amazes me how they can balance on one leg while they are sleeping. You would think they would just plop down on beach to sleep.

Friday, October 23, 2009

What not to do at the zoo.

I was at Lowry Park zoo recently and saw this funny thing that was going on. Or at least everyone thought it was funny but it's probably a bad thing to do. The zoo has food dispensers for you to buy food to feed the fish in the pond at the bear exhibit. There's always a ton of ibis hanging around the boardwalk there and in the bear exhibit. I always think they are going to walk up to the bear and take his food away. This lady was trying to buy some fish food for her daughter to throw in the pond and an ibis was attacking her for the food before she could even get it out. He was being very aggressive. Of course everyone around was laughing thinking it was so cute. With help from a friend she was able to get the food out of the dispenser and instead of shooing the bird away she proceeded to feed it. Soon there were several birds getting a handout. I'm sure it's not good to feed these wild birds and now they have become aggressive towards anyone walking near the dispensers. Soon the zoo will need to put up a sign not to feed the wildlife because people won't get it on their own.

Am I being to harsh?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Philippe Park birds

"What is he looking at?" (Great Blue Heron)

Night heron creeping around the mangroves.

Reddish egret out in the bay.

It was a windy morning for this guy.

This weekend was very windy and a bit cool for this area. I stopped by the Safety Harbor fishing pier and Philippe Park. It was the first time I had been there when there was not a single person fishing. Mostly because the tide was so low the water stopped halfway out to the end of the pier. There were a lot of shorebirds running around. I was able to get a few shots of a reddish egret standing around in the water. It's the first picture I have gotten of this bird in his red/bluish grey color. They are fairly rare to see. Fort Desoto has a white morph of this bird that lives at the north beach marsh. I stopped by Philippe Park before heading home hoping to see the eagles that I had heard where back for the winter. No site of the eagles again. I did find a great blue heron and a night heron in the mangroves by the bridge. Not many other birds around.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Eagles and Opsreys

Oprey getting ready to take off.

The whole world is a toilet.

Eagle from far away.

I had read that a lot of the eagles were back in town so I set out Saturday morning to see if I could spot some. Or at least one. I found one at Honeymoon Island. She (the ranger thought it was the female) was sitting near the nest at end of the Osprey trail there. They still have that portion of the trail blocked off so you can't get too close. This was taken with my 500mm lens and extremely cropped. Hopefully the eagles will be successful again this season and have babies. The trail was full of ospreys as usual.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rainy day wildlife

Night heron in the trees.

Great egret preening.

Spoonbill looking for food.

Black neck stilts and an oystercatcher looking out the window.

American crocodile yawning.

I finally have a day off and it's pouring outside. Where do you go to practice taking pictures of birds when it's raining? The Florida Aquarium. Yes, they have fish but fish are boring. They just swim around in circles. The aquarium has a wide variety of birds in the wetlands exhibit. You can get pretty close to them as they seem to be tame and use to all the noise and people around them. They just keep eating or preening.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Davis Islands at sunset.

Semipalmated plover on the beach near Davis Islands Yacht Club.

Night heron prowling for food before sundown.

Oystercatcher flying away before dark.

Osprey sitting on a light pole looking in the water for dinner.

With a perfect sunset like this how could anyone stay indoors, other than the fact that it was 92 degrees at 7pm on Sunday. A few birds were out getting that last minute dinner in before it got dark. I walked around the jetti at the end of the airport runway to the Davis Island Yacht Club. Considering there were lots of people around walking dogs, riding bikes and hanging out there were a handfull of birds around. The oystercatchers are the most skittish. If they see someone coming from miles away they will take off. The other birds just took all the people in stride. Soon the weather will be cooling off a little bit and there will be tons of people there on the weekends.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wild Bird Rescue Workshop

Barbara from the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary conducts a workshop on rescuing injured birds.

Barbara and Liz show how to properly hold a cormorant and anhinga when helping an injured bird.

Ralph Heath, the founder of Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, stops by the workshop to thank everyone for coming. He started it 35 years ago.

Permanent resident at the sanctuary coming out of the pool. He is missing the top of his beak.

Another permanant resident pelican going in for a swim. He had a wing that was permanantly injured. He was looking at me like "come in with me".

Saturday was October 10th and still 95 degrees. I braved the heat and went to a wild bird rescue workshop at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary. They reviewed all of the different situations that could happen when you see an injured bird out in the wild and how to handle them. Some might be fairly easy with proper equipment such as catching a pelican with a net, removing the hook from the beak the correct way and releasing the bird. They reviewed situations and types of birds where it's best to call the sanctuary for an experienced rescuer to come out. Liz (pictured in first 2 pictures on the right) is their experienced rescuer at the sanctuary and she had some great stories to tell and a few sad ones as well.

Liz spends a lot of time on busy fishing piers rescuing hooked pelicans and cormorants and trying to release them there if they are well enough. She shows fishermen how to properly pull up a hooked pelican, cut the hook and release. It's so important that the fisherman don't just cut the line with the hook still in the pelican which can then get tangled in mangroves, etc.

It was a fun morning and I learned a lot about the tough life of birds around the coast as well as how hard they work at the sanctuary. Please stop by there if you are in the Tampa Bay area. No admission but they welcome donations.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Birds of a feather

Flock of snowy egrets hanging around Fort Desoto shore at sunset.

Group of white birds (great egret and ibis) in a big old tree at Fort Desoto. I wonder if they'll sleep there. It was sunset.

Ibis looking for some last minute food before dark.

A group of shorebirds all together getting ready for bed.

Close up of above - skimmers, oystercatcher, godwits, willets.

Last night I went to Fort Desoto after work to catch some sunset pictures. There were lots of large flocks of birds everywhere. It looks like they were getting ready for bed or getting some last minute bed time snacks. I guess they think there is safety in numbers at night. The fishing pier was busy with people fishing and birds were still hanging around looking for a handout even after the sun had gone down. It was a beautiful sunset (even though it was still 90 degrees). I'm sure it rivals any sunset in Key West. I have several pictures in my flickr stream of it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

American Oystercatchers

This week I went to a presentation on american oystercatchers in the Tampa Bay estuary put on by the Clearwater Audubon Society with help from the Florida Coastal Islands Sanctuary Program. These birds are a "species of special concern" by the Audubon Society. The Tampa Bay area has over 18% of the oystercatcher pairs in the entire state of Florida. Oystercatchers mate for life (like penguins). They nest on beaches and there aren't many of those left that are not being trampled on by people. There are several protected islands in the Hillsborough bay that are off limits to people for these birds to nest on with big signs that explain why you cannot tresspass on these islands. Boaters still land on these islands and spend time playing on them even with their pets. The oystercatchers are declining due to these types of behaviours.

What can you do? Stay out of protected areas. Don't let your dogs run unleashed on beaches. Keep pets off beaches where they don't belong. Stay far away from bird nests and eggs on the beach. If the oystercatcher parent is scared away from the nest the eggs could cook in the hot sun in less than 20 minutes. The eggs need the shade the parent provides.

A year ago I never really noticed these birds. At first glance I thought it was another skimmer. They are so rare to see. They are very skittish and will fly away quickly. It's hard to get good pictures of them, they have to be cropped up closely. Now I am always looking for them.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Terns and dolphins

Lots of terns on Fort Desoto beach.

Ruddy Turnstone on the fishing pier hiding behind the rail.

The hubby and I spent Sunday afternoon at Fort Desoto park. It was a sunny gorgeous day. I spent some time walking the fishing pier. There were dolphins everywhere. They seemed to be trying to steal fish away from the fishermen as they were catching fish on lines. Several times fishermen thought they had caught something only to have the dolphin show up and take the fish off their line. They were not happy. The dolphins were swimming right up to the pier.
The beach was full of terns. There were huge flocks of the them resting on the edge of the beach. Every once in a while someone would be walking down the beach and they would fly in a circle and come right back down to the beach. It was weird to see so many terns and so few gulls.