Sunday, May 30, 2010

Birds at Circle B Bar Reserve

Little blue heron in green (with a small blue dragonfly buzzing over him).

Black bellied whistling duck was giving me the eye. They should be called Pink feet whistling ducks.

Male anhinga drying off after a swim for food.

Purple gallinule trying to hide. This is my first picture of this bird. They are beautiful with their purple feathers and red beak with a yellow tip. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a picture of his big bright yellow feet. They are very skittish and he kept trying to go deeper in the grass. I didn't want to spook him so I left him with only the above picture.
Last weekend I made a trip to Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland. I hadn't been there in a while and was curious to see what was still hanging around the park now that the heat had set in. It was so hot, even early in the morning. I had heard it was alligator mating season and to be careful of them but I only saw one small alligator. The bigger ones must be deep in the cooler water now. The park was full of dragonflies and butterflies (pictures of them coming) and you could hear frogs croaking all over. There was only a handful of birds there. Now that all of the wintering birds and pelicans are gone it seemed a little empty in the park. It's still an amazing place though and I'll probably go back several times this summer even though I swear I won't until at least October.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Yes, it's baby swan season.

A recent trip to Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park produced another beautiful swan family. There were 3 siblings in all. They were so graceful following mom up and down the skinny river that runs through the park. Right before I left, I checked on them and they had plopped down for an afternoon nap. I'm now on a quest to get some pictures of baby swans when they are a little older to watch them grow up.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cardinals outside my window

Sunday morning my hubby yells "I just saw a flash of red flying in front of the window". I looked outside and there was a cardinal family on the ground looking for food in our backyard. I grabbed my camera and was able to get a couple of snaps before they moved on. They did not stay very long. The first picture is of a baby just learning to fly. It looked pretty scrawny and it's beak is still a dark color. Based on the dark red coming out on the head and the sides it may be a male. The second is the mom. She's got the orange/red beak and red tail. The last is of the dad with a snack in his beak. Some sort of bug. Again, why does the male bird always look prettier than the female bird???

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Manatees at Homosassa Springs

A great place to see manatees up close is Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park. The water is crystal clear. There are several manatees that live at the park. There's an observation deck that you can walk around over the water and see the manatees swimming by. The water there stays warm all year round so I'll have to go back in the winter. There's a boardwalk over the river that runs outside the park where the wild manatees congregate in the winter. I've heard you can see hundreds of them huddled together. Mullet fish were jumping non-stop. We only get an occasional jump in the channel behind our house. Here they were jumping constantly. I finally got a picture of one in mid-air.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Birds at Homosassa Springs

Male wood duck with reflection.

Great egret missing a foot. He must be a permanent resident.

Great blue heron looking for food.

Pileated woodpecker high up in the tree.
Last weekend I took a trip up north (north of Hillsborough county) to Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park. I had not been there in at least 25 years. When I was younger growing up in Birmingham, my family used to drive down to visit my grandparents and we always stopped here for a rest. The front entrance building looks exactly the same. I didn't remember much about the inside of the park. It's a small park but there's tons of wildlife. There's a river that runs through most of the park with birds everywhere. There's permanently injured residents as well as wild birds that stop by for food. It's also a great place to see manatees up close. I have pictures of those coming up later.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Baby blue herons at work

Several months ago I was walking over to the cafeteria at work (we have 52 acres on the property) and I saw a handful of yellow crowned night herons hanging out in the pine trees up against one of the buildings. They were building nests! I kept thinking I need to bring my good camera to work to get some pictures but at the time you could just see the tops of the mom's heads on the nests. There were 12 nests in all over a few weeks. Now several months later I noticed some of the babies getting bigger and finally brought my camera in to get some pictures now that you can see the babies sitting outside of the nest. The sad part of the story is out of the 12 nests only 3 were productive. Blackbirds have been attacking the nests and fighting with the night herons over the eggs. Coworkers have told me stories of being close by and hearing load screaming going on between the two species. There are lots of broken eggs on the ground. As of this date we have one nest with 3 big babies, one nest with 2 babies and one nest with a mom still sitting on hopefully eggs.
It's funny how different the babies look from their parents. The morning I took the above pictures there were no parents around the nests. I'm sure they were close by getting food. The babies start out brown and spotted and later turn grey with dark grey and yellow on the head. On the way from work on the same day, the below night heron was sitting on a utility line on my street so you can see what the adult looks like.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Baby birds at the zoo

Great egret bringing a stick to the nest.

Baby blue heron.

Two baby blue herons with mom.

Another nest with mom feeding 3 baby blues.

Two baby blue heron siblings.
Lowry Park zoo is now full of wild baby birds in the trees around the alligator exhibit. The great egrets are high up in the trees so it's hard to see the babies, although you can hear them crying for food. The palm trees around the edge of the alligator exhibit are full of blue heron nests. The fuzzy white birds are so cute at this age. They are all trying to walk around and flap their wings.
I saw some snowy egrets building nests as well as one spoonbill so I'm going to try and get back there in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fun zoo animals

Another trip to Lowry Park zoo last week provided a lot of fun. Even with the heat, there was a lot going on in the morning. The zoo got crowded fast. I never understood why the locals wait until it's 90 degrees outside to visit the zoo. The best time to go is in the winter. Hardy anyone there and with the cool weather the animals are out playing most of the day. Now, all of the animals are asleep in the shade in the back of the exhibit by noon. I left around 11:30am and people were pouring in. I wanted to yell, they're all asleep already. Now is the time though to catch the elephants playing in the water. One was really going for a deep dive. The 2 baby zebras were out running around. Baby Jaya (rhino) will be one in July. She was giving mom kisses. It was a productive morning but once the serious heat set in I headed for home.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Wood duck family

The colors of a male wood duck are amazing.

Female wood duck with her babies.

Mom with some of her offspring. They were swimming under lily pads.

The female wood duck looks very different from the male. She does have some bright colored accents with the yellow around the eyes and purple on her wings.

It's funny how the wood duck babies look like mallards when they are young.
On a recent trip to Lakeland I found a family of wood ducks. I have been seeing wood ducks more often in the past few months than ever before. The male duck is so beautiful. Why is it in the bird/duck world the male always looks prettier than the female vs. in the human world the perception that females are expected to be prettier? I guess male ducks can't attract the female by showing them their paycheck or buying expensive jewelry for them. But that's just my jaded opinion. Anyway, more baby pictures to come!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Baby swan at Lakeland

I stopped by Lake Morton in Lakeland last weekend to see if there were any babies yet. I was there about a month ago and saw lots of eggs. I only saw one baby swan. There are fenced areas where the swans can go in from the lake to stay and keep away from people walking by. There was one swan pair with a baby staying behind the fence. The last picture is of another swan who seemed to have built her nest outside the fence. It looked as if she was counting her eggs. Hopefully she will have success with all of her eggs.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Variety of animals at Gatorland

Lots of other animals at Gatorland besides the wild water birds nesting. Of course, there are tons of alligators. You can wrestle them or feed them (I have no desire to do either). The funniest thing to me is watching the great egrets ride on the backs of alligators. I guess you could say they are "alligator surfing birds". They are both looking for handouts. The place has tons of picture taking opportunities and it's a great way to get outside and spend a couple of hours walking around.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Baby birds at Gatorland

Baby great egrets

Baby snowy egret born the morning I was there with one more to go. I love the way it looks like the snowy egret feet look like they have been painted yellow.

Blue heron mom on the right and baby on left. Baby blue herons are white when they are born. As they get older they start to get blue patches until at least 6 months where they start to turn all blue.

Great egret babies being fed by mom.

Tricolored heron babies.

Tricolored heron mom with her baby.
Bird moms are very busy right now. Gatorland is full of wild baby birds. Constantly yelling and needing to be fed. They look so funny with their fuzzy feathers and beaks that look to big for their bodies. I need to try and go back in early June to see the birds growing up and learning to fly.