Monday, November 30, 2009

Hawk invasion

For at least 6 months there has been an osprey that sleeps on our neighbor's sailboat every night. He usually comes in right before dark. Last night I heard him screaming and looked out the window to see a hawk sitting in his spot. He flew around the hawk several times but the hawk refused to move. I went outside and took the above first shot. I occasionally see red shouldered hawks in our neighborhood but this was the first time I had seen him sitting on the sailboat. Right after I took the first shot the osprey came flying back around to try and get the hawk to leave. I went back side the house and right as it was getting dark I checked outside and the hawk had left and the osprey was sitting in his favorite spot.

I shot the below picture as well before I went inside. The almost full moon was hanging over our yard.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hunting for food at Fort Desoto

Ruddy turnstone digging far down in the sand.

Marbled godwit checking for food in the water.

Snowy egret getting ready to strike.

Tricolored heron has a little fish.

The north beach marsh at Fort Desoto is always busy with birds hunting for food. The water is shallow on the lagoon side so there is usually plenty to eat. I was there earlier this week and found a few birds getting an early lunch. I sat quietly in the sand for a while and they were busy all around me getting a bite. Eventually I got hungry and headed out for some lunch myself.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pinellas birds on a Saturday morning

Ibis digging for food in Tampa Bay.

Boattail grackle eating a berry at the Safety Harbor fishing pier.

Great Blue Heron trying to sleep at Kapok Park.

Wild parrot at Kapok Park. These guys are always high up in trees.

Saturday morning brought perfect weather so I decided to hit some parks close to home. First I stopped at Kapok Park. It was a quiet morning. Not too many birds there. I saw a flock of wild parrots flying around high up in the trees. It's so hard to get decent pictures of them because they stay so high up. I looked for the owls but could not find them. Maybe they haven't come back yet. I'll keep looking. Next I stopped by the Safety Harbor fishing pier. Even though the tide was low there were not a lot of birds around. Lots of manatees still there. I was leaning on the railing of the pier taking pictures of the manatees when this grackle landed on the rail right next to me. He had a berry in his mouth and seemed to be showing off his prize. I got a few good pictures of him before he flew off. On the way home I stopped by Philippe Park and managed to get a very far away picture (see below) of the eagle pair that has come back for the winter. Last winter and spring they spent a lot of time on the first utility tower in the water. The picture was taken with my 500mm lens and extremely cropped.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Safety Harbor manatees

I stopped by the Safety Harbor fishing pier Saturday morning. When it's low tide there are usually lots of big birds feeding there. There was a group of at least 6 manatees swimming around and under the fishing pier. The water was fairly clear so you could see them coming up for air. It was so much fun seeing them swimming around. I guess the water is not cold enough yet for them to leave the area. Soon they'll all be heading over to the TECO plant for some warm water. If you want to see hundreds of manatees together that's the place to go in the next couple of months.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Photo lesson

Earlier this week I had a photo lesson with a local photographer named Jason Collin. We met at Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg in the morning. We worked on floral photography using different lighting and different set-ups. He made me use my tripod most of the time (which I hate using) so it was good for me to get the practice in. He also let me use his prime macro lens which is harder to use than you think. It's a trick to get it into perfect focus. Above are some of the pictures I took.

You can check out Jason's blog here -

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ibis on the fence

This weekend we had some visitors in our backyard. I looked out the window and 6 ibis were sitting on our fence. There was a juvenile ibis sitting on our neighbor's fence. It was funny to see them all lined up in a row. They just watched me as I came around the corner of the house and snapped a picture.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Limpkin scratching at Walsingham Park.

Limpkin eating a freshwater mussel. This was taken at Kapok Park in fresh water.

No rain for a while so the lake was low. There were a lot of snails showing in the lake bed. This is the limpkin's main diet.

This pink stuff is apple snail eggs. They lay their eggs above water so the fish don't eat them (that way the limpkins can eat them when they are fully grown). I noticed this big blob at the Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland when the dragonfly landed on it. Now I see these blobs at the lakes around here. I guess that's why the limpkins hang out at these lakes.

I had heard there were baby limpkins at Walsingham Park so I went looking for them this weekend. Of course, I never found the babies. I did see 2 adult limpkins there but the park is so big they could have been hiding anywhere. It was such a beautiful day everyone was there jogging or walking their dogs.

You don't see limpkins as often as you see other big water birds such as ibis, herons or egrets. They are fresh water birds hanging out at lakes and rivers. They are called limpkins because they look like they are walking with a limp. These birds are very loud. I've been at Kapok Park close to dark in the spring and heard them call out to each other. It is mind numbing. I'm sure the houses around there love that.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Waste plant birds

Two glossy ibis with a moorhen looking on.

Glossy ibis eating by himself.

White ibis

There's always a spoonbill hanging around the waste plan.

I had read last week on that there had been several glossy ibis hanging around the pond across from the waste plant. I had looked last week while driving to to get lunch. Yesterday I saw them. There were 3 of them eating close to the street. Of course I pulled over and snapped a few pictures. Glossy ibis look black from far away but they actually have a reddish brown body with dark green wings. The colors seems to glow in the sun. They are pretty rare to see here. I've only seen a handfull in the Tampa Bay area. There's always so many white ibis but very few glossy ones. It will be interesting to see how long they stay at that pond.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Alligators at Circle B Bar

Big mama smiling.

Don't they know they could get eaten?

A baby in the water.

Small one basking in the sun.

Those rocks look uncomfortable.

When most people think of gators they think of the football team. After spending the morning at a reserve in Lakeland I think of the four legged kind. I saw 10 alligators there. I hear that number means a lot of them were hiding. You have to really pay attention to where you are walking in parks. You might want to step off the trail to get a closer picture of the ducks in the water but you must look down and around before you do that. I was on the trail and stopped to take some bird pictures and the big guy above was just to my left. I didn't even have to zoom in. Just snapped a few and kept going. I know they don't seem scary because they have a built in smile but I wouldn't want one to move when I'm around.

There are 7 alligators on the property where I work. They usually stay under water and far away from the parking lots. You know you live in Florida when you get periodic emails at work that say "Do not harass or feed the alligators."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Full moon

Driving home from work early last week should have been depressing since now I have to drive home in the dark for the next 5 months. Instead it was an amazing drive across the Courtney Campell Causeway. This big bright full moon was hanging over the water right in front of me. It was hanging very low in the sky early in the night. Too bad it can't look like that for the next 6 months. I took this picture in my driveway as soon as I got home.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Long Billed Curlew

Prancing around.
Gotta itch.

It's time to eat.

Now it's nap time.

I found him (or her). The rare long billed curlew that's been hanging out at the north beach lagoon at Fort Desoto park. has been keeping tabs on this bird all summer. They spend their summers up in the northern part of the country. It's very rare to see one in Florida all through the summer. He must have come last winter and stayed put. This breed is considered "highly imperiled" by the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan. They are declining in numbers. He seemed to be staying close to a large flock of gulls and terns but kept to himself. He's very graceful when he moves. It's a shame there's only one. Maybe he'll find a mate this winter.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Plight of the plover

Snowy plover walking on a beach.

Snowy plover resting.

Black bellied plover - his belly will turn black in the winter. It is the largest plover in the US.

Piping plover at Fort Desoto.

Sign when you enter the north beach area at Fort Desoto.

I was out at Fort Desoto recently and saw the above sign. It amazes me that you have to put up a sign to tell people not to do these things. I've been seeing a handfull of these little plovers lately. They are so cute and tiny. They constantly dart around like sanderlings do. If they are not moving it's hard to see them on the sand. They are a threatened species in the United States. They build their nests on sand and there's not too many places left where they won't get trampled on. They are so tiny and their babies are very easy prey. Please, if you are on a beach or causeway use the sign above as a guide, even if there's not one posted.
Below is a recent article in a Sarasota newspaper about whether Sarasota county should take part of the beachfront and turn it into a parking lot which will really endanger the snowy plovers trying to nest there. Plovers vs parking lot? Who should win?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Birds of Sand Key

Royal tern posing on the beach. Nice toupee.

Snowy egret on an uncomfortable fence.

Great Blue Heron walking along the seawall.

Looking for fishermen who might be giving handouts.

Late last Sunday afternoon was so nice I went for a long walk at Sand Key Park. The small fishing piers below the big Sand Key bridge over to Clearwater beach had a diverse group of birds hanging around. All were hoping for a handout from someone fishing. Most of the people fishing were just ignoring the birds. I'm sure they don't want the birds to get their bait. It's a pretty view when standing under that big bridge. You can see all of downtown Clearwater and the causeway. I was hoping to see dolphins going by, maybe next time. There were a few nice sailboats going by though, like the one below.