Sunday, February 28, 2010

Little birds at Boyd Hill

Blue grey gnatcatcher

Northern mockingbird

My first yellow rumped warbler sighting.

Yellow rumped warbler showing his yellow.
Boyd Hill park is full of little songbirds this time of year. There were thousands flying around constantly. As I was walking down the trail through the woods away from the lake they were flying back and forth across the trail. These guys are really hard to catch on camera. They don't stay still very long. I saw all of the above as well as a few cardinals, lots of palm warblers, blue jays and tons of other birds I didn't recognize. There are also a lot of the below all over the park. Since the water has been so cold they were all over the trails.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Big birds at Boyd Hill

Cormorant drying off.

Snowy egret braving the cold wind.

This lone white pelican was flying around. They are usually with large groups so I'm not sure where the rest of his friends where.

A tricolored heron and blue heron hang out together.

This turkey vulture was showing off.

I took a long walk around Boyd Hill Park in St. Petersburg this past Saturday. The day started off windy, a little cool and cloudy with a chance of rain. There didn't seem to be a lot of birds around. I ran into a couple from England who came over for a couple of weeks for vacation and they asked me where were all the birds. He had a camera with him and said they come every year at this time and in the past the parks have all been full of big water birds. He said they had not seen a lot of birds anywhere they had been since middle of January. I have been asking myself the same question. I'm assuming the much colder than usual temperatures has pushed them further south. I'm not sure if south Florida is seeing an influx of birds more than usual. Hopefully once the weather warms up a bit for a while the big birds will show up again.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Birds at Circle B Bar Reserve

This anhinga caught a big fish. They must have really expandable necks because he swallowed this whole after banging it around on the branch a few times.

Blue winged teals swimming around.

Palm warbler sitting in the bush.

Blue grey gnatcatcher. These are pretty birds but hard to catch on camera.

Last week I was on my way back to Tampa from Orlando and decided to stop by one of my favorite places, Circle B Bar Reserve, in Lakeland. It was pretty quiet during the week and it was the first time I had been there late in the afternoon. Not a lot of wildlife activity going on there. The hundreds of white pelicans were missing. There were only a few at the far end of the pond. There wasn't a single bird in the bird pond where the big alligator, Bubba, lives. I managed to find a few smaller birds flying around. There was a huge flock of tree swallows flying everywhere but those guys are almost impossible to get a picture of. They fly really fast and never seem to land on anything. It was a beautiful day out and I had a good walk as usual there.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Friends and enemies - more from Gatorland

You would wonder why these birds would sit so close to these large beasts. They are really just waiting to try and get some of the food that is fed to the alligators.

This egret must have thought he was standing on a log instead of an alligator's tail.

I'm sure this great blue heron could have flown away if the alligators actually moved. Although that alligator behind him sure was smiling at him.

Occasionally a bird gets too close to a hungry alligator. I heard the splashes and looked over to see this alligator swimming around with his prize lunch.

There are two main things you see at Gatorland - lots of big alligators and big wild water birds. For the most of time they seem to co-habitat well together. The birds hang around the ponds at Gatorland to catch crumbs of the food being fed to the alligators and because there is lots of fish in the ponds for them to eat. The alligators keep away raccoons that would eat the bird eggs. I did happen to catch nature happening while I was there when an alligator must have been hungry and a bird got lazy and too close. It's a sad circle of life.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Great egrets nesting

Doing a mating dance.

Sitting on the nest. There aren't any babies yet but they will be coming soon.

These two egrets were courting each other for a while.

Egrets were busy getting sticks for their nests.

Saturday morning I went to Gatorland. Not to see the alligators, although there will be pictures of those coming. Bird nesting season has started there. They have a bird rookery there that is amazing during this time through spring. The mangroves along the boardwalk were full of great egrets (who apparently are the first type of these birds to nest). Last year I went in early May and the place was full of tricolor herons and blue herons with babies. During mating season great egrets get bright green color around their beaks that you don't see in the summer and fall. They do these strange mating dances that are fun to watch. The rookery was buzzing with egrets gathering sticks, flying around getting food and fixing their nests. They nest there because they seem to know that the alligators in the lake below will keep the raccoons from getting their eggs. I plan to go back in late March to see if any babies have hatched.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sandhill Cranes in Tampa

As I was leaving the zoo this past weekend I noticed 3 sandhill cranes walking down the street away from the zoo. I turned back around into the parking lot of the zoo and parked my car at the end near the street. I got out and sat down in the parking lot near the grass and watched the cranes walk around. They didn't seem too disturbed by me. They just kept eating and walking around. Every once in a while they would look over at me. It's not very often you see sandhill cranes walking down a busy street in Tampa. My husband claims he sees them on the golf course all the time (although he doesn't play that much golf).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pelicans being fed.

The Lowry Park Zoo has a handful of beautiful white pelicans that live in the big aviary in the African section of the zoo. They fly back and forth across the pond several times a day and stay together in a flock just like they do in the wild. This past weekend I happen to be there when they were being fed. They were so graceful the way they lined up and then caught the fish. There were a few cormorants braving the crowd looking for some crumbs.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

More wild birds at the zoo.

Snowy egret missing a foot.

Snowy egret with missing foot flying over the cheetah pond.

Great egret guarding the 2 hippos.

Night heron hanging around the alligator pond.

Great egrets beginning to nest high up in the trees above the alligator pond.
Saturday morning was cold for Tampa (41 degrees). I was going to stay curled up on the couch but then the sun came out right before noon so I headed out to the zoo. Lots of wild birds activity at the zoo. I saw the one footed snowy egret again hanging around the cheetah pond. I saw him several months ago at the meerkat exhibit. He must call the zoo home. As I made my way over to the alligator pond I noticed all of the trees where starting to fill up with great egret nests. There must have been 12 nests already going. There were also a lot of night herons hanging around. They will start nesting a little later. Last spring the zoo had a great little bird rookery going on around the alligator and otter pond. I'll have to go back in another month to see if there are baby birds being born.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Windy day at Weedon Island

Little blue heron taking a break.

Night heron hiding from the wind.

A handful of oystercatchers hanging out on an oyster bar in the lagoon.

This past weekend I went to Weedon Island for a presentation on eagles in Pinellas county given by Barb Walker of the Project Eagle Watch. It was very interesting to learn about all of the eagles nests in the county and how they are doing. There's a huge group of volunteers that keep an eye out on these nests. I figured while I was there I'd bring my camera and get in a good walk around the reserve. I never seem to see much whenever I go there. It's just miles of boardwalk with 10 feet of mangroves on both sides. It was so windy out that I think all of the birds were hiding. I did manage to find a few sleeping in the mangroves around the inside ponds but not much else.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Osprey in the wind

It was so windy this weekend that our neighborhood osprey was eating his meals on my neighbor's dock instead of the sailboat mast. I think he finally got tired of swaying back and forth. In the above picture he has a fish under his right foot. Taken through my bedroom window. It seems as though he knew I was taking his picture.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Winter's tale

Winter's smiling face.

Winter seems to love scratching her belly on the float.

Winter getting a check up.

Winter's prosthetic flipper sitting on the table. This is a newer model she was getting.

I recently stopped by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. I hadn't been there in several years and the weather was threatening to rain so I headed indoors to see the dolphins and turtles. Winter was found in 2005 by a fisherman near Cape Canaveral. She was tangled up in a buoy line and it was cutting of the blood supply to her tail. When she was rescued they had to amputate her flipper. She was able to adapt without it but in the long term it would do damage to her spine so a team of scientist came up with a prosthetic tail for her to be able to swim properly. It's amazing what people can come up with. Winter seems to be doing well. There are currently 3 other dolphins there for Winter to play with that all have permanent injuries. The aquarium was busy rehabilitating over 70 turtles that had been stranded from cold stress during the cold spell.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Beauty of Lake Seminole Park

It's amazing such a beautiful place is hidden in a busy part of town. There's a Home Depot almost right across the street from the entrance. When you get into the park it's quiet and peaceful (except for all of the kids running around playing and yelling). It sits on the side of a pretty big lake and there are smaller ponds all inside the park. There's a big mound in the middle of one of the ponds with an osprey nest on it. There were already 2 osprey sitting on top of the nest when I walked by. Last spring there were 2 great blue heron nests with babies in the pine trees next to the osprey nest. I haven't seen any there yet but it's early for great blues. Even on a drizzling rainy day it's a fun place to spend a couple of hours.