Thursday, March 31, 2011

Osprey at Honeymoon Island - Skywatch Friday

I remember the first time I saw an osprey. My dad died in the spring of 2001 and my mom decided she wanted to move to a retirement community rather than live alone. She was a very sociable person. She moved into this great apartment on the 4th floor and right across the driveway was an osprey nest! My sisters and I stood on the balcony asking ourselves "What is that bird?" I remembered that we had packed an old waterbird book that my dad had bought years ago at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary. We dug that out and flipped through the pages. There it was, an osprey. Or fish hawk as it also know. It's a type of hawk that catches fish with it's talons. The ospreys had babies on the nest, although we could barely see them. We spent that week watching that nest with a pair of old binoculars. Later the next year I moved down here with hubby and at some point we noticed all of the osprey that would hang out on the bridges eating fish. It became a habit of mine to count the number of osprey on the bridge on the way home from work. Several summers ago I got up to 22 on the Courtney Campbell Causeway. This past summer I think I only hit 12. 

One of the best places to see them is at Honeymoon Island. There's a lot of nesting going on but I don't think there are any babies yet. There are tons of osprey on the trail flying around and eating. I saw all of the above while heading to the end of the trail to check on the eagle's nest. I'm going to try and check back in another month to see if I can catch some baby osprey.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Alligators and birds at Gatorland

The big gators were bellowing when I walked into the bird rookery.

A big one standing in the water.

You can feed hot dogs to the gators in the lake but I think the birds eat more of them than the gators do. I once saw a kid throw the hot dog on the gator's head and a bird picked it off his head. I have also seen a gator catch and eat an egret so it happens.

Wood storks close to the boardwalk. I think they were walking around looking for lost hot dogs.

Big smile!

It always seems funny to see the birds use the gator tails as logs to stand on.

This snowy egret was stepping over the gator.

A loud video of the gator bellowing. Birds are calling in the begining. Towards the end you can hear the bellow.

I got to Gatorland right when they opened at 9am and headed straight for the bird rookery. When I got there I heard the strangest noise. I have been to Gatorland several times in the spring for the last 2 years and had never heard that sound before. All of the alligators were bellowing. It sounded like a sick dog groaning. It was very loud. Creepy but interesting. I was just glad I was on the boardwalk and not in some swamp with that sound. The weather was cool when I got there which I think is why the gators were so active that early. It warmed up pretty quick though. It's interesting the relationship with these birds and the gators. They are both just looking for food in the same places. The alligators in the lake provide a safe place for the birds to build their nest over to keep raccoons out (until one of the babies falls out of the nest).  I posted this picture last year on Flickr of an alligator with a great egret - flickr picture. Sad but I know everyone has to eat.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Baby great egrets at Gatorland

This mom has her hands full. Three baby great egrets. These were the only babies at Gatorland when I was there. I'm thinking they were the first ones born. There are several other nests with eggs so soon the bird rookery there will be loud with babies crying to be fed. I missed the other parent flying in with a fish but made it as the mom (I'm assuming the female) started feeding them. It looked like she was eating first and then upchucking pieces of fish to give them. Yum! The babies are so cute with their fuzzy heads and big yellow beaks. They were moving around quite a bit. That nest is going to be full when those babies start to grow. Hopefully, none of them will fall out as the nest overcrowds. There are hungry alligators waiting below.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nesting wild birds at Gatorland

I think it all starts here. The great egret gets that pretty bright green "I'm sexy" color on their face.

Then they grow the "I'm sexy" feathers and start doing the "look at me" dance.

Then they start "going steady" and become a couple.

Then "it" happens. There was a lot of it going on at Gatorland recently.

They work on the nest bringing sticks and twigs.

Then they become parents. This one only had one egg. 

This is a snowy egret with four eggs. They are going to be busy parents when they hatch.

Two weekends ago I made my first seasonal trip over to Orlando to check out the wild bird rookery at Gatorland.  The mangroves along the alligator exhibit are full of wild birds that fly in for the spring to have their babies here. Since the alligators keep away the raccoons, I guess the birds think it's pretty safe for them to build their nests over the alligators. Right now it's mostly great egrets, snowy egrets, anhingas and storks that are nesting with eggs. Soon the tri-colored and blue herons will move in and nest as well. There was only one nest that had hatched (more on those later) so I'm going to try and get back there in late April to check on the rest of the eggs.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Baby eagles, parrots mating and a starling

Getting a bite of fish.

Feeding the baby although it looks more like a kiss.

The parent is looking at something.

Both babies are visible.

Baby is flapping it's wings.

One of the parents flying by. I know I shouldn't post this since I cut one wing off but I couldn't resist. He flew so close to me so fast.

A lone starling was sitting in a tree close by.

Wild parrots making whoopy.

The recent Sunday started out sunny but later in the day as I was on my way to check on the cemetery eagles in St. Petersburg it started to get cloudy. The closer I got to the cemetery, the cloudier it got. There was a small chance of rain and it looked like we were going to get it. White and gray clouds do not make for a nice background but hey, when you are watching a bald eagle feed it's chick you get over it real fast. They had just started eating when I got there so I missed the big "parent flying in with a fish" moment. After the eagles finished eating and had settled down in the nest I noticed a few other birds around me. I found a lone starling which I though was strange. Usually they are in big flocks. Right as I was leaving a parrot couple landed in the tree near my car and quickly got down to business. I wonder if they have a nest in the cemetery. It would be nice to see the baby parrots growing up.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Weekend in the backyard - Skywatch Friday

Early in the night before dark I took this picture of the moon coming up over the palm tree in our front yard.

Orange blossoms on our tree. I wish I could can the smell and add it to the blog, like a "scratch and sniff here".  Our backyard smells so good right now.

Lots of mallards hanging around in the channel.  Soon we should start seeing baby ducks.

I see this little bird every month or so hanging around my neighbor's dock. It's always alone. I think it's a spotted sandpiper. I spotted it late Saturday afternoon and ran out to take a picture.

The hooded merganser that's been hanging around the channel was seen again this weekend. I wonder if it will migrate back up north. Should be leaving soon if it does.

This is my version of the super moon, taken on Saturday night. Every twenty years the moon rotates closest to the earth and was suppose to be brighter and bigger than normal.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fort Desoto birds (and a fish too).

Ruddy turnstone missing a foot.

Royal terns making a fuss (with a few laughing gulls in the background).

Another ruddy turnstone with some wire on his foot. He took off right when I took this.

Willet strolling the beach.

Yum, sheepshead fish. This seems to be a common fish caught on the Fort Desoto fishing pier.

Another trip to Fort Desoto Park beach. There will be tons more of these this summer. It was a cool sunny day and hubby's family was in town for a visit so we headed to our favorite spot. A long walk down the beach to the fishing pier was full of gulls and shorebirds. Mostly the usual laughing gulls and willets. I was bragging about how every time I go to the fishing pier I see dolphins. Of course, this time we walked the pier for an hour and saw zero dolphins. They'll never believe me now. There were very few pelicans there but the fisherman were catching a lot of fish. Mostly sheepshead (we asked a fisherman what they were all catching). Maybe dolphins and pelicans don't like that kind of fish. I don't think I would either, but I'm picky about fish.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Animals at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park

Lulu, the hippo, lives there. I caught her in a big yawn.

Lots of alligators there. It's fun to hear the gasps of little kids who see these animals up close. Especially with those teeth. I think he's looking right at me.

There are two river otters but only the one was swimming around while we were there.

Lots of wild wood ducks live at the park. The male is the beautiful one in the front. The female is in the back with a bored look on her face.

There were several wild great blue herons working on nests high over the alligator enclosure.

These are the permanent residents at the park being fed.

Now that it has warmed up the wild manatees are heading out into other areas. There were very few hanging around inside the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park when we were there a couple of weekends ago. The park opens the gates to let the wild manatees into the warmer water of the river during the severe cold tempatures (severe by Florida standards). When hubby and I were there in mid January the river was full of them. Now there's just a few straglers. Most are heading out into other rivers, the intercoastal waterway and upper Tampa bay. There are lots of other animals at the park and a lot of wildlife that hangs around as well. 

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