Sunday, January 04, 2015

Local Lake Search

This season has been so slow for migrants that I keep wondering why I even take my daily lake rounds to look for them. It has been consistently disappointing. A typical year usually has hundreds of Ring-necked Duck in the area. This year the best flock is on Lake Weldona with just over 30 birds.

Ring-necked Duck

There must be something out there just out of sight because I am starting to see more raptors on the move. This Cooper's Hawk was trying to stay hidden in a Cypress at Lake Lancaster.

Cooper's Hawk

On the opposite shore, the Great Blue Herons are preparing to nest in their usual oak trees.

Great Blue Heron

On to Lake Davis to look for a reported bird I haven't seen in a few years. The first ducks I found were a couple of young Muscovy Ducks that were hatched last month.

Muscovy Duck

Just when I thought I wasn't going to see any Anhinga, there she was.

Anhinga

A small flock of Blue-winged Teal have been hanging out this season. Mostly they cling to the shore under the shade. Today I caught one in the sunlight for a few seconds.

Blue-winged Teal

It seemed to take a while for the American Coots to show up this Winter but they are here and there around the area now.

American Coot

Rounding the last part of my lake walk I spotted the birds I was after. Northern Shovelers congregate in large numbers over on the coasts but some years they venture inland. They are another duck that stays in the shade a lot.

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler males get pretty flashy. This is actually the 'dull' plumage.

Northern Shoveler

A few more species in the area with a little while longer to go. I have yet to see a Cedar Waxwing this season which is really odd. Waiting and watching.

Friday, January 02, 2015

2015 New Year's Day Hike, Part 2

Having already walked at least 10 miles, I rounded the bend and still had a little over a couple miles to go. At least I knew the car was way down that road and to the left. Somewhere down that road was a bird I would like to see so I kept moving and watched the bushes in hopes of finding it.

LANSRA Road

I got to a promising spot but all I could find was a small bird in the gloom. Once I was closer I could tell it was a Chipping Sparrow.

Chipping Sparrow

Pretty little birds. I wish I would get more closer to home.

Chipping Sparrow

A bit further up the road, a Swamp Sparrow darted out for a look around before heading back into the vegetation. I was hearing them all through the morning but they don't pop out that often.

Swamp Sparrow

Up ahead in the distance, I spotted a black bird perched in a tree. Could this be my bird? I walked slower and searched through my binoculars. It could be. Closer still and, yep, that was the Groove-billed Ani that was being reported.

Groove-billed Ani

Groove-billed Ani breed in South Texas and are mostly found through Mexico to northern South America so it is a rare treat to have them visit Florida. I had photos of Groove-billed Anis from years ago but that was still in the film days. They were very skittish back then but this bird was totally fine with me walking pretty close and snapping digitals.

Groove-billed Ani

I inched closer and was probably no more than 20 feet from the Ani.

Groove-billed Ani

I never noticed those beautiful feathers the last time I saw this species. It is actually in the Cuckoo family of birds. A gorgeous little dinosaur posing in the overcast morning. A nice experience added to my long hike.

Groove-billed Ani

Almost back to the car and there was not a lot of bird activity. Perhaps the American Kestrel looking for a meal played a part.

American Kestrel

Exhausted, I climbed back in the car and prepared for the long drive home. A ton of exercise on the first day of 2015. Heres to a bunch of good trips and bird photos in the new year.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

2015 New Year's Day Hike, Part 1

Happy New Year! Sometimes I like to find a new place to hike on the first day of the year. Today I hiked part or the Lake Apopka Loop Trail. I wanted to try and see some new birds that were being reported which I figured would take me a few miles. I didn't count on the 13 miles I actually ended up walking.

Loop Sign

The morning was totally overcast the entire trip. The best shot of one of the many Eastern Phoebes was pretty gloomy.

Eastern Phoebe

Not long after the first turn I noticed a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher flitting about the shrubs.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

A lot of other birders were down the road searching for the same birds that I was but none were showing right now. Over in the marsh a few Glossy Ibis searched for breakfast.

Glossy Ibis

A couple mile down the trail I reached the Orange County line.

Orange County Sign

A Killdeer called and flew back and forth across the road and finally posed for me by the picnic shelter.

Killdeer

Around the next turn, a Great Egret watched me carefully.

Great Egret

I thought I would be able to see Lake Apopka by now but the trail just kept turning back and forth. I came to a large canal and thought I would just keep going until I did reach the lake shore.

Canal

Down in the canal, a large Alligator was deciding to come up the bank. Big boy!

Alligator

Just when I though the lake was in reach, the trail switched back again. Dang. At least I had a few Savannah Sparrows to keep me company.

Savannah Sparrow

There were many signs of mammals around but I wasn't finding them. Just scat up and down the roadway.

Scat

There were signs along the trail every now and then. I didn't notice until I took the photo that they were milage signs. They marked the distance from the other end of the trail near Magnolia Park but I was not going that far. Just to the lake. I hope.

Sign

A couple Bald Eagles passed overhead as I stubbornly walked down the trail despite by now aching feet.

Bald Eagle

At last! The edge of Lake Apopka. No real number of birds around. Definitely not on the water. I did finally hear a flock of Fulvous Whistling Ducks but they kept back in the marsh so I couldn't get a photo. It was one of the birds I was after, however.

Lake Apopka

I continued to a more open spot on the lake and could see the Pumphouse in the distance. This was as far as I would go before turning back. Going to be a long haul.

Pumphouse

One thing you, hopefully, learn as a birder is to keep an eye on the ground. Anthills are all over and the last thing you want is to be so interested in a bird that you stand on one by mistake. It is a quick lesson.

Anthill

Back near the trail switchback a pair of Anhinga chased one another.

Anhinga

The broke through the clouds for a couple of minutes and gave me a good view of one of the many Little Blue Herons I saw today.

Little Blue Heron

At the canal, the big Alligator had reached to bank and I noticed it brought along a friend. I wanted a better shot but I figured I would not have enough energy for escape if I got too close.

Alligator

In another canal I found another Alligator with a better profile.

Alligator

Finally! A mammal!! This Raccoon was busy checking the vegetation for a morsel until it noticed me about to take its picture.

Raccoon

Nearing the Picnic shelter a spotted a Red-shouldered Hawk having a meal. I could not tell what it was eating.

Red-shouldered Hawk

When I reached the shelter I noticed a mass up ahead next to the road. A little closer and I could tell it was another mammal. A Bobcat. Resting. Until I got a few feet closer.

Bobcat

A juvenile Little Blue Heron kept an eye on me as I trudged past.

Little Blue Heron

A good sign. Back into Lake County which meant I was only a couple of miles from the car. Not going to Clay Island today. I did that hike a few years ago on New Year's Day.

Sign

I was still hoping to add a couple more interesting birds for the day. But those will keep until the next post. Man, my feet hurt...

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Common Goldeneye

Birding forums were blasting the fact that an uncommon bird was being seen up in Seminole County but I was still in St, Pete. Hopefully it would stick around a bit for me to take a look. I have seen Common Goldeneyes before but maybe I could get a better photo than than the few I got years ago.

Fortunately, the bird did stick around. Unfortunately, the day was really foggy. Just my luck. When I first got out to the pond the bird was quickly found but way out in the middle of the water.

Common Goldeneye

I checked the other ponds in the area but didn't see too much. I almost headed home but changed my mind and went back to the first pond. This time the Goldeneye was close to shore feeding with the other ducks like Lesser Scaup.

Lesser Scaup

I got a few more shots but was cursing the fog.

Common Goldeneye

Still, they were better shots and that was my main reason to go out so I can't complain too much. As soon as I got home the fog clear. Of course.

Almost back home and the full Sun gave me a good view of a pair of Red-tailed Hawks that were wondering if they could get the last remains of a squirrel without getting hit by a car themselves.

Red-tailed Hawk

One more quick lake check and then I am done.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

St. Pete Birds

Our oldest is in the marching band at UCF and since the football team was in the Bitcoin Bowl this year we had to get him over to St. Pete. One of the events the day before the game was a Battle of the Bands which was held on the beach at the hotel. I took a ton of photos of the event but also noted the birds in the area, of course. Before we headed down to the beach, a few Black-hooded Parakeets noisily passed overhead.

Black-hooded Parakeet

In the slow rolling surf, a Laughing Gull stayed out of the way of the passing crowds.

Laughing Gull

I have never had one give me the stare down before.

Laughing Gull

Off to the right, a Herring Gull picked along the rack line.

Herring Gull

Finally, a Ring-billed Gull joined in for a few minutes as the music got louder and louder.

Ring-billed Gull

The UCF Marching Knights won the battle and the band then enjoyed some activities and then rested before the game. A fun event. I might have a chance to find more birds before we head home on Saturday in between Christmas time.