Saturday, March 28, 2015

Birding in Largo

We went over to see my sister and niece before they left the state for a new life in Virginia. We had a nice pizza dinner and talked awhile before retiring for the night. The next morning I got to head out for a little birding before we returned to Orlando. My Dad and I went looking for Towhees at Walsingham Park but only heard them so no photos like I was hoping for.

Following the call of an Eastern Phoebe we instead ended up under some oaks with a mall feeding flock of warblers. The branches made for difficult IDs but finally a bright Prothonotary Warbler was in view.

Prothonotary Warbler

Next we headed over to Walsingham Botanical Garden as Dad was searching for some ideas for plants to get that attract pollinators.

TK

The entire collection of Milkweed was being consumed by voracious Monarch caterpillars.

Monarch

In another part of the gardens we found some adults scattered about flowering trees and shrubs.

Monarch

I remembered that we were not far from Largo Nature Preserve so we drove over and took a walk through the nature trail that goes through a small forest of oaks and other plants like native Wild Coffee. In a short time we were surrounded by birds. I have never seen so many White-eyed Vireos in a single day ever.

White-eyed Vireo

More Prothonotary Warblers were high in the trees. Previously, I had only seen 3 Prothonotary Warblers in my life. Today we found 4.

Prothonotary Warbler

While we were craning our necks to ID warblers a Gray Catbird popped up directly across the boardwalk railing and then flew off just as quickly.

Gray Catbird

A Pine Warbler grabbed a caterpillar along one of the branches and thrashed it about before stopping to feast.

Pine Warbler

Suddenly, a wave of birds came in near to the ground. By the time they were close enough we could see that they were Hooded Warblers. They were moving so fast it was difficult to get a shot. This female paused on the log for a couple of seconds before heading deeper into the underbrush.

Hooded Warbler

We rushed along the boardwalk in hopes of intercepting them but they stayed just ahead of us and did not make for a sharp image. this male only stopped to enjoy the Crane Fly it snagged.

Hooded Warbler

He gave me a few seconds more of that pose and then was gone into the shadows.

Hooded Warbler

If it weren't for a trip home to make we would have stayed even longer but it was time to move on. As we got to the end of the boardwalk we saw that an Osprey was flushed away from its perch by another visitor. The bird had a large fish in tow and landed on the nest platform ahead of us before flying of again.

Down along the path, pair of Mourning Doves watched us anxiously but didn't fly off.

Mourning Dove

Just as we were about to head to the car I spotted the Osprey making a return. It still had the fish as I saw it dive behind the trees. It seemed like it found a private spot to continue lunch so I quickly hurried over to see if it was in view. Yes!

Osprey

I got to spend several minutes getting shots as the Osprey fed upon the large bass it had gotten form the pond below. Even with the harsh backlighting (and no flash) I was able to get some nice action photos.

Osprey

One more species was back near the doves on my way out. A Double-crested Cormorant sat quietly even when I walked pretty close. Smile, Blue-eyes!

Double-crested Cormorant

The boardwalk through the woods was not yet built the last time I was here when the Nature Preserve was first opened years ago. Now I know where to come for migration the next time I am in town.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Heading to the Store

Another day heading to the store and I walked out to find a reason to run back and grab the camera. I usually always have it in hand but not today. The bird that made me stop was a male Black and White Warblerin breeding plumage right in the driveway.

Black and White Warbler

Oblivious to my presence, a male Northern Cardinal just stared at me from the sunflower feeder.

Northern Cardinal

Over at the cemetery, one of the adult Bald Eagles landed at the nest. Don't know where the fishing bobber came from. Perhaps a fish brought in for dinner.

Bald Eagle

Hope there is no hook endangering any possible chick that should be in the nest by now. More checking to be done.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Search for Ducks

I took a little drive around the lakes today to see what I could find. Most of the Winter ducks have headed back North so I wasn't expecting too much but I was surprised to find a few remaining ducks in the neighborhood. The first was a Ring-necked Duck all alone on the back side of Lake Lancaster.

Ring-necked Duck

Over on Lake Emerald, a couple of resident Wood Ducks were relaxing near the storm drain. The female was down in the weeds, nibbling away.

Wood Duck

The male Wood Duck was standing guard above.

Wood Duck

This is Tabebuia time. The showy trees are in full bloom. The brilliant flowers only last a few days before dropping to carpet the ground below.

Tabebuia

Out on Lake Terrace, a small flock of Lesser Scaup still lingered near the fountain.

Lesser Scaup

Still checking for any signs of Bald Eagle chicks at the cemetery but I only found one adult high in a pine.

Bald Eagle

This is probably the last time I will see any migrant ducks for the season. Have to wait for their return in the Fall.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Another Atlas V

For most nighttime rocket launches I typically use my zoom to get as close as possible and shoot in shorter time to make sure I am in focus as the vehicle rises. Tonight, I pushed aside my fear of messing up and just tried one long time exposure of the latest Atlas V liftoff. One camera means I only get one chance to do it correctly.

It was a completely clear night and I headed over to Lake Weldon, hopped out, set-up and waited a few minutes. I timed my arrival to as close to the launch window start and it went off right on time. Only one photo to check and, overall, I am pretty pleased with the result.

Atlas V

Next time I might change the ISO a bit but I was glad I got the arc completely in frame. More launches to come this year!

Sunday, March 08, 2015

A Few Remaining Winter Ducks

A trip to the store always means a trip around Lake Weldona. Not many Winter ducks remaining. I think all the Ring-necked Ducks took off recently. All I could find was a flock of Blue-winged Teal drifting through the grasses.

Blue-winged Teal

Closer to shore, a Great Blue Heron stood staring into the water waiting to pounce.

Great Blue Heron

Other than that...*yawn*...

Saturday, March 07, 2015

On a Breezy Saturday

Drove out early this windy morning to clear my stuffy nose. It was gray and a bit chilly but just enough to wake me up quickly. I headed to Lake Cherokee first and quickly spot white spots circling over the wavy water. One bird was a Bonaparte's Gull. Don't often see them around here.

Bonaparte's Gull

Flying around with it was a Forster's Tern. We do see a few of them every Winter but nice to see both of these in one morning.

Forster's Tern

Nothing of note on neighboring Lake Davis or the other lakes so I ended my spin by heading through the cemetery. Finally, the eagles were around this time. As I got in focus Momma began calling as something passed overhead.

Bald Eagle

Ah, it was Poppa on his way to the roost tree with no food.

Bald Eagle

He seemed to be listening to instructions from the nest for a minute.

Bald Eagle

Message understood. Back off into the sky to pick up breakfast.

Bald Eagle

Meanwhile, Momma sat patiently. We should be seeing chicks in the not too distant future.

Bald Eagle

At least I got to see them for once. They are always away when I come by. But since we probably have eggs or newly hatched birds there it should be a lot busier.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Conjunction Nearly Missed

When I left work at sunset I noticed the moon at a perfect angle. I then remembered it was time for a conjunction. However, I had to stop by the store so I couldn't admire it too long. Maybe I would try to linger tomorrow night. I didn't have my camera remote with me so it wouldn't be worth it to try and mount the camera on the tripod for shaky photos would it?

On the way home, though, I decided I should try it handheld anyway. Florida skies can change to cloudy in no time and tonight was completely clear. Not to bad for no stability. From left to right: Venus, Mars, and that constant companion La Luna.

Moon, Venus, Mars

Glad I took the few minutes. The next night was indeed clouded over. Opportunity nearly missed.