Saturday, February 14, 2015

Walking Lake Eola

On this beautiful Valentine's Day we had a lot of the family all in one place and decided to take a walk around Lake Eola in downtown Orlando. We had yet to see all of the art installations that now ring the lake and its famous fountain and swan-shaped paddle boats. We entered from the west side next to the little noticed Sperry Fountain

Sperry Fountain

What most do notice is the little 'bird island' which is constantly decorated by Double-crested Cormorants.

Double-crested Cormorant

In the past, the only swans at the lake were Mute Swans which the paddle boats are modeled after. A few are still around but so are many other species brought in a few years ago.

Mute Swan

Hanging out in the tree branches over the water were a few White Ibis catching a few rays.

White Ibis

The first art installation we got to was the Muse of Discovery located next to the amphitheater.

Muse of Discovery

I was surprised to find a very tolerant male Anhiga up on the wall next to the sidewalk. Out in the wild, Anhinga usually fly off on approach. This guy let me get within 5 feet!

Anhiga

Soon we were at the piece of art I was looking forward to: Take Flight. A flock of silvery birds soaring over the water.

Take Flight

Just before you reach the pagoda, another fountain sits in a small pond. It has been there as long as I remember and is called Fantasy Swan.

Fantasy Swan

The Sun was setting so the main fountain, the Linton E. Allen Memorial Fountain was in high glare but still pretty.

Eola Fountain

On the northern edge of the lake property is another installation: Union. It is a kinetic piece that has curved blades that rotate in the wind.

Union

Most of the other introduced swan species were down at this end of the lake. A Black Swan swam up to the wall looking for a hand-out. These birds have actually bred here in the past.

Black Swan

Trailing behind was one of the Black-necked Swans.

Black-necked Swan

Speaking of breeding swans, the Whooper Swans were sitting on a nest right on the edge of the lake.

Whooper Swan

Ah, a common sight for me when out. I end up taking so many pictures and have to often catch up to the family. At least they tolerate my constant clicking.

Family

The next installation is a really cool forced perspective piece called Monument in Right Feet Major. There is hardly an uninteresting angle to shoot this statue.

Monument in Right Feet Major

Just across the way in the roundabout is the towering Cedar of Lebanon made of metal and mirrors.

Cedar of Lebanon

We passed the final installation: Centered and then decided to stop for some pizza.

Centered

Bellies full, it was time to make the final leg of our hike as twilight settled in and the Eola Fountain began its light show.

Eola Fountain

A great stroll around the lake. I will try to get back to find some new angles and there are two installations away from the lake that I will have to capture.

Mead Garden Wood Duck

I needed to get out at least one day the the Great Backyard Bird Count so I headed over to Mead Botanical Garden and counted what I could. I was really pretty quiet. So much so that I only took a few pictures and most of them were of this drake Wood Duck that flew into the pond as I was walking toward it. There were a few other Wood Ducks along the creek but I guess he just wanted some alone time.

Wood Duck

That was just fine by me. I love Wood Ducks. Typically they are very skittish and swim away even if you are just driving close in a car. This guy just took his time drifting toward and across from me as I took photo after photo.

Wood Duck

Maybe I was taking too many photos because I got the "Really?" stare as he drew up along the weeds. Yes, really, Mr. Wood Duck. One of those things I do.

Wood Duck

I think he would stayed there for some even closer shots but out of the back of the pond a flock Mallards began to swim towards him and he decided to not mess with them so he bid me adieu.

Wood Duck

Little minutes like that make up for the lack of other birds. Any day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

SpaceX

The latest launch of SpaceX ended up being delayed a bit but it did give some time to figure out where to watch it since I now work at a new location just out of town and where I know where to head for a clear shot when needed. The new schedule was set for not long after I got off work so I knew to head straight to a spot on the way home along Baldwin Park.

Tonight, the launch went off on time as I walked to the edge of the lake and got a few shots just as we headed toward sunset.

SpaceX

The SpaceX engines were at full thrust as it climbed higher in the evening sky.

SpaceX

The fun part about a morning or evening launch is the multi-colored smoke trail left over once the vehicle has cleared the area.

SpaceX

More launches to come this year. Hopefully I can be out there when they happen!

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Redhead Makes for a New Winter Sighting

Been a slow year at the local lakes. Everywhere else, too, as I have pointed out in the past. Some years we have hundreds of Ring-necked Ducks and dozens of Lesser Scaup in one spot but this year I might find as much as 70 total. We do have a pair of Northern Shovelers hiding for most of the day but no other interesting things. Yeah, I love a few Blue-winged Teal, but...

I headed out to get groceries and scanned the small flock and finally found a new species out on the lake. A pair of Redhead. Trying to stay hidden while resting but I see you!

Redhead

Still have yet to get any neighborhood Goldfinches, Gadwall, or Cedar Waxwings. Sigh. Guess I will take what I can get.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hidden Springs

I saw a notice posted by Facebook Friend Jim Robison that there would be a "Hidden Springs" hike in the Seminole Forest and thought that would be a lovely day. Carolyn decided she would like to go along, too. As the date approached I started to wonder how much hiking this would be. If I search the springs online it looked like a 10 mile loop! Fortunately, it turns out that the main distance there and back is by car. Whew.

We all gathered at 9 and one of the first people who spoke to us turned out to be Jim in person. A nice way to start. Soon, Bill Belleville spoke about the springs and conservation.

Bill Belleville

Ranger Ralph had map duty before he dispensed some information before we all spilt into groups and headed off toward the springs.

Ranger Ralph

Turns out that Jim ended up being our driver as the several cars headed down dirt roads to our first stop at a spring discovered only 3 years ago. Most springs are close to the roadways but this one required a 1/2 mile hike to reach through pine flats and palmetto scrub.

Hike

We had to backtrack after a wrong turn but relocated the pink markers that led us back toward the path and made our way across the muddy ground before the vegetation opened up revealing Helene Spring.

Helene Spring

Leaves just below the surface were gathering sediments along their edges.

Leaves

Minnows swan and searched for food along the surface of this marvelous upwelling of water.

Minnows

As we headed back to the cars I noticed one of the tree trunks covered with dainty, flowering fern.

Fern

The path back was lined with many other flowering plants like blueberries getting an early start before Spring.

Flowers

Ranger Mike gave a quick talk about the next spring we were to visit, Palm Spring, before we headed down a steep slope covered with slippery pine needles.

Ranger Mike

Palm Spring is made up of several spring heads that feed water toward the river downstream.

Palm Spring

Leading away from the spring heads, filaments of sediment twist and sway in the current.

Palm Spring

Ranger Mike said he wasn't sure why the spring was named Palm Spring but, to me, the presence of many toppled, decaying palm trunks makes it fairly obvious. It was most likely ringed by many palm trees back in the day.

Palm Spring

On the way out, another boil could be seen in the slow moving water, churning the sand as it reaches the stream bed.

Palm Spring

Next up, Boulder Spring. It have a small boulder at the boil area that remind some of a small bear cup taking a sip.

Boulder Spring

Our final stop before heading back to the parking lot was Sharktooth Spring. Like many springs in Central Florida, this spring deposits ancient shark teeth left behind from when this area was ocean water millennia ago. I scooped one small segment of sand and easily found a small sharks tooth right at the surface. I have a bunch from a trip to Kelly Spring just up the road when I visited there in my high school days.

Sharktooth Spring

A perfect end to January. Temperatures were excellent and the company as we traveled was entertaining and informative. We will have to venture out here again some day on our own or to show some friends. There are springs to visit all over the region when we have the time.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Traveling Around the Neighborhood

Have hardly had a chance to bird since the first of the year. If it weren't for space related things my January would be pretty vacant, blog-wise. I was going to go out to help round up sparrows on the west coast but a forecast of bad weather lead them to cancel the event. So, on this gloomy morning I decided to at least drive around the neighborhood.

This season has been so quiet I was wondering if I would find much but it actually was pretty bird. I was watching a small flock of Ring-necked Ducks at Lake Weldona when I saw a Tricolored Heron out of the corner of my eye spearing a fish. I edged the car up slowly but hoping fast enough to get some snack time shots.

Little Blue Heron

It took several tries to get the fish off of the bill before the bird was able to swing the prey around and gulp it down.

Little Blue Heron

While I was snapping shots of the heron a feeding flock of Western Palm Warblers were flying just above ground level to snatch up insects. Only one would stop long enough for a portrait.

Western Palm Warbler

I discovered another little retention pond between a local church and some homes up the road and add it to my loop check from time to time. As the rain creeped back over I noticed a wet Belted Kingfisher. Usually they fly off on any sort of approach but this one just stared through the chainlink fence.

Belted Kingfisher

On the other edge of the pond, a Pied-billed Grebe dove and bobbed near the shore.

Pied-billed Grebe

I then remembered a few ponds near a hotel toward the airport and headed over to check for any ducks. Total disappointment. Nothing in the ponds. However, when I got back onto the road to head back home I noticed some large shapes along the sidewalk. I turned toward them and tried to figure out what they were. I was almost up to them before I realized they were Wild Turkey!

Wild Turkey

I was not expecting them here closer to the airport but here they were. Four females grabbing seeds along the roadway before disappearing into the bushes.

Wild Turkey

On the way home I made my way around the high school to check the feeders at a home I have checked over the years. There was a bit of activity around but what made me stop in my tracks was the color blue. There shouldn't be any birds with blue feathers except for Blue Jays. I could never get them in better focus in this low light.

Blue Waxbill

I raced home to do some research and found they were Blue Waxbills, a member of the cordon-bleu finches from Africa. They most likely escaped form some home but it was weird to see 6 of them in one flock. I tried to refind them when the clouds cleared but I never saw them again.

Blue Waxbill

Not a bad morning check. Quite full of little surprises. Hoping I can get out more but we are getting into festival season so my weekends are pretty booked for a while. At least those involve birds.