Monday, September 07, 2015

Labor Day at Lake Apopka

Labor Day was upon us and I heard that the Lake Apopa North Shore Drive would be open as it is for Federal holidays. I asked my wife if she would like to go with me and she surprised me by saying, "Sure." Not easy to give up a morning to sleep in and we would have to be there by sunrise. Best time to bird, ya know.

We arrived right on time. I was expecting a line of vehicles since it was a holiday but I think we only counted 5 other cars during our entire trip. Weird. Also, kind of weird was the last time I came out it was one Osprey after another on the poles. Today they were replaced by Red-shouldered Hawks. Our first was calling like crazy as the Sun rose behind us.

Red-shouldered Hawk

A bit farther ahead we found another Red-shouldered Hawk. That thing resembling an emerging alien is the birds talon as it holds its leg close to itself.

Red-shouldered Hawk

A surprise awaited us on the first curve. A juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron posed in the morning light just perfectly.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Last month I hardly saw many Great Blue Herons. Today they were spaced every 500 yards!

Great Blue Heron

Our first American Alligator was lurking near the first heron.

American Alligator

We finally discovered one Osprey enjoying breakfast on the telephone poles but it was the only one of the day.


More American Alligators prowled the basin behind the pump house.

American Alligator

I almost missed the Bald Eagle sitting on the far side of the basin before we headed around the next bend.

Bald Eagle

All of last month's young Common Gallinules are reaching the teenage look.

Common Gallinule

I failed to get a shot of the numerous Green Herons flying by in July but we had one try to hide in plain sight next to the road today.

Green Heron

A young Red-shouldered Hawk was perched atop some bushes but was winding what the noise was below it. It was a Simpkin which disappeared into the shadows before a photo could be had.

Red-shouldered Hawk

There were a lot of Yellow and Prairie Warblers flying around feeding but this is the best I could capture as they were moving super fast in search of insects.

Prairie Warbler

I was anxious to get to the spot where all of the swallows were congregated on my previous visit. As we approached I thought I was spotting a Life Bird up on the wires. I have seen a couple of Bank Swallows (right) but never got a shot. To the left is a fluffy Barn Swallow told by the forked tail feathers.

Bank Swallow and Barn Swallow

The bird I was after I spotted through the windshield and managed to get one shot as the clouds moved in the cloak the scene. My first ever Cliff Swallow located center-right.

Cliff Swallow

A Shiny Blackbird has been here for a while but I forgot to try for a photo last time.

Shiny Blackbird

Among the swallows, I found a single Purple Martin in the group.

Purple Martin

Trying to be a little artsy with a silhouette of Swallows against the clouds.


One of Carolyn's favorite birds, a Glossy Ibis, perches along the roadside.

Glossy Ibis

Yet another Red-shouldered Hawk was at the end of the line sending us on our way home.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Not a bad drive on a quiet holiday. We will definitely be back. Maybe a little sleeping in in between, though.

Sunday, August 09, 2015


Getting off to a slow start for birding in August. Work is consuming most days from dawn to dusk and with no windows in the office I can't do any ancillary birding. My only free time is spent at the banding site every Sunday.

The best I can do now is to hope for a little bird action on the way in and out of the house. This morning I had a family of Tufted Titmice swoop down to the sunflower feeder as I headed out to the grocery store. They gave me time to get the camera out and take some shots.

Tufted Titmouse

The family doesn't visit as much now that the youngsters are getting bigger and probably grabbing more natural food like caterpillars from the oaks.

Tufted Titmouse

But they still visit every now and then and are pretty tolerant of our coming and going. Even with the cat staring at them from the window a few feet away.

Tufted Titmouse

Makes me want to find more birds in the neighborhood though they are few and far between in the Summer heat. I will settle for what I can get for now.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Mead Garden Walkthrough

It had been a long time since I had a chance to drop in at Mead Botanical Gardens so it was time for a stroll. It was not too bird since we are deep into July but the first bird to greet me was a juvenile Northern Mockingbird.

Northern Mockingbird

Over in the newly installed rocky area behind the new amphitheater a turtle basked in the morning sunshine.


How long has it been since I have been here? Long enough for them to build a giant pond and build a restored section to the boardwalk. And no one who knows me and is alway here tells me this?!?


The section from the Butterfly Garden all the way to the marshy area has been redone. The new section is wide enough for wheelchairs to comfortably pass through but is narrows to the old section pretty quickly.


Since I was not seeing many birds I decided I would head back to the car. By the time I made it to the main pond I spotted a Swallow-tailed Kite having a snack high above me.

Swallow-tailed Kite

Finally, I spotted one of the resident Barred Owls up in the palm trees before I exited the gardens.

Barred Owl

Hoping that that newly built boardwalk section is a hint of things to come. I miss the old boardwalk very much.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Lake Apopka Swallows

Saving the best for last from my Lake Apopka North Shore Drive trip we revisit the Barn Swallows. When I first started noticing them they were flying over the canal to my right. I was trying to figure if I should get out and try some flight shots but that would have meant shooting into the Sun and hoping for any shots captured in frame. Swallows are so darned fast!

I edged the car forward toward the turn and glanced out to the left. Swallows began to settle on the branches just to my left. In the good light.

Barn Swallow

One after another, the Barn Swallows settled for a few minutes and twittered away.

Barn Swallow

Among the adults, a few juveniles dropped by for a few seconds.

Barn Swallow

A short time later, I drove down the road. Flocks of Barn Swallows where on the wires and there is a small bridge where the birds are nesting and they were feeding and flying under the bridge to feed young.

Barn Swallow

I made another round of the drive since I had missed one of the legs along the lake but I kept thinking about the Barn Swallows all along the trip. When I got back to the corner there were not birds in the trees but settling down on the railing of a maintenance structure.

Barn Swallow

This younger bird stayed on the rial longer than others and I snapped away.

Barn Swallow

A few adult Barn Swallow would stop for a few seconds before heading back into the air in search of insects.

Barn Swallow

The variety of orange on these birds was remarkable, especially on the older birds.

Barn Swallow

The juvenile bird would occasionally make little calls, apparently begging to be fed.

Barn Swallow

I was about to drive away when I noticed another bird flying in next to the juvenile.

Barn Swallow and Hybrid

While I was taking photos my first thought was that this was a leucistic (a partial loss of pigmentation in an animal resulting in white, pale, or patchy coloration of the skin, hair, feathers, scales or cuticle, but not the eyes) Barn Swallow.

Barn Swallow and Hybrid

I even mentioned this to some friends I rolled up on later. Then I started thinking about thing I had noticed like a slight size and shape difference. The two interacted for a while before they both flew off. When I got home I processed photos and had major 2nd thoughts and sent the photos into the world of birding forums.

Barn Swallow and Hybrid

Once I culled all of the responses it seems like the overall conclusion is this is probably a Barn Swallow and Tree Swallow hybrid. There have been Tree Swallows in the area that stayed later than they typically do and it is breeding season. We will never know conclusively but that seems to be the most likely answer.

Barn Swallow and Hybrid

Definitely not a pure Barn, by any means, but a pretty little bird.

Barn Swallow and Hybrid

Glad I decided to make that second pass. It was well worth it with just this discovery alone. The entirety of the visit was just as special and I can't wait for a chance to get back out there.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Lake Apopka Ospreys

Ospreys. A very wide-spread bird across the planet and a bird I remember even as a child living in Key West before I knew what birdwatching was. How many species did I walk right past way back then? But Ospreys are everywhere and especially in the early morning skies at Lake Apopka. They began searching for fish right after sunrise and were flying past me as I made my way into the North Shore Drive.


My favorite part of the drive is that is runs primarily West so the rising Sun is behind you making for excellent lighting. The Ospreys were bringing in breakfast to almost any perch available but they really love telephone poles with their flat tops and height.


In between meals they still sit there and watch these silly humans drive through their territory.


Most things can't reach them at their dining table. Except maybe that wasp!


Sometimes you can even spot the rare Double-tailed Osprey.


You don't often see one sitting but this one appears to be using its meal for a cushion.


Most of the fish is pretty clean. Sometimes things can get a bit more...messy.


Out at the edge of the lake there seemed to be an inlet that was teaming with circling birds, most were Ospreys but they were too far off for an interesting shot. By the time I made my second run of the morning it seemed all of the birds were sated and I couldn't find many. However, one was waiting for me at the end of the drive as I made it toward home.


I like Ospreys. Ospreys are cool.