Saturday, April 26, 2014

Hike at UCF

The wife had committed to helping at the Scouting event at UCF today and talked me into tagging along with the caveat that I could go, literally, "take a hike" while she worked. I planned on just walking the campus but ended up finding the nature trail and quickly realized I was wearing the wrong footwear. Flip-flops and scrub trails are not the best mix, BTW.

It took quiet a while to find any birds so I was taking photos of flowers to ID for a long time. I might do a post about the flowers all on their own at some point as I found a ton of good plants and flowers. However, I finally heard a long-missed sound erupting from the scrub and soon found a female Eastern Towhee that I had to get closer to despite the fear of stepping on any snakes as I headed off-trail.

Eastern Towhee

As I got closer to the neighborhood near the edge of the trail I began to hear the familiar sound of Chimney Swifts sweeping overhead. There was enough of a breeze to slow them a bit for a shot as they cruised over the pines.

Chimney Swift

The farther along I walked, I started finding more birds but was surprised as an Eastern Bluebird flew in to perch for a few seconds ahead of me.

Eastern Bluebird

High overhead, a flock of Double-crested Cormorants flew past quickly.

Double-crested Cormorant

Besides the Bluebird, I was even more surprised to start hearing Brown-headed Nuthatches. I had to look hard but finally got a view of a juvenile calling to the adults as they gathered food to feed them.

Brown-headed Nuthatch

It waits patiently...

Brown-headed Nuthatch

...while an adult Brown-headed Nuthatch plucks a pine seed to work into the lunch menu.

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Nearby, a Common Ground Dove dropped in to preen and take a break from foraging near the Nuthatches.

Common Ground Dove

I continued to walk the trail and walked out into the open to get around the ponds and make my way back to the stadium. A police helicopter was flying in and it seemed that they were curious as to why I was there. It circled many times and I noticed volunteer staff walking toward me to see what I was up to.


I began to make gestures that I thought would signal that I was just a bird watcher and not some threat and, eventually, the helicopter landed near the ball field and the volunteers backed off. Don't know who was in it, but they did take their time to get settled in as if it might have been some VIP. My complaint is that is scared off most of the birds I was tracking.


Once the noise subsided, the Eastern Bluebirds dropped back down before heading off into the woods.

Eastern Bluebird

I got closer to the stadium where I had started and noticed a flock of Fish Crows exploring something on an island in a retention pond. They were not alone. A pair a Loggerhead Shrikes were defending territory from the crows and gave me some good looks as they chased the crows out of the area.

Loggerhead Shrike

Just before I finished my walk I could hear another familiar sound in Central Florida. Sandhill Cranes were squawking in the distance and they took flight as I rounded the curve.

Sandhill Crane

Back to base and we finished the day with a lunch provided by the Scouts before heading out. An unplanned hike that provided some nice birds that I had no idea were in that spot. Can't complain.

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