Saturday, November 08, 2014

Another Trip to Mead While I Can

I had another chance to run out to Mead Botanical Gardens today for a brief stroll. I was wondering if there would be more opportunities to get some shots of the Myrtle Warblers again but also to find out what else was around. On the way in I found a Great Blue Heron as I did last week and a couple of House Finches flying through as the Sun rose. Still nothing super exciting.

On the remaining part of the boardwalk that the public can access I found a small change of color in the park. Some of the marsh is populated with Maple trees. This small specimen was showing its red leaves in the old lake bed.


Last week I circled the old boardwalk from the North end. Today I thought I would try from the South. I could see some warblers moving about but the first bird that came close to me was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

The flowering plants are still putting on a show and the Honey bees are visiting the Duck Potato flowers throughout the area, loaded with pollen on their legs.

Duck Potato

Approaching the snags, a Red-bellied Woodpecker flew in to inspect a crevice for an early breakfast.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

I finally found the Myrtle Warbler flock just beyond most of the Wax Myrtles and they were sticking to the shadows for most of the time. Eventually, one bird perched in the light for 20 seconds and then quickly followed the other members of the flock back into hiding.

Myrtle Warbler

I love Climbing Purple Astor. In some spots it grows to over 6 feet tall but here it stays close to the surface and was blooming with gusto. Many insects were feeding on the nectar like this White Peacock butterfly.

White Peacock

Close by, another Honey bee takes its turn on a flower.

Honey bee

I was almost off of this stretch of the old boards and was wondering why I hadn't spotted a Swamp Sparrow in the past couple of weeks. They are usually reliable on this last bend. Then, one jumped up in front of me and I got a poor shot before it zoomed back into hiding in the vegetation.

Swamp Sparrow

I began to head back toward the car and cut around the Education Center. Just as got to the back of the original amphitheatre a pair of women were passing by and I heard one say, "Oh, look. A snake!". It took me a few seconds before I saw the Black Racer tucked down in the leaves beneath the Azaleas.

Black Racer

Crossing the wooden bridge by the pond can sometimes lead to an interesting discovery. Today, a White Ibis was feeding in the water just below the rails which made for an interesting shot in close-up. Who can resist those cool blue eyes?

White Ibis

I turned to my right on the bridge and spotted a female Anhinga up on the old snag, a leftover from the 2004 hurricanes.


Then a couple of interesting things occurred as I was on the last walk out of Mead. When I got to the cement bridge that divides the ponds from the creek, I spotted some ripples in the water. Large ripples. Undulating ripples. From past experience I knew it had to be Otters.

Otters can be found throughout Orlando if you are paying attention. They use all of the creeks, culverts and drainage systems to travel from lake to lake. They could be along a river or creek shore just as well while moving through to the next large body of water. My first shot of an otter was just ahead along the creek that I got many years ago. I could tell they were heading in that direction so I jogged up ahead of them to be in place for some photos.

A couple of minutes later and I could see the ripples moving toward me and I froze with my camera in position. Soon, they emerged from this deep section of water and scanned for danger.


One of the family of four took the lead and went to the shore opposite side and did its own scan of the surroundings.


Since I wasn't moving, except to click off a couple shots, they relaxed a bit and began to hunt in the bend of the creek and every now and then breach the surface chomping on some tasty treat.


They still wanted to head up the creek but they were sure something was different. Even though I was barely breathing they could sense something was watching.


Another otter dove down and grabbed a larger bite of something and crunched loudly in front of me.


Eventually they braved the shallow spot just in front of me and went southward toward the next lake. It was am awesome 10 minutes in the company of these remarkable mammals.


Since I had come in through the woody edge to the creek I decide to go back out that way. Maybe I could reach the otters again before the went under the fence just below the lake. I took a slight turn to the right and was about to jump over some roots when something caught my eye just ahead of me.

Yellow Jacket

Once my eyes focused on where I was going to jump to it became clear this was not the way to go. A large bank of grey was wedged in the roots in front of me. Spend enough time in the woods and you should know what this is. A massive Yellow Jacket hive! The biggest above ground one I have seen in person. A couple more misplaced steps and I would have been in a world of hurt.

Yellow Jacket

I was once swarmed at our bird banding site and also while doing nest box checks in the woods around Zellwood but both of those Yellow Jacket nest were fairly small and only had one small ground entrance. This thing was loaded with entrances and buzzing hornets.

Since I am the only lunatic to venture into that part of the grounds I figured I didn't have to alert the media. Not long ago a father and son had their dog stir up a nest and the humans ended up in the hospital for a week from all the stings that they received. Fortunately I saw them first. I just want to look for birds in peace.

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