Sunday, November 29, 2015

Lake Apopka Drive, Mystery Duck


As I rounded the final Western stretch of the Lake Apopka North Shore Drive I looked to me left and spotted a bird that had me stepping on the brakes rather hard. For a split second I thought it might be a goose due to the size but I soon had a different opinion once I could scan it for a bit more.


Oddly, the duck began to drift in my general direction so I could get a few shots. What was up with that white neck band? Too big for a Mallard. Bill color was all wrong, too.


Definitely some sort of duck, Big like a Muscovy but the colors and facial patterns are all wrong.


I posted the pictures to the bird forums and had an early match with a hybrid of Mallard and Muscovy from one responder. Later, others were cautious about that ID but all agree it was some sort of hybrid.


That initial ID seems correct to me but I may never find out for sure. No one else found this bird that day or later. Guess I just have to live with an interesting find for now. If you think you might now, please comment below.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Lake Apopka Drive, Part 2

Part 2 starts with me craning out of the driver's window to try and get a shot of a very busy Western Palm Warbler. One out of ten shots coming out is good enough for me.

Western Palm Warbler

Common Gallinules are a lot easier since they tend to cruise and peck.

Common Gallinule

I started down the next stretch when a Bald Eagle flew in and landed on a phone pole. Another photographer was ahead of me so I gave her some space and got the best shot I could before it flew off.

Bald Eagle

We traveled a bit farther down the road and spotted another Bald Eagle on another pole. Suddenly, the male flew in to copulate!

Bald Eagle

Shortly afterward he flew off into the distance while the female remained to preen a bit. I don't see that everyday.

Bald Eagle

I don't often see too many Blue-winged Teal out here so it was a nice surprise to find this pair trying to stay hidden.

Blue-winged Teal

The Snowy Egret, in contrast, was prancing around like crazy.

Snowy Egret

American Coot numbers are on the increase all across the state.

American Coot

OK. I guess I will have to take yet another Great Blue Heron shot since he is just sitting there...

Great Blue Heron

Finally! A Belted Kingfisher that didn't fly away as I got a little closer. Still pretty far out in the marsh but at least it isn't sitting on a wire.

Belted Kingfisher

Across the canal as I made the turn a nice-sized American Alligator was hauled all the way to the top of the berm to catch some sunlight.

American Alligator

Another one down in the water was even bigger.

American Alligator

Hope the Anhinga is paying attention to the gator as much as he was to me.


Not as many Eastern Phoebes around as the last time I was out but a couple posed for me today.

Eastern Phoebe

Third species on a pole today. This time it was a Double-crested Cormorant.

Double-crested Cormorant

While down in the water a very photogenic Pied-billed Grebe glided to a stop just out the window.

Pied-billed Grebe

If I would have been looking the opposite direction I would have missed this bird completely. Fortunately I noticed the Cooper's Hawk shaking while it preened. Thus, that lovely fluffy look.

Cooper's Hawk

I took a bunch more photos until it eventually gained a more refined posture.

Cooper's Hawk

I neared the end of the drive and noticed an American Kestrel flitting around ahead. Kestrels are even more skittish than Kingfisher so I really wasn't expecting a photo. Then it grabbed an insect and circled back to land close to me! I didn't notice until I was editing the pictures at home but I never knew they rested on their tarsus. It would be similar to sitting on your shins.

American Kestrel

Once it finished eating breakfast, it quickly stood in an upright position that we are all use to. Interesting.

American Kestrel

Another fun trip around the top of the lake. Who knows when I will be able to get back out. Maybe New Year's Day. Last year I hiked 14 miles out here, before the drive was open. Don't mind hiking but I think I prefer the car for these longer jaunts. Makes it easier to sneak up on the birds, too.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Lake Apopka Drive, Part 1

Another busy month is almost gone and I finally get a chance to go out to do some birding. I took the opportunity of a Friday after Thanksgiving to head back out to the Lake Apopka North Shore drive. I arrived just after sunrise and was greeted by my friend Paul Hueber who was searching for the Lark Sparrow that was seen the day before.

No sign of the sparrow. Maybe due to a fluffy Red-shouldered Hawk sitting in the nearby trees.

Red-shouldered Hawk

A bit farther down the drive I saw a pair of photographers getting out of their car. They wanted a closer shot of another Red-shouldered Hawk. This one was sitting on the wires. Kind of odd for a hawk to do.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Belted Kingfishers were all over the place this morning. Of course, they hardly sit still long enough for a photo and are so skittish that I am happy to have at least a couple of distant shots.

Belted Kingfisher

Just when I was thinking I might not see too many Ospreys I found one munching on the last bits of breakfast.


Not too much farther ahead I found another staring out at the lake.


Over in the canal, a Pied-billed Grebe kept a watchful eye on me as I slowed for a photo.

Pied-billed Grebe

Male Red-winged Blackbirds were very approachable today and feeding on grasses on several stops along the way.

Red-winged Blackbird

I think this American Alligator had too much Thanksgiving dinner last night. He can barely move.

American Alligator

Nearing the pump house, a Palm Warbler stops for a moment on the power lines.

Palm Warbler

I took a walk down the path along the lake but didn't find too much except for a couple of Ospreys drifting by in search of their next meal.


A slightly beaten up Viceroy was the only this of interest as I headed back toward the car.


A Double-crested Cormorant preened as it spread its wings to dry out.

Double-crested Cormorant

Another Belted Kingfisher was above the bridge leading away from the pump house but I had to take my shot through the windshield so it wouldn't take off.

Belted Kingfisher

The nerve of some birds. This Great Egret took its sweet time crossing in front of me as I reached the halfway point in the drive. There was an interesting duck just past this spot but I will save that tale for a future post.

Great Egret

The last bird of this first part will be a nicely lit Glossy Ibis that was poking around for a snack.

Glossy Ibis

Take a break. Part Two is right around the corner.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Different Bird for Thanksgiving

It doesn't matter if there is a holiday any particular day. I still head out whenever I can once or twice a day to scan the neighborhoods for any new birds that might show up in the area. Today was Thanksgiving but our plans for family events ended up causing us to celebrate the holiday tomorrow. So, off I went into the morning. Seems like I was the only person to do so.

It was rather odd. There were very few cars anywhere as I traveled around. Not a lot of birds out either. This super hot weather is seeing fewer migrants in Central Florida and it took a while before I even spotted something of interest. As I headed to my next body of water through a side street I saw a bird up on a wire that had a different shape than I was used to. East Grant Street is not super busy but it typically has a few cars on the move at all times. Today? None save myself. I even stopped, put the car in reverse, parked and got out to take a few shots. In the middle of the road.

Ghost town.

I couldn't really figure out what the bird was right away but when I got the images up on the computer my brain scanned through what might be around and finally decided it was a female Brown-headed Cowbird. I usually have seen then miles from here but this was the closest to the house ever. I sent the photo to a friend with my ID and he confirmed. The main thing throwing me off was the white throat.

Brown-headed Cowbird

I did some image searches and some females do show a bit of white but not to this extent. No Turkey for me today but a different special bird for the holiday. Can't wait for Turkey tomorrow.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Maitland Center

Wow. October went by quickly! Not much birding but very busy at the bird banding site. In fact, these shots were taken on the way home from a banding session.

It is that time of year when I start checking for Hooded Mergansers that return to a couple of retention ponds in Maitland Center every year. They weren't back yet but the fist bird I found was a Pied-billed Grebe feeding close to shore. It surfaced a few times, giving me a brief chance to take a snap.

Pied-billed Grebe

On the railings leaving the parking lot, a few birds were just perched. I thought for sure they would fly off as I got nearer but they stayed put and just stared at me. A pair of White Ibis were on the left side of the road. I am always mesmerized by those icy blue eyes.

White Ibis

On the righthand side of the road was a Little Blue Heron panting in the warming morning air. We have been having a lot of temperatures in the 80s and it doesn't appear that it will cool down any time soon.

Little Blue Heron

No Hoodies but an interesting jaunt through a parking lot.