(This is a continuation of the previous two posts, an exploration of the Circle B Bar Reserve, near Lakeland, Florida, USA.)
Well, the Florida sun is making its presence known and it’s beginning to get warm out here. I’m glad we brought some water. Just a bit more and we’ll head back to the truck where we can enjoy a fresh, juicy Florida navel orange.
As we discovered, the marsh is full of Sandhill Cranes and we’ve been hearing their calls and trumpeting all morning. For the last half hour, we’ve been hearing a particularly loud and continuous trumpeting which has been getting closer and closer. Now, down the path, we see four cranes, outstretched necks pointed skyward, trumpeting for all they’re worth. What a sight and sound show! I approached slowly (and took about 50 pictures) but they were unconcerned and let me eventually pass. I took a few more pictures from the other direction and about every 60 seconds they launched into another serenade to the heavens. It was quite a spectacle.
Listen to what the Sandhill Crane sounds like here: Sandhill Crane.
Continuing through the marsh, there are sights on all sides as well as in the air. A Great Blue Heron displays his magnificent wingspan as he comes in for a landing. The Snowy Egret ought to be called the “Showy” Egret, a perfect combination of white, yellow and delicate feathers. We spotted an odd couple on the water: a Lesser Scaup and a female Bufflehead. They were together when we first saw them and something caused them to fly away. When we returned to the spot about 30 minutes later, they were still together. I don’t know if this close association of two different duck species is normal or not.
The air turned pink again for awhile when several Roseate Spoonbills flew overhead. We also noted a resting pair in the reeds. An American White Pelican appeared but didn’t stay long. Others told us there was a flock of 100-150 on the main lake. Palm Warblers were abundant and they’re always a pleasure to observe. An Eastern Wood Pewee was busy chasing lunch.
My treat for the day was a chance to watch bald eagles hunting, soaring and nest building. A really magnificent bird! It’s amazing how the immature drab colored bird will grow into the handsome likeness of his parents. Icing on the cake was a Red-shouldered Hawk who perched long enough for a portrait and then flew over my head to pounce on something behind me (out of sight and camera range, of course!). Another beautiful raptor!
(NOTE: I never use bait or lures when photographing wildlife. The “head-on” shots of the eagle and hawk were fortuitous as I was in their normal flight path.)
As we headed back to the truck, we found yet another family of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. All the youngsters were feeding bottoms-up while the grownups stood guard. Finally, a group of ducks taking a nap in the warm sun convinced us it was time to call it a day.
It was a good day. There are some side stories from the trip which may be told at a later time. For example, a Bald Eagle crashing the crane singing party and more on inter-species duck attraction. Until then, thank you for going along on our Marsh Morning Adventure!
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit.