Springing Into Action !

Each season of the year offers something wonderful for us all to enjoy. Summer conjures up images of a trip to the beach or the cool mountains and backyard barbeques. Autumn means a riot of color in the woods and migrating birds to observe. As winter approaches, those blessed with mounds of snow to play in look forward to the cleansing effect the white stuff seems to have and marvel at all the tracks left by unseen creatures in a favorite tract. Springtime. Ahh, that most special time of the year we each await with utmost anticipation. Dew time. Specifically, Honeydew time. “Honey, dew the yard!” “Honey, dew the windows!” “Honey, dew the gutter cleaning!” “Honey, dew the taxes!”

Huh? Wait a minute. That’s not where I meant to go with this……..

Springtime. Ahh, there are birds out there flying north and others are building nests and some are already having babies for goodness’ sake! We must act now! Lists must be made! Pictures must be taken! Data must be compiled! Reports must be sent! More importantly, we need more time together.

(Pretty hard to argue with that last one, right?)

As our Spring has sprung in earnest around here, we’ve really been getting out a lot. The last blog was a compilation of several spots visited and this one will be the same. The time period covered is about ten days. Places visited are all in central west Florida and include: Lake Bonny Park (Lakeland), Paynes Creek Historic State Park (Bowling Green), Peace River Hammock (Fort Meade), Sumter County (several back roads, no specific place), West Lake Wales Road (near Lake Wales airport) and Hardee Lakes Park (Bowling Green). Some of the above were new to us and others were return visits to old friends.

Come on! Put a Spring in your step! Let’s go!

 

A pair of Turkey Vultures found a bench they like. Sort of reminds me of a couple of birders I know……

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

 

Loggerhead Shrikes may already have a nest nearby, but they weren’t telling.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

 

It’s easy to overlook the beauty of a Boat-tailed Grackle as they are usually numerous, loud and behave like bullies.

Boat-tailed Grackle

Boat-tailed Grackle

 

Our Florida state bird, the Northern Mockingbird, is very adaptable and will make a home near human habitation or in the remotest part of the state. And sing happily about it non-stop!

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

 

Gini insisted we take what looked like a maintenance road around a cypress hammock and (as usual) she was absolutely right. A Barred Owl looked up at our approach, decided we weren’t a threat and continued his deep sleep with a big sigh.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

 

Not far from the above owl was a Great Horned Owl on a nest. We didn’t want to get too close and disturb the egg sitting duties so we snapped a few distant photos and quietly retreated.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

 

Yellow Jessamine blooms were in profusion. Taking pictures is preferred but if you decide to pick a flower or grab a branch be certain to wash your hands well as the sap is poisonous.

Yellow Jessamine

Yellow Jessamine

 

All decked out in breeding plumage, a Tricolored Heron expressed his displeasure at my presence on his stretch of shoreline.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

 

This Little Blue Heron didn’t care who was nearby as he was too busy concentrating on a potential meal to be disturbed.

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

 

Florida Tickseed is a variety of Coreopsis, which includes the Florida state wildflower.

Florida Tickseed (Coreopsis floridana)

Florida Tickseed (Coreopsis floridana)

 

The Common Mullein is an introduced species and can grow over six feet tall. Parts of the plant have been used as herbal remedies (but don’t take my word for it – research first!). I thought the colors and patterns of the small flowers were special.

Common Mullein (Verbascum rhapsus)

Common Mullein (Verbascum rhapsus)

 

Northern Shovelers will soon be “shoveling” off for their breeding homes further north. The male is striking in coloration and the oversized bill is unique.

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

 

Although many Northern Parulas migrate through our area, we also have a resident population which remains year-around and breeds. This one thought he was hidden in the shade.

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

 

Another winter visitor is the Vesper Sparrow. He will often fly up to an exposed perch, unlike most of his little brown brethren who dive into the grass and run away.

Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

 

Pretty soon, our area will be devoid of tail-wagging Palm Warblers, which is hard to believe, since they just about form a carpet around here during the winter. They will exchange their relatively drab plumage for much brighter yellow underparts and vibrant chestnut streaks and caps.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

 

This Downy Woodpecker probed around and around this small pine tree so fast I got dizzy just watching it.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

 

Such a flimsy-looking nest for the large White-winged Dove! I couldn’t believe she intended to actually lay eggs in it!

White-winged Dove

White-winged Dove

 

Even in the dense fog, there is no mistaking the profile and colors of a Wood Duck.

Wood Duck

Wood Duck

 

A tremendous splashing near the shore of a lake followed by several alarm calls of herons and egrets led me to investigate. I was surprised to encounter a Coyote! They usually skulk about at night and keep their distance from us two-legged critters. Fortunately, he took one look at me and almost turned himself inside out running away. (I have that effect on a lot of people, too.)

Coyote

Coyote

 

Ospreys are large birds and require large nests in which to raise their families. This fellow seems intent on having the biggest and strongest place in the neighborhood!

Osprey

Osprey

 

Any dental hygienist would praise the fine condition of these teeth. This proud Mama ‘gator was surrounded by her family (I counted a total of 14 “children”). For a little perspective, the “baby” alligators in the second image ranged from about 12 inches to about 3 feet long. I estimate Mama at over ten feet (>3 meters). (Did I mention being grateful for telephoto lenses?)

Since alligator eggs typically hatch in late summer and fall, the smallest of this group is probably about 5-6 months old and the largest (about a 3-footer in the right of the photo) is likely around three years old.

American Alligator

American Alligator

American Alligator

American Alligator

 

Green Herons are expert hunters and exhibit incredible patience. It seems their beak moves towards its target so slowly at first and then the strike happens so fast we can’t see it.

Green Heron

Green Heron

 

These Florida Peninsula Cooters have found a nice dry log on which to catch a little sunshine. Their maximum length is about 15 inches and I think these were close to that.

Florida Peninsula Cooter

Florida Peninsula Cooter

 

From my resting place along the grassy bank, it was easy to see how the Peace River got its name.

Peace River

Peace River

 

I’m afraid Gini almost went through the windshield when I “vigorously” applied the brakes after spotting this year’s first Burrowing Owl. The image is poor due to the distance involved and because it was my first attempt at taking a photograph through my new spotting scope. We didn’t see a mate and couldn’t quite tell if it was adjacent to a burrow. We’ll keep checking on it as the season progresses.

Burrowing Owl (Digiscoped)

Burrowing Owl (Digiscoped)

 

As I was scanning the pasture where we found the owl above, I found a new “life bird”! Two Whooping Cranes were feeding among the cattle. These are an endangered species and these two individuals are part of an experimental group breeding in central Florida. All of these birds have large yellow leg markers and each is equipped with a radio transmitter so biologists can track their movements.

West Lake Wales Road

Whooping Crane

 

 

There was no doubt this Paper Wasp was watching my every move as it attended a new larva. I respected its desire for privacy and backed away – quickly.

Paper Wasp

Paper Wasp

 

Red-winged Blackbirds are pairing up, males are singing, nest sites are being scouted and the marsh is a noisy place!

Red-winged Blackbird (Female)

Red-winged Blackbird (Female)

Red-winged Blackbird (Male)

Red-winged Blackbird (Male)

 

Butcher Bird! That’s the alias of the Loggerhead Shrike (as well as other shrikes around the world). These birds will often impale their prey (insects/lizards) on a small branch, thorn or barb of a fence and eat it piecemeal. Sometimes, you’re just hungry and don’t feel like a formal dining experience. That was the case with this guy as he swallowed the Mole Cricket (Scapteriscus sp.) so fast I missed the picture!

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

 

It’s an exciting time outdoors! So, “dew” yourself a favor and “Spring” into action! Don’t forget to have fun!

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

 

 

Additional Resources

Lake Bonny Park

Paynes Creek Historic State Park

Peace River Hammock

Hardee Lakes Park

 

See more birds at:   Paying Ready Attention   (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 48 Comments

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48 thoughts on “Springing Into Action !

  1. I so admire … what I think is Roseate Spoonbill for your blog header Wally. Sheeze, while I love our Royal Spoonbills – somehow the flamingo-like colours on your roseate species seems to have more of what it takes. Those Turkey Vultures don’t quite cut it; but they’re still amazing! Love the Loggerhead Shrikes – who has the authority to give a bird it’s name?? W-o-w, those Grackles sure make a great photo too. Great to have a second pair of eyes and somehow who shares your passion; twice as much fun on your outings, and I love the Barred Owl too of course. I’m jumping along to the Northern Parula now, I’d never heard of them and since I really like seeing birds with yellow on them, this was a special find. Goodness me, such a variety, you certainly Sprung into Action and submitted another wonderful post; thanks Wally!

  2. There is much music around our backyard now. I’ve missed the Northern Mockingbird. He’s been around, but not singing and visiting the feeder.

  3. So much to see and enjoy on this vicarious nature walk with you and Gini. Whatever else I was going to say went out the window when I saw that coyote. Amazing photo of that elusive but ever-present critter. I especially enjoyed seeing the dove’s nest. As many doves as we’ve seen over the years, I’ve never seen one on its nest. Surprising it doesn’t come crashing down!

    p.s. I’m offline for a little sabbatical, so the door’s locked and the words are turned off while I’m gone. I’ll let you know when I get back! 🙂

    • Hello Dear Sister!

      I really thought hard about leaving out that Coyote photo. Hope you can forgive me.
      Finding nests has been an enjoyable, difficult and sometimes surprising part of the bird survey project.
      I need to try that sabbatical thing – oh, wait – maybe that’s where I’ve been all this time….
      🙂

  4. Just catching up with friends in the blogging world Wally, and so glad that I didn’t miss this excellent post.

    Three different species of owl in one post eh! Although I’ve been to the USA a few times, I’ve only been once since I got interested in birds, and I’ve never seen an owl over there. I guess I’ll have to put that right sometime!

    Our Osprey season has now begun here in UK, and I did my first turn of duty on the Rutland Osprey Project (please look it up on Google if you don’t know of it) on Thursday. We’ve now got numerous Ospreys in the area, but we’re getting concerned for the male bird that I would normally be monitoring as his return is long overdue. Even his mate seems to have given up on him now and has taken up with another (younger) male!

    Best wishes. Richard

    • Richard, so glad you were able to stop by! The Rutland Project sounds like a terrific effort. I hope your wandering male returns, but I also understand his mate’s need to choose another in order to perpetuate the species.

      For anyone who needs to smile more (yes, that means all of us!), simply visit Richard’s wonderful website and view his Little Owls!

      Have a good week, Richard!

  5. What an amazing time! Such wonderful images and critters — and how lucky, you got a beautiful shot of a shy coyote! I only hear them occasionally on my hikes. 🙂 Just lovely.

  6. Love those Whooping Cranes! They are one of my favorites. Hope the breeding program is successful.

  7. Alligators and turtles and herons oh my!
    Wally, what a plethora of wonderful critters you have photographed beautifully!
    Your flower shots are quite lovely as well.
    You commented on my sparrow shot saying you hadn’t gotten many good ones,. I like yours on the barbed wire – lovely blurred background.
    Your post was a delightful feast for the eyes.

  8. Ron Dudley

    I’m always impressed by the variety of species in your posts, Wally but this one is over the top. Yesterday morning, over a period of over four hours, I photographed only a half dozen species – you probably get more than that in a few minutes. I especially enjoyed the owl and gator images!

  9. Beautiful series.

  10. Wow, you’ve been busy. So many great shots. That little sleepy owl is so cute. You had some great sightings as well. The whooping cranes and coyotes are still on my list to get.

  11. Thanks for linking up at the Bird D’Pot this week Wally…you have shared some very wondrous bird photos!!!

  12. WOW, Wally, what an impressive and complete post!
    Again I don’t have the time to comment each pic, but they are all exquisite and/or fascinating for me who lives on another continent!
    Makes me whish I could take trip to your area!
    Keep well!

    • Thanks so much, Noushka! How wonderfully diverse our planet is. We would each love to explore one another’s territory!

  13. Good to see you back on post Wally.

    Don’t you just know it. A woman is always right, until it comes to reading a map. But in this case she found you a lovely Barred Owl that didn’t care to look at you for long.

    I think you were right to leave the Gt Horned in peace as I believe they have a reputation in looking after their own? Not as bad as alligators but those talons are rather scary as I remember.

    Hey that Palm Warbler looks like one of our little “brown jobs”. All that sunshine just took the shine off his colours.

    That’s some stick the Osprey has. Could do some damage if dropped on some birder’s head – you sure live in a dangerous place Wally with alligators, coyotes and now ospreys.

    You finished with one of my favourite North American birds the Red-winged Blackbirds. Yes, I know, but I love them, their calls and their looks and no one’s perfect. Great post Wally.

    • She’s only been wrong once, Phil, but I have her signature on a contract so she’s stuck with me!

      Yes, a mama Great Horned Owl has a reputation for fierce nest defense, so once again I was happy to have a telephoto lens!

      Our “drab” Palm Warblers are transitioning to their bright yellow and chestnut breeding plumage before heading north. It’s quite a different looking bird.

      I’d much prefer to put up with the dangers of Nature than go shopping in a mall!

      We’re in agreement about the beauty of the Red-wings.

      Have a terrific weekend, my friend!

  14. nice collection of birds. And great shots.

  15. Wow, great birds and awesome post. I love the Loggerhead Shrikes. And Owls are always a favorite of mine.. Cool sightings, happy birding!

  16. Such beautiful birds and flowers …. I keep thinking that I’m missing Spring — but really the seasons do change here in Florida, just in a different way than what they do “up North.” You have shown me some signs of spring to look for and thank you for that and for your beautiful pictures.. (We have shrikes in the Pacific Northwest — and the first time somebody told me about their habits I thought they were putting me on….)

    • Thank you, Sallie! You’re right about our seasons here, we’re “different”. I’m just happy to be outdoors in ANY season!

  17. Wow, where to start. A post full of interest and wonderful photography. My fave is the Coyote, what a great view of it, on the bird front I think it has to be the Green Heron…. great pose, great detail.

    Superb post.

  18. You did so great on the northern parula! I got some shots, but not pleased with them. I’ve never seen two loggerhead shrikes together. It’s so nice when you can get a shot of a bird doing something like the last shrike photo with the bug. All in all some pretty incredible sightings and photos, Wally. You’ve been busy!

  19. All great photos and beautiful flowers and birds. I especially liked the Owl sleeping on the branch and the Whooping Cranes among the cattle – great size comparison. One problem! All you northern hemisphere folks should realize we are well into autumn not spring – how mixed up can you get!!!! 🙂

    • Good point, Mick! I apologize to all of our friends in a different season! Still, eventually it will be Spring and you’ll just have to remember to come back and read this post then! 🙂

  20. Awesome photos! I especially love the owl.

  21. Gorgeous! Vultures are one of my favorites. Love that photo! And the herons. Another of my favorite birds! The owl is a beauty!

  22. enjoyed all that you shared! all so beautiful, thanks for taking us along. 🙂

    fyi, i was visiting the cornell site ‘all about birds’ this morning, looking at my BBWDs and noticed one of your photos shown at the bottom! loved it! i said ‘hey, i ‘know’ that guy!’ 🙂

  23. I love the pretty yellow wildflowers in the mix with all the beautiful birds and other critters in this post.

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