Posts Tagged With: black-crowned night heron

The Rain Falls, Mainly It’s A Pain

I often joke about how being a meteorologist in Florida has to be the easiest job in the world. No matter what time of year, you just say: “Fifty-percent chance of rain.” Collect a paycheck. Repeat.

In our sub-tropical climate, much of the year produces conditions conducive to moisture. Sometimes it rains. A lot. We are currently in the “dry season”. So, naturally, as I glanced at the forecast for the day:  “Fifty-percent chance of rain.” Sigh.

The good news is I planned to only travel about ten minutes from the house, so if I get up and it’s raining, hooray! Back under the covers.

It wasn’t raining.

Lake Parker Park officially opens at 7:00. Sunrise was scheduled (?) for 7:02. Fortunately, I arrived at 6:50 to find a nice welcoming open gate. The sun remained under covers of its own for awhile. When it did peek out from the low clouds, some very nice golden light warmed the shoreline.  The birds don’t care so much about schedules, gates or even the weather. They gotta eat. So there was plenty of activity in the air, on the lake’s surface, in the shallow water, among the reeds and in the trees throughout the park.

Yours truly was thankful for no rain. My outlook on our forecasts is: “Fifty-percent chance of not that much rain.” I’ll take those odds. The morning was mild with only a gentle breeze and a hint of actual coolness to the air. Some trees showed a bit of color and a large flock of Ring-necked Ducks overhead confirmed fall and winter migration is proceeding right on time.

It’s rare that I only spend an hour-and-a-half here, but today I headed home early. When I arrived, Gini was busy threatening some fresh fruit with a very sharp knife. I put the kettle on for coffee. Once the images were processed Gini nodded her approval. We agreed that we continue to be blessed in so many ways.

Hope you enjoy the morning walk. No brolly needed.

 

Sunrise.

Lake Parker Park

 

Cypress trees turn a rusty color during the winter. (An Anhinga is perched at the extreme left.)

Lake Parker Park

 

A quartet of Double-crested Cormorants greet the day from their overnight roost.

Lake Parker Park

 

An immature Bald Eagle soars over the lake in search of a fishy breakfast.

Lake Parker Park

 

Cypress knees are vertical protrusions above the roots of cypress trees. Their function is not really understood. One theory is they help anchor trees growing in saturated soil. Trees growing in well-drained areas do not develop “knees”.

Lake Parker Park

 

I choose to believe this Wood Stork was yawning. The other option would be he was laughing at me, and I just know that couldn’t be possible.

Lake Parker Park

 

The American Coot is extremely common and is usually passed over when it comes to photo ops. I think they are quite handsome in their black plumage, white bills and red eyes.

Lake Parker Park

 

Across a narrow inlet a small cypress tree is bathed with morning sunlight on its right side and bright yellow flowers cover the ground beneath its branches.

Lake Parker Park

 

In the shallows, a Glossy Ibis probes the soft mud for insects, fish and crustaceans.

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park 

An actual autumn leaf! In Florida! Pretty sure it’s a maple species, possibly Florida Maple (Acer saccharum var. floridum) or Red Maple (Acer rubrum).

Lake Parker Park

 

If you go about willy-nilly taking pictures of creatures bathing and preening, expect to receive a nasty glare. Black-crowned Night Heron, disturbed.

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park

Rain in the forecast does not mean it won’t be a beautiful day. At worst, the rain will replenish the watershed, bring relief to dry flora and offer a drink to our thirsty wildlife. Where’s the pain in that?

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

And now for something completely different.

Overslept. Last week sunrise was around 7:40. This week it’s an hour earlier. Who is the genius that decided it was okay to mess around with Mother Nature’s timing?

A slice of toast, a bit of Black Forest ham and out the door. Gini and I made it to Colt Creek State Park as the gate was opening. Perfect timing despite the clock manipulators. Fall migration has brought an influx of visitors to the park and it seems they were all talking at once. Palm Warblers littered the ground, Eastern Phoebes adorned snags and tops of weeds, Vireos tried to out sing one another, diminutive Blue-gray Gnatcatchers darted along limbs, a gang of five Gray Catbirds huddled in one small pine tree and Gini found a cluster of three early House Wrens, each scolding us loudly.

In a secluded spot along the park’s namesake, Colt Creek, we spied an immature Black-crowned Night Heron. In typical heron fashion, she stood perfectly still on a log, orange eyes scanning the algae-covered surface for any movement which might indicate breakfast was ready.

Colt Creek State Park

 

The Black-crowned Night Heron is fairly common throughout North America ranging as far north as Alberta, Canada. They inhabit all sorts of wetlands in fresh as well as salt water. Northern birds migrate south for the winter, either to southern states or to Central and South America. Individuals in warm climates may migrate to the southern region of their area during colder months. These medium size herons are opportunistic feeders and will eat a large variety of prey, such as fish, crabs, insects, birds, eggs, snakes, turtles, etc. They normally grasp their prey instead of stabbing it.

True to their name, most feeding is done at night so they don’t compete with other herons and egrets using the same habitat during the day. They will feed during daylight in breeding season to maintain adequate energy. Their nests are usually constructed of sticks in a tree or among reeds and they frequently nest in colonies. Young birds normally leave the nest within a month of hatching and roam the wetlands at night by foot with other young birds until they can fly at about six weeks old.

Immature birds can be confused with Yellow-crowned Night Herons where their ranges overlap. Young Black-crowned Night Herons will have yellow lower mandibles versus all dark beaks, broader blurred chest streaks and larger white spots on wing coverts.

Shortly after watching young Miss Heron (could have been Mister, sexes are similar), we found a perfectly quiet spot to enjoy some freshly sliced oranges. Eastern Phoebes were reminding us of their name as they constantly called, Black Vultures circled lazily overhead, butterflies floated among the weeds, a Red-shouldered Hawk screamed from his nearby pine tree branch. Confirmed:  Life is good.

Home before lunch time.

A few images from the archives.

An immature bird hunting in the rain.

S-65A Access Road

 

Stalking prey from the reeds.

Moore Road

 

Sleeping birds tuck their beaks into their breast feathers.

Lake Parker Power Plant

 

Masterful hunters, prey is grasped in the beak rather than stabbed.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

The long plumes on their head can be raised when alarmed or during breeding season.

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

An adult Black-crowned Night Heron heads to a daytime roost after a night hunting in the marsh.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetlands

 

 

Look for these water birds in your area and marvel at their skillful hunting and sleek good looks.

 

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , | 14 Comments

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