Posts Tagged With: blue-winged teal

Fall In The Outfall

Once more I swiped the lenses of my binoculars in a futile attempt to dry the moisture of our early morning humidity. They immediately fogged up again. I was scanning the marsh before dawn hoping to spot a light-colored shape coasting just above the reeds. Two years ago a Barn Owl had materialized from a fog bank and just as quickly disappeared. To say they are uncommon in this area is a gross understatement.

Our last visit to Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands was in mid-September (Doldrums) and it was hot and humid. There was an abundance of mosquitoes. Now it’s late fall, winter is almost here. It’s hot and humid. There is an abundance of mosquitoes.

Although the weather was very similar, the birding was quite different. In September our total species tally was 40 and this time it increased to 56. Much of the difference was due to fall migration. Ducks, raptors and warblers really like the marsh habitat. I didn’t see the Barn Owl this morning, but was amply rewarded with six duck species, stilts, avocets, harriers, eagles, warblers, sparrows and a speedy falcon.

Enjoy the marsh.

 

Even the Black-necked Stilts had a hard time opening their little red eyes this morning. That blanket of warm fog was really comfortable.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Black-necked Stilt

 

Nothing like having unexpected guests for breakfast. This poor stilt had Long-billed Dowitchers drop in – literally – to his dining room.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Black-necked Stilt, Long-billed Dowitcher

 

The dour dowitchers paddled around noisily and stabbed at the water a bit and flapped off into the marsh. They didn’t even offer to wash the dishes.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Long-billed Dowitchers

 

A dainty American Avocet is either wading up to her waist or floating or swimming in water deeper than that to which she is accustomed.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

American Avocet

 

I didn’t do very well at photographing a Peregrine Falcon cruising the shore for bagels and ducks. Any hints on how to slow these bullets down a bit for a portrait?

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Peregrine Falcon

 

This is not the only bare tree in the whole marsh, but it sure has something attractive to Anhingas and Double-crested Cormorants. I had the impression this might be Mother Nature’s version of a Christmas Tree.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Anhinga, Double-crested Cormorant

 

Open water areas of the wetlands were filled with ducks today. Well represented were Northern Shovelers. This female trio kept a nervous eye on the skies. A good idea, what with falcons and eagles darting about.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Northern Shoveler

 

American White Pelicans gather on and around Lake Hancock during the winter and some years can number in the thousands. I counted about 80 this morning as they flew in small groups from their roost within the wetlands to the lake for a day of fishing.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

American White Pelican

 

It seems everywhere we go this year, we see high numbers of Eastern Phoebes. It’s warmer than normal so far this fall so many may be lingering here instead of continuing on to South America. Hope they don’t get caught in a sudden freeze.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Eastern Phoebe

 

Large size and bright red bill are diagnostic for the Caspian Tern, largest tern in North America.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Caspian Tern

 

A bit of shade is provided to a Black-necked Stilt by a Great Egret. He isn’t called “Great” for no reason!

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Black-necked Stilt, Great Egret

 

One of the only moths in Florida to be active throughout daylight hours is the brightly colored Bella. It’s a challenge to find one perched in the open.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Bella Moth (Utetheisa ornatrix)

 

Another fall visitor is the Northern Harrier. Their characteristic low flight over the marsh and lazy wing flap, along with an owl-like face, make them easy to identify. This female headed straight for me as I lay in the grass.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Northern Harrier – Female

 

Mottled Ducks have interbred so widely with Mallards that it’s difficult to identify a truly wild one. Most will show some mallard trait. This one flew by too fast for close examination so we’ll just call it a probably, possibly, maybe actual Mottled Duck. And that’s final!

20151206 Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands 00232.jpg

 

A pair of Blue-winged Teal abruptly lift off the surface as a Bald Eagle passed overhead. Hundreds of ducks in the adjacent pond followed suit.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Blue-winged Teal

 

The hunters. An immature and an adult Bald Eagle. It takes an eagle about four years to achieve totally white feathers on its head and tail.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Bald Eagle – Immature

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Bald Eagle

 

Palm Warblers do not breed in central Florida but they certainly do like to spend the winter here! Every yard, field and tree is covered with the little bug eaters. This one has claimed a rock for his throne.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Palm Warbler

 

The Hooded Merganser is a really good looking tourist which loves our quiet ponds. The male with his large white crest usually gets the attention, but the female exudes her own special beauty.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Hooded Merganser – Female

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Hooded Merganser – Male

 

A pair of Great Blue Herons have selected a nesting site among the colorful (but invasive) Brazilian Pepper bushes along the lake shore.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Great Blue Heron

 

It’s good to see sparrows return for the fall. This Savannah Sparrow blends in quite well with the brown reeds of the wetlands.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Savannah sparrow

 

The Double-crested Cormorant doesn’t usually get mentioned in a discussion of beautiful birds. Until you get to those eyes. Wow.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Double-crested Cormorant

 

 

No Barn Owl. Humidity at 100%. Temperature 92 F (33.3 C) at noon. Mosquitoes. It’s fall in the Outfall! It just doesn’t get any better than this. (Until winter.)

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

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

The Trap

“Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.” ~Aldous Huxley

 

I turned the pillow over again. Have I been in bed for an hour? Two? Is the room becoming a bit brighter? If I go through the woods first, I might find some migrant warblers. But it will be too dark under the canopy for good photographs. The trail by the windmill was where I saw that bobcat last year, but lately one has been reported by the lake shore. The open marsh is where the early action will probably be best. It seems it always takes me forever to get there, though, because there’s so much to see along the way. A Sora is a good possibility on that path, as well as an American Bittern. Not to mention Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks with babies. The Barred Owl should be along the canal and nests are being built in that area by eagles and herons. It’s cool enough maybe the mosquitoes won’t be horrible. I turned the pillow over one more time.

The drive to Circle B Bar Reserve is less than 30 minutes. Long enough to finish a cup of coffee. Stumbling out of the truck in the almost-darkness of pre-dawn, even MY poor hearing is assaulted by the shrieks of Limpkins announcing the new day. (Limpkin Call) As I stood on the asphalt of the parking lot, a Barred Owl added a bit of tenor to the soprano of the Limpkins. The clear whistle of a Northern Cardinal reminded the world it’s Spring! Shuffling along the path to the marsh I marveled at the beauty of an almost full moon, still bright even as the sun approached the horizon behind me. Sandhill Cranes trumpeted in the distance. Ouch! Mosquitoes. Not horrible, but awake. And hungry. I am easily impressed by Nature and this place is pretty special. Birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, flora – it’s all here in abundance.

Three hours later I came through the front door and after the mushy stuff (that’s guy talk for “romantic greeting involving hugging and kissing”), Gini asked: “So how was the birding?” A pause. “The dragonflies are really showing up now with the warmer weather.” Uh-oh. “Not many birds today?” She doesn’t miss much. “It was good. There seemed to be a lot of activity but I could only come up with 48 species.”

I know. I feel so ashamed.

It’s difficult to visit the Circle B and not have tallied over 50 species, even if you’re only having a picnic. With one eye closed. But that’s not why I felt guilty. I recently chatted with a birder visiting Florida from one of our far northwestern states. His highest single day list was 21 species. Most trips result in single digits. Of course, he was thrilled to be enjoying our birding paradise, but you knew he simply loved birding. As do we all. I have no problem at all being similarly thrilled with each trip, no matter how many birds I “list”. If I should fall into the trap of becoming complacent and bemoaning that I saw “only” 48 species within a couple of hours – I’ll recall that young birder who becomes ecstatic with a dozen!

Highlights of the morning’s stroll about the marsh include: a young Black-crowned Night Heron, a Bald Eagle guarding a nest, a curious Swamp Sparrow who followed me along the trail, a sun-lit Purple Galllinule, the Double-crested Cormorant with the turquoise eyes and a hungry armadillo oblivious to my presence.

 

The Circle B Bar Reserve is on the north shore of Lake Hancock which in some winters hosts up to 4,000 American White Pelicans. This pair was checking out some of the open water areas within the marsh.

American White Pelican

American White Pelican

 

Blue-winged Teal don’t mind including a Common Gallinule in their breakfast club. They do have a little different feeding style than the Gallinule.

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal, Common Gallinule

Blue-winged Teal, Common Gallinule

 

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal

 

When it’s time to eat, the Tricolored and Little Blue Herons are all serious business.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

 

This Swamp Sparrow couldn’t figure out what I was and kept flitting in and out of low shrubs along the path almost right beside me. He finally got bored and flew back to where I first saw him.

Swamp Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

 

I keep trying to find a better word than “handsome” to describe the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, but no luck so far.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

 

When viewed in this sitting position, one might never suspect how long the Green Heron’s neck can stretch!

Green Heron

Green Heron

 

The morning sun really enhanced the vibrant colors of the Purple Gallinule. He may have been checking himself out in the reflection.

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

 

An immature Black-crowned Night Heron was busy stalking a frog and I could only get a partial view of her. She’ll soon become the more familiar black and gray color of an adult.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

 

With a prehistoric look, settlers used to call the Wood Stork “Old Flinthead” due to the gray, stone-like appearance of his head.

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

 

(Obligatory alligator image required by state tourism board.) Yes, this American Alligator is sound asleep so you can pet him with no worries. Pay no attention to the smile on his face.

American Alligator

American Alligator

 

At least two pairs of Bald Eagles are nesting within the reserve. This adult was vigorously driving away any bird flying too close to his nest. A pretty good sign there are eggs or young birds in the nest.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

 

I waited patiently for this Blue-headed Vireo to turn around for a pleasant portrait. Never happened. Sigh. Well, we need to be able to identify birds from the rear, too, don’t we?

Blue-headed Vireo

Blue-headed Vireo

 

The Double-crested Cormorant may not be the first bird one thinks of as “beautiful”, but those turquoise eyes are stunning! This one was perched in a red maple tree and gave me one chance for a quick shot.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

 

A couple of migrants put in an appearance just before I returned to the parking lot. The Black-and-White Warbler usually feeds like a nuthatch, running down a tree trunk or walking along the underside of a branch. A Pine Warbler can vary from a dull yellow-green to bright yellow and can be distinguished by its face pattern, broken eye-ring, wing bars and white belly and undertail coverts.

Black and White Warbler

Black and White Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

 

Florida’s Nine-banded Armadillo has very poor eyesight but an extremely keen sense of smell. They’re often seen standing on their hind legs sniffing the air. Their powerful claws can dig a substantial hole in short order. This one heard the camera shutter click, gave me a quick glance and returned to his search for brunch. Ho-hum. Paparazzi.

Nine-banded Armadillo

Nine-banded Armadillo

 

It was a great day in a wonderful location. I am truly thankful for having been able to identify 48 species of birds within a couple of hours. Please don’t fall into the trap of taking whatever you have for granted!

 

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

 

Additional Information

Circle B Bar Reserve

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

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