Posts Tagged With: colt creek state park

Accidental Fall

The only way to photograph within Florida’s state parks during the “golden hour” is to camp there the previous night. Opening time is 8:00 a.m. Our house is about 20 minutes from Colt Creek State Park. Camp out or miss the best light?

As we waited for the timed gate to open at precisely 8:00, Gini (who can actually hear) told me about the lovely chorus around us. White-eyed Vireo, an insistent Eastern Phoebe repeating his name, Northern Cardinals, American Crows and one of the local gang leaders, a Tufted Titmouse. The iron gate swung open and we forked over a couple of dollars to the congenial park ranger.

We made our way slowly along the park’s winding main road, noting a resident Red-shouldered Hawk, the methodical hammering of a Pileated Woodpecker and generally enjoying a beautiful morning outdoors. As we rounded a curve, a splash of red, orange and yellow slapped us in the face. This was unexpected!

Florida Sugar Maple, Red Maple and Bald Cypress on the edge of a swampy area were in full autumn display. Florida, it is often joked, has only two seasons:  green and brown. We knew, of course, certain areas could be quite colorful but it has been rare that we have observed this much color in one spot. I hiked down to the shore of the park’s main lake and was stunned at how much color was visible!

We made our way through the park, stopping to explore trails and creeks and ending up at the end of the road where we enjoyed our simple breakfast. Along the way we spotted a white-tailed deer buck with impressive antlers. Not far away were a doe and two fawns. Plenty of birds kept us busy with binoculars and I kept finding colorful trees and leaves to photograph.

It was a good day. Our hope had been to see a few birds but we were surprised by an impromptu display of riotous (for Florida) color! We returned two days later and all the color was gone. Timing is everything.

Technicolor brought to you by Mother Nature.

The park’s main lake looks great all dressed up!

White Ibises in a bright blue sky made a nice addition to a colorful day.

Covered in duckweed and algae, Colt Creek’s green surface blends in with the surrounding woods and disappears in the distance.

A Little Blue and a Tricolored Heron enjoy the view from the lake’s fishing pier.

Wandering around the edges of the swamp reveals many wonderful sights, such as this unique cypress stump.

Aware of our presence, but not wanting to interrupt his meal, a White-tailed deer has an impressive set of antlers.

Near the ranger station at the park’s entrance, a Killdeer hunts for insect snacks.

Standing water in a swampy spot reflects the bright sky and colorful leaves litter the bottom of the slough.

Mac Lake never looked better!

Who could resist exploring such an inviting trail? Not me.

I know many areas have spectacular autumnal displays and the little bit of color we discovered may not be impressive to those who live in such places. For a couple of mid-Florida natives, though, we were happily surprised by our little accidental fall.

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 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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