Posts Tagged With: green heron

Between Raindrops

Summer’s soggy saga stays steady. Hot. Humid. Wet. Thunder. Lightning. No letup in sight.

IT’S TIME TO GO BIRDING!

As difficult as it may be to fathom, annual fall bird migration has already begun. Swallow-tailed Kites are forming into groups, foraging over agricultural fields snapping up flying insects and devouring them in mid-air. Prothonotary and Yellow Warblers are starting to appear on checklists and we spotted an American Redstart a couple of days ago flashing her tail broadly to frighten bugs from hiding places.

Our local patch, Lake Parker Park, is a nice spot each year for small numbers of migrating passerines and waterfowl. The radar showed a band of more thunderstorms moving our way from the Gulf of Mexico. If I hurry, perhaps I can make fantastic observations in record time!

The sun actually made an appearance! Of course, it was directly behind the young Green Heron I tried to photograph, resulting in a faded out silhouette. At least you could make out his “immature” hair-do. The usual cast of characters were present going about the business of survival. They don’t care if a storm is coming, a bird’s gotta eat!

A Snail Kite flapped lazily over distant reeds searching for breakfast. Two Osprey splashed down onto the lake’s surface almost simultaneously about 50 yards apart. Both came up carrying fresh fish. Noisy Common Gallinules were abundant, most with small, black fluffy chicks in tow. Purple Gallinules ran up and begged for a handout – one of the negatives of birding in an urban park. The eerie cries of Limpkins rang out up and down the shoreline. A Red-bellied Woodpecker circled a dead oak tree limb, probing for some morsel. Two Marsh Rabbits slipped into the tall grass and became invisible. An alligator watched the aforementioned Gallinule chicks as well as a small dog whose owner allowed his pet too close to the shore.

As I made my way around the park, not many birds presented an opportunity for photography. Dragons, however, were very industrious. Lots of ovipositing, patrolling, fighting, hunting. Action galore! Of course, I only brought the big lens and trying to heft the monster back and forth to track a small dragonfly was almost beyond my ability. I came away with a couple of images that aren’t completely awful. (We won’t discuss the other hundred or so).

There was a change in light and a coolish breeze sprang up. That felt good! It also meant I should head for the car. Drops began falling just as I reached for the door handle.

The Amazing Gini was waiting in the kitchen with bagels, boiled eggs and strong coffee. But first, hugs and kisses. Unlike the birds and beasties, we rank food second on the list of our priorities.

Only a few photographs of today’s outing. (“Thank goodness.”) Hey – I heard that!

 

A young Green Heron stalks a frog near the lake shore. He eventually got it, too! Naturally, I missed the shot.

Lake Parker Park

 

Dark all over with a very tapered abdomen, Pin-tailed Pondhawks (Erythemis plebeja) were very active along a canal which feeds the lake.

Lake Parker Park

 

One of the most common dragonflies in our area (and maybe in the entire eastern U.S.) is the Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis). Adult females are a striking green and the males dusty blue (“pruinose”) all over. Immature males begin life looking like Mom and gradually transition to Dad’s blue suit.

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park

 

A bright spot in the world of dragons, adult male Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami) are hard to miss!

Lake Parker Park

 

In her element, a Limpkin appears somewhat prehistoric as she rests on a log just before the rains begin.

Lake Parker Park

 

Don’t let a little rain in the forecast stop you from seeing what your own patch has to offer just before the drops start to fall.

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – 1

Beginning a trip in darkness stimulates my feelings of anticipation and excitement. What will this day offer? As the morning sky begins to lighten, familiar shapes are mere shadows and it seems as if anything spoken should be in a whisper.

For some reason (deep, dark, repressed, psychological reasons, I’m sure), I have difficulty retrieving detailed memories of some childhood events. (Okay, to be fair, it was a LONNNNNG time ago!) One thing I recall in delicious, granular fashion is fishing. The announcement on Friday that we would be getting up early the next morning to go to Lake Panasoffkee ensured that I would not sleep one minute that night. Hitching up the boat, checking the tackle, pulling out of the driveway in the dark, arriving at the boat ramp before sunrise, a layer of mist on the water.

Some things don’t change much. Gini and I had mentioned more than once during the winter that we need to visit the east coast while migration was still in full swing. Thus, we set our sights on Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge for a day trip. One sleepless night, coming right up.

The actual drive is not all that bad. Yes, we had to negotiate the hazards of the interstate highway through the Orlando/Disney megalopolis. Accomplishing this feat at 5:00 a.m. is much more acceptable than about an hour later. Also, once past the city center, the denser traffic was on the other side, heading west toward waiting jobs. The sky in the east was beginning to glow.

Turning onto Black Point Wildlife Drive resulted in audible sighs from both of us. Tension was released and we felt that moment of comfortable relaxation which being surrounded by the natural world produces. Sounds and sights of birds preparing to survive a new day promised adventure! We were not to be disappointed.

The refuge was established in 1963 as part of the John F. Kennedy Space Center. Consisting of more than 140,000 acres, the area contains coastal dunes, salt and fresh water marshes, scrub, pine flatwoods and hardwood hammocks. Located on the Atlantic Ocean and offering protection from adverse weather makes the refuge a prime target for migrating waterfowl and other bird species. The diverse habitat also is home to a wonderful variety of other flora and fauna.

Gini, as usual, thoughtfully prepared a light breakfast and picnic lunch so we wouldn’t have to interrupt our exploration by having to forage for food in the nearby “civilized” jungle. Munching a sandwich while watching alligators and egrets is highly preferable to clinking plates and noisy diners – in our opinion.

This post covers the first half of the day. After lunch will have to wait until next time.

 

Dawn. Always a special time. Within a vast marsh, even more so.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Ducks and wading birds begin their routine of searching for food. Light fog hugs the surface of the world.

Merritt Island NWR

 

A Green Heron perches atop a mangrove tree, knowing the intricate root system harbors an amazing array of life in the shallow water.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Blue-winged Teal are by far the most numerous duck species within the refuge today. Most of the tens of thousands of feeding ducks remained out of camera range but included: American Widgeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Mottled Duck, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Lesser (and possibly Greater) Scaup.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Break(fast) dancing performed by a Tricolored Heron.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Flocks of Glossy Ibis were active throughout the day moving from one area to another.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Killdeer seem to always have something to shout about. Usually, it’s me.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Patience is the key to a meal. Here it’s put into practice by a Little Blue Heron.

 

Merritt Island NWR

 

We saw dozens of Lesser Yellowlegs during the day and a couple of their bigger brothers, the Greater Yellowlegs. This Lesser showed off its namesake.

Merritt Island NWR

 

The feathered breakfast hunters needed to be wary of another breakfast hunter. American Alligator.

Merritt Island NWR

 

The Osprey uses keen eyes and altitude to locate a finny feast in the shallow salt water. This bird disappeared in a huge splash, surfaced with a large fish, struggled to get airborne, but ultimately had to release his catch. I’m familiar with that problem: “Eyes too big for stomach.”

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

 

Following the example of the ducks, most of the thousands of shorebirds in the refuge today preferred to stay out of range of the camera. A few strayed to within a couple of miles. This Sanderling will maintain its light non-breeding plumage for another couple of months.

Merritt Island NWR

 

 

Our day began in darkness then exploded with light as blue sky and clear water were filled with birds of infinite color and beauty! A delicious picnic, a short rest – time to race the sun and pack each minute with new discoveries!

 

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

 

Additional Information

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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