Posts Tagged With: lake hancock outfall wetlands

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

Doldrums

“A state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or slump.”

 

It’s hot.

Raining almost every day.

Oppressive humidity.

Mosquitoes worse than ever.

No birds singing. Most are molting. Fall migration hasn’t started. No use even going anywhere. Just the same old same old. Sigh.

 

Wait a minute! This is Florida! There ARE birds to be seen! If not in the forest then in the swamp. If not in the swamp then at the coast. If not at the coast then at the water treatment plant or the mega-supermarket parking lot with retention ponds or the landfill or ……..

Whew! I almost blacked out there for a minute. Fortunately, finding birds to watch is NOT a real issue where we live. They may not be the birds on our great big WISH LIST, but there are plenty of birds out there!

A case in point. Although not yet open to the public, there have been periodic tours offered of the newly developed Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands near Lakeland and Bartow in Polk County, FL. I was lucky enough to be included in a recent group. Since I’ve been here several times, I wandered away from the herd and enjoyed some late summer birding around the larger wetlands cell in the area. Total species for the morning was 40 and included over 60 American White Pelican, 5 Least Bittern, 32 Osprey (20 gathered in one group of bare trees), a dozen Limpkin, 16 Black-necked Stilt, Gull-billed and Caspian Terns, Roseate Spoonbill and a host of water/wading birds. Additionally, I found a few White-tailed Deer, a Banded Water Snake, a thieving Raccoon, plenty of healthy alligators and Bobcat tracks in the wet sand. To think, I could have sat home and complained instead!

Huh? Pictures? But of course!

 

A delicate-looking Black-necked Stilt pauses during its search for breakfast.

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilt

 

Snowy Egrets are very common here but I still can’t resist taking pictures of them.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

 

The wonderful clear song of the Eastern Meadowlark was absent today, even though I found a half-dozen of the beautiful birds. I think they’re molting and may be vulnerable to predators until their new feathers arrive. Not a good time to announce your presence.

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

 

A muddy bill leaves no doubt where this Little Blue Heron has been searching for his meal.

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

 

I was laying in the weeds trying to get a photo of a dragonfly when this Osprey flew in low over the tops of the reeds. I’m not sure which one of us was more surprised.

Osprey

Osprey

 

A Limpkin thinking outside the lunch box. It appears he was probing the wet sand for, well, I’m not sure what he was after. Pretty certain it wasn’t the Apple Snail he usually hunts.

Limpkin

Limpkin

 

This pair of Red-shouldered Hawks faced the rising sun over the wetlands and scanned the marsh for anything moving. They did NOT appreciate my presence. It got very noisy and I retreated.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

 

He knew I was there, but this Brown Anole didn’t take his eye off the ant he was tracking.

Brown Anole

Brown Anole

 

One of the man-made structures above a spillway made a fine perch for a Great Blue Heron to spot fish swimming too close to the surface.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

 

Grow a little algae on your back, dab your face with a bit of duckweed and “voila”, you’re completely hidden from potential prey. Nope, couldn’t possibly spot this fellow. Absolutely invisible.

American Alligator

American Alligator

 

A few female Boat-tailed Grackle found a convenient preening place.

Boat-tailed Grackle - Female

Boat-tailed Grackle – Female

 

Turtle eggs excavated and eaten by a predator. A raccoon running from the scene, not with an egg, but with an entire turtle! All of this plus the black mask – your honor, the evidence is overwhelming.

Turtle Eggs

Turtle Eggs

Raccoon

Raccoon

 

A female Four-spotted Pennant atop a spent cattail.

Four-spotted Pennant - Female (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant – Female (Brachymesia gravida)

 

Yep, it’s hot and very tempting to remain within the cool air-conditioned hut. But then you’d just have to listen to me complain some more. Now, we wouldn’t want that — would we?

Avoid the doldrums.  Go birding!  Now!

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

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