Posts Tagged With: red-bellied woodpecker

Coasting East (Afternoon)

“Can we go around again?”

Like a child at the fair who just got off the pony on the Merry-Go-Round, Gini’s wide brown eyes were hard to resist.

“Yes, but first let’s explore a couple of other spots.”

She concealed her initial disappointment well. Fortunately, new sights and sounds created just as much excitement and awe as our morning excursion around Black Point Wildlife Drive had.

After our lunch of fresh shrimp, we headed toward Bio Lab Road with a bit of trepidation. Last year’s Hurricane Dorian, which devastated portions of the Bahamas, damaged portions of Merritt Island NWR, including Bio Lab Road. Repairs were completed several weeks ago and the road is in much better condition than it was before the storm. Powerful wind and wave action altered some of the shoreline and a lot of trees were downed or damaged.

Bio Lab Road still had plenty to offer! Lots of birds, fish jumping in the lagoon, a healthy population of alligators and even blooming flowers. A breeze coming in from the Atlantic Ocean was very refreshing.

Our next objective was Gator Creek Road. Extensive mud flats make this area prime hunting territory for shore birds and waders. There were thousands of birds there to greet us. Okay, they couldn’t have cared less about us. They were all extremely active as they chased fish, shrimp, crabs and small creatures in the shallow water and in the soft mud. We were not offended at being ignored.

It was getting late and I had promised a certain brown-eyed beauty one more ride on the Merry-Go-Round. Black Point Wildlife Drive had just as many birds in the late afternoon as it had early in the morning. We were fascinated at the diversity on display.

Reluctantly, we headed out of the refuge. One more stop. Just before crossing the bridge into Titusville is Parrish Park, which has picnic pavilions, fishing areas and boat ramps. Just at sunset, the parking lot fills with gulls preparing to roost for the night. On one of the docks, we found an immature Herring Gull as well as an adult flying overhead. Another dock was crowded with a group of Ruddy Turnstones, probably planning to rest for the night.

Crossing the bridge as the sun dropped below the western horizon, the lights of Titusville began to twinkle in the darkening sky and we glanced at each other with that look of total satisfaction which results from a special day together.

 

Love is in the air. A pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers were inspecting potential nesting sites. A little flirting was also observed.

Merritt Island NWR

 

More signs of love. This Northern Flicker apparently visited the local tattoo shop and had a pretty red heart inscribed on his back. (Actual facts: The eastern version of the Northern Flicker was once called the “Yellow-shafted Flicker” due to the yellowish undersides of wings and tail. The “Red-shafted Flicker” is usually found in the western parts of North America. The eastern species has a red crescent on the nape, the “heart” seen here, and the male has a black malar stripe.)

Merritt Island NWR

 

Death stare. This Osprey was convinced we wanted his Speckled Trout. Took his photo and moved on so he could eat in peace.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Medium-sized Forster’s Terns are mostly silvery-white with a black eye patch, a dark bill and orange feet. During breeding season, they will develop a black cap and the bill will turn orange.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Throughout the refuge, clouds of pink can be seen as Roseate Spoonbills are somewhat common here. It’s fascinating to watch these large waders sweep their rounded bills through the shallows as they filter small shrimp and fish.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Wintering American Avocets line up and march across a shallow mud flat herding small minnows and then slashing with their long curved bills as they gorge on the briny buffet.

Merritt Island NWR

 

A drab-looking Black-bellied Plover almost disappears in the mottled salt marsh habitat. Soon, the males will become a striking figure in bright white and black breeding attire.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Afternoon alligator.

Merritt Island NWR

 

A Snowy Egret wonders how the Roseate Spoonbill can catch anything by swishing back and forth with that funny-looking beak. He thinks stabbing with a nice pointy bill is definitely more effective.

Merritt Island NWR

 

At Parrish Park, just outside the refuge, an immature Herring Gull prepared to hunker down for the night. An adult flew above the boat ramps toward a roost of her own.

Merritt Island NWR

Herring Gull – Immature

Merritt Island NWR

Herring Gull – Adult

 

Another dock about to become a hostel for the night. These Ruddy Turnstones began to huddle up as daylight faded.

Merritt Island NWR

 

 

Our drive home was a mirror-image of our trip’s beginning. Orange and purple sky rapidly turned black. Touching hands. We agreed it had been a glorious day. The western sky began to brighten as we neared the light pollution of Orlando. Our timing wasn’t too awful as a mix of folks going home from work and Disney World visitors had thinned a bit so we could reach almost 20 miles-per-hour for a few miles.

Home. Planning our return visit.

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

 

Additional Information

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Parrish Park – Titusville

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Kingbird Roost

“Feel like going for a ride?”

“I’ll get my shoes on. Where to?”

“Let’s check out the kingbird roost.”

Notice, Gini gets her shoes first. She has always been that way. Positive, optimistic, action-oriented. Worry about little details, like a destination, later.

Several years ago (10 according to records I could find), a group of Western Kingbirds along with a couple of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were noted roosting in a citrus grove not too far from here. They begin arriving around early December and stay until March. Like clockwork, they appear on utility lines bordering the grove 30-40 minutes before sunset. They chatter, hawk a few insects and one-by-one dive into the dense trees as dark settles in.

These two species are not commonly seen in central Florida, even during migration, so it’s a treat for those who may not have an opportunity to travel west of the Mississippi River where they are more prevalent. Two years ago, the group included an even more uncommon member, a Fork-tailed Flycatcher, a rare neo-tropical bird likely from South America.

Arriving a bit early allowed us to cruise the perimeter of the groves and we were rewarded with a nice selection of birds, very active near the end of the day. A trio of female Baltimore Orioles was a surprise and a half-dozen American Robins provided a splash of color and noise. A quick click through the car window was the only chance I had to catch an image of a low-flying Bald Eagle as she appeared over an orange tree.

We are concerned about this area. Florida has faced a devastating loss of citrus trees in recent years due to a disease which has been hard to tame. Many grove owners are turning to other, more reliable, crops. A large section of the groves used by these roosting flycatchers is being converted to huge covered greenhouses. We are not sure what the plans are for greenhouse production. Some good news was found in several plots of newly planted citrus trees. Hopefully, they will thrive and provide shelter for future generations of these beautiful winter visitors.

 

The rays of the setting sun highlight the lemon yellow undersides of a Western Kingbird.

Cox Road

 

Gray head, salmon-colored sides and – that tail! Scissor-tailed Flycatchers are a joy to behold.

Cox Road

 

An image of a Fork-tailed Flycatcher from two years ago. A few of these striking birds are seen in the southern United States each year although their home is in South America and southern Mexico. This one seemed to be among friends as he joined in the nightly routine prior to diving into an orange tree. (The strong rays of the setting sun gave his wings and tail an unnaturally colored glow.)

Cox Road Area

 

New fencing around a greenhouse complex provides a handy perch for a Palm Warbler as he scans the grass for the last meal of the day.

Cox Road

 

Just beyond the Palm Warbler above, a Red-shouldered Hawk uses a newly erected greenhouse support pole for his own lookout spot.

Cox Road

 

 

 

Around the edges of the citrus groves are lakes, open fields and old homesteads where long-ago plantings of shrubs, vines and hardwood trees grow wild. In one large tree were three female Baltimore Orioles searching the leaves for a juicy insect morsel.

Cox Road

Cox Road

 

A half-dozen American Robins swooped into the top of the oriole tree, chatted for awhile then noisily flapped off toward their own citrus tree roost for the night.

Cox Road

 

Another hardwood tree harbored two Red-bellied Woodpeckers. They had no time for visiting as the sun was getting low and they still needed to shop for supper.

Cox Road

 

Speaking of supper, an American Kestrel sure would like a grasshopper or lizard to show up in the field below. Where did these falcons perch before utility lines were invented?

Cox Road

 

We approached an intersection at the edge of the grove and a Bald Eagle came into sudden view over the orange trees. I went through my routine of trying to slam on the brakes, point the camera out the window, focus and shoot. Imagine my surprise to discover the image is almost adequate!

Cox Road

 

Our late afternoon spur-of-the-moment outing was delightful! Beautiful birds, spectacular sunset and I got to spend time with my best friend. Life. Is. Good.

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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