Posts Tagged With: roseate spoonbill

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – II

The day continued to be near perfect. Sunshine all day, not hot, a light breeze and a few clouds now and then. Spring was in the air. We spent the afternoon with the birds of the refuge. They rested, chased away trespassers, bathed, preened, flew to and fro and always hunted. The ducks, especially, were almost in constant motion as they must gather enough energy for returning north in the coming weeks.

With the sun dropping toward the horizon, we reluctantly headed in the same direction. Stopping at the bridge connecting the refuge to the mainland, we enjoyed a Florida sunset and agreed, once again, that we are two of the most blessed individuals on the planet.

 

Images of our afternoon.

Watching a Reddish Egret chase a meal would make Baryshnikov blush with envy. I had to literally run along the shoreline to keep up with this racer. He would stop suddenly only to burst out running again. Finally, he stabbed the shallow water and came up with a minnow which seemed too small to even consider as a meal for this large wader. It’s gonna take a lot of those to fill up Big Red!

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

 

Lesser Scaup were plentiful in the marshes and this one found a piece of quiet beach to enjoy a nap in the Florida sun. Just as soon as the pesky paparazzi leave.

Merritt Island NWR

 

As breeding season approaches, the plumage of the Roseate Spoonbill begins to brighten. Watching these large birds sweep their namesake bill back and forth in the shallow water is fascinating! Gini spotted an enterprising female Blue-winged Teal taking advantage of some shade provided by a tall pink tree.

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

 

Blue-winged Teal were the most numerous duck species at the refuge today. This male finished bathing and preening with a wing flap showing how it got its name.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Late afternoon and the salt marsh stretches in all directions.

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

 

Strong sunlight about an hour before sunset puts a spotlight on a freshwater hammock.

Merritt Island NWR

 

This Bald Eagle takes on a golden glow from the setting sun.

Merritt Island NWR

 

A pause at the bridge to the mainland as we reflect on our very special day and sigh heavily as the sun sinks beyond the St. Johns River.

Merritt Island NWR

 

The beginning and end of our journey today were in darkness. In between, we were in the full light of Nature as she shared a small bit of beauty with us. Come visit this special place if you have an opportunity. It is worth the time.

 

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit.

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Recovery

“There’s a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico.” Not what I wanted to hear earlier this week.

In late August, we called our son in Houston to see if he and his family needed to visit us in Florida until Hurricane Harvey passed. My son reminded us ever-so-diplomatically that if he were to have any flood damage at his house he would have to turn in his geology degree. They weathered the monster storm just fine.

A couple of weeks later, our son was on the phone asking if we needed to visit them in Houston until Hurricane Irma passed.

Mother Nature. Who knew she had a sense of humor?

I have no degree in geology but assured him we had weathered storms before. Of course, that was just bravado. We did the requisite stocking of supplies and prayed a lot. The intensity of our praying may have increased with the ferocity of the winds howling outside as rude Irma passed directly overhead during the night.

The current storm, Nate, is churning toward my sister’s house in Florida’s panhandle. It shouldn’t give them any problems. Shouldn’t. I don’t trust Mother Nature to play fair.

A couple of days after Irma caused devastation to Florida, Gini and I ventured out to survey our local area. We didn’t get far. Within just a few miles from the house, roads were covered in water and blocked by downed trees and power lines. We returned to the house and prayed some more. For those who would be weeks without water and power.

After a few more days, we again set out and found most roads passable. (A HUGE thank you to the responders from law enforcement, tree companies, utilities workers – literally thousands from other states – who have worked so hard to get Florida back to a sense of normalcy.) Since our normal birding haunts within public parks and reserves were closed we checked on accessible areas such as pastures, country roads and lake shores. Wildlife was abundant and we remain amazed at how resilient nature can be.

We have made a half-dozen forays since Irma tromped on Florida and life is returning to its normal pace. Today’s photographs are a compilation of what we found within two weeks of the hurricane’s passing. Migratory songbirds don’t read headlines and don’t watch the Weather Channel, so they have been showing up in treetops as they have for millennia.  We appreciate it.

 

We visited this area in southern Hardee County a week before the hurricane and could see no water at all.

County Line Road

 

A pair of Crested Caracara found something of interest in a field and keep a sharp lookout for thieves.

10 Mile Grade

 

Wading birds don’t mind the flooded fields at all! An immature White Ibis flapped by us on his way to probe the soft mud for breakfast.

10 Mile Grade

 

This Northern Mockingbird extracts a grub from an oak tree branch.

East Lake Parker

 

A Caspian Tern takes a dive at a local lake. There was a pier between me and where the tern entered the water but I was able to peek through the railings in time to see him fly off with his prize.

East Lake Parker

East Lake Parker

20170913 Lake Parker 00047

 

Ants are on the menu as the sticky tongue and bill of this Red-bellied Woodpecker are covered with the little morsels.

East Lake Parker

 

Driving along a remote country road, we found a Roseate Spoonbill taking advantage of water running across the road and washing all sorts of goodies into his waiting, well, spoon bill. I don’t know if he was looking to the heavens in thanks or wishing we would move along!

Green Pond Road

 

Water is returning to somewhat normal levels in many wetlands and residents, such as this young Red-shouldered Hawk, are thankful to find old perches and fresh food.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

With so much water, vegetation is flourishing. A Cloudless Sulphur finds nectar from Caesar Weed (Urena lobata), an invasive species with an attractive bloom.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Near Lake Kissimmee, about an hour east of us, we found several large and small flocks of Wild Turkey.

Joe Overstreet Road

 

A pair of European Collared-Dove perched picturesquely on a pier.

Joe Overstreet Landing

 

It’s the time of year Bald Eagles begin courtship and the males can display some pretty spectacular aerobatics as they try to impress the ladies. I managed to follow one such fellow through a series of tight turns as he screamed throughout the show. There were four eagles involved in the demonstration but I tried to ignore the others (not easy!) to get a series of this guy. Here are four out of the two dozen images I took.

Joe Overstreet Landing

Joe Overstreet Landing

Joe Overstreet Landing

Joe Overstreet Landing

 

Limpkins are plentiful in our area thanks to a plethora of Apple Snails. These large waders are the only members of their species (Aramidae) in the world. Their name comes from their “limping” gait.

Joe Overstreet Landing

 

Along one dirt road, we stopped counting the webs of the Golden Silk Orbweaver, as they seemed to be everywhere. The strong silk is very effective at capturing large insects, such as the grasshopper here.

Joe Overstreet Road

 

Purple Gallinules are not very accomplished songsters, but they sure make up for it in the colorful looks department!

Lake Parker Park

 

Fall migration is in full swing. Most of the time, the birds are too high in the tree tops or in dense cover which makes photography impossible. Occasionally, I get lucky.

Yellow Warbler

East Lake Parker

 

Prairie Warbler

East Lake Parker

 

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Black-and-White Warbler

Saddle Creek Park

 

Northern Parula

Saddle Creek Park

 

Cape May Warbler

Lake Parker Park

 

Baltimore Oriole (female)

Saddle Creek Park

 

American Redstart (male)

Saddle Creek Park

 

There is nothing “fun” about a storm, especially a huge tropical Hurricane. Damage to our region has been severe. The same is true for Texas, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, other islands of the Caribbean and even Nate, while “just” a tropical depression, has taken 22 lives in Central America.

We are extremely thankful to have had minimal damage.

Our routine has been disrupted but our lives have not. Nature continues its cycle of life and we continue to be in awe of its magnificence.

As Gini and I recover from the storm, to be fortunate enough to see a mighty Bald Eagle perform a courtship flight or to marvel at the flash of bright orange as a Redstart startles insects from a hiding place – this is how we know we are truly blessed. To be able to do it together is something really special.

 

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

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

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