Posts Tagged With: snowy egret

Not So Far Afield

You would think that I’d learn. “Tomorrow will start clear and dry and a few clouds may roll in during the afternoon.” Weather reporters. Sigh.

Fifty yards down the path, my face felt a few drops of what my Dad would have called “heavy dew”. Rain. Keep going? Turn back? I tucked the camera body under my shirt tail and put the lens covers over the binoculars. A Gray Catbird “mewed” sarcastically from a tangle of willows. Two Blue-gray Gnatcatchers crisscrossed the trail in front of me, daring me to whip out the camera and try to catch them between raindrops. Nature can be so cruel.

Around a bend, there was an opening through which I could see a lovely lake, wetlands extending for some distance and several large dead trees. Among the branches of the tallest snag was an Osprey nest and atop the highest limb perched an Osprey, surveying his wet kingdom. I was so enthralled with the view I had not noticed the rain had stopped.

This trail was new to me and I explored about a mile and a half before heading back to the car. Lakes on one side, old-growth hardwood forest on the other. “Birdy.”

We have written about this location before and doubtless will again. Tenoroc Public Use Area. I’m not sure when it changed, but it used to be known as Tenoroc Fish Management Area. Tenoroc is managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). Over 7,000 acres of fishing lakes, hiking/equestrian trails, a shooting range and special recreation areas for children and people with physical limitations. It is a “gateway” site for The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail.

Did I mention it’s only ten minutes from the house?

By the time I returned to the car, I was almost dry and Gini was several chapters farther along in her book. Granola bars and fresh slices of orange fortified us for more exploring.

There was no more rain and the clouds eventually parted to reveal a deep blue sky and plenty of sunshine. We discovered amazing sights, sounds and supreme satisfaction!

(NOTE: These images are from two different visits, the second and third weeks of October 2019.)

 

An Osprey above an old nest. In Florida, nesting season for the Osprey begins in December and old nests are renovated and reused over and over. (Sadly, this particular nest was destroyed by a violent windstorm after our first visit.) This image provides an idea of habitat typical for the area. If you are able to enlarge the photo, you may spot a Belted Kingfisher near the bottom of the frame just left of center.

Tenoroc FMA

 

A House Wren dared me to take his picture in the rain. These “little brown jobs” only visit us during migration.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Another fall/winter visitor is the Eastern Phoebe. We heard them calling everywhere we stopped. This one kept her eye on a grasshopper which she eventually grabbed and flew out of sight to enjoy.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Little Blue Herons in good light show a subtle diversity of color in their plumage. Yes, this fellow loudly let me know I was disturbing his breakfast hunt.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Fall migration is in full swing and there were plenty of colorful feathered things scampering high in the treetops. I managed to get a shot directly above me of a busy Magnolia Warbler. One would think bright yellow would really stand out in the middle of a tree. One would be mistaken.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Black and orange, on the other hand, are hard to miss. A male American Redstart stopped and stared for 1/500th of a second. Click. Thank you, sir!

Tenoroc FMA

 

There’s that bright yellow again. This time mixed with black stripes which help this Prairie Warbler blend into a bush as he fought the urge to flee. He flew.

Tenoroc FMA

 

One of the benefits of our sub-tropical environment is we get to enjoy dragonflies later in the year than those living in cooler climates. A Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina) can brighten up the dreariest day.

Tenoroc FMA

 

A new species for us! A huge dragon flew in front of the car and I about put Gini through the windshield (again) trying to stop, grab the camera and open the door all at the same time. The very courteous specimen grabbed a nearby branch and posed for several candid shots. Our newest find:  Royal River Cruiser (Macromia taeniolata)!

Tenoroc FMA

Tenoroc FMA

 

Stocky members of the heron family, American Bitterns are another of our fall/winter visitors. Their brown striped plumage allows them to remain motionless among reeds and escape detection. They are fairly uncommon in our county.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Spaniards exploring Florida over 500 years ago brought pigs with them for food. They left a few behind. We now have a feral pig problem. They proliferate faster than they can be hunted or trapped. As with most species, the babies can be pretty cute.

Tenoroc FMA

 

A beautiful Snowy Egret patiently waits for a frog to move. Yum.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Mrs. Belted Kingfisher has spied breakfast!

Tenoroc FMA

 

Mrs. Belted Kingfisher proudly displays her catch!

Tenoroc FMA

 

Mrs. Belted Kingfisher laughs loudly at Mr. Belted Kingfisher who has not had any breakfast!

Tenoroc FMA

 

Mr. Belted Kingfisher knows better than to say anything at all!

Tenoroc FMA

 

We are very thankful (I can’t believe I’m saying this) to the government forces which partnered with commercial interests and private citizens over half a century ago to create a real treasure for all citizens to enjoy. Hopefully, such success stories will motivate more people in all walks of life to encourage similar projects throughout the country (and beyond).

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

 

Additional Information

Tenoroc Public Use Area

Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive (3/4)

(Laughlin Road)

The mid-morning sun was beginning to remind us that we were in sub-tropical Florida in the summer. It was hot. Driving along at our slow pace (even the Apple Snails were passing us) didn’t create much breeze. We once again gave thanks to the genius who worked out how to install air-conditioning in vehicles.

For almost two miles, the gleaming white ribbon of ground shell road stretched out ahead of us. (Click on the link below for a map and virtual tour of the wildlife drive.) Water on both sides. Old irrigation canals offered channels where alligators, turtles and swimming birds could forage for fish and other aquatic creatures. Shallow water beyond the canals with low-growing trees, reeds and water-loving flora provided perfect cover for a diverse collection of wildlife. Wading birds love the habitat for the great hunting perches. Waterfowl appreciate the protection while feeding and nesting.

As we paused to admire a Great Blue Heron preening, Gini remarked how, at first glance, the flat wet environment looks pretty desolate. If one takes the time to look, really look, there is just an incredible amount of life here. She is so right. (I have become accustomed to saying that.)

I watched a Least Bittern fly across the road and was happily surprised when he landed in a clump of cattails near the car. As I walked nearer, I could hear him “chuckling” at the base of the clump. I hoped he would eventually become visible. While I waited, and as if to underscore Gini’s profound observations moments earlier, at my feet a pair of White Peacock butterflies landed to extract nectar from small flowers. At the edge of the canal, a turtle popped his head above the surface to see if I was a threat. Lifting my head just a bit revealed a Green Heron I hadn’t seen holding perfectly still as his eyes fixated on a meal. An Anhinga swam up the canal with a shad adorning the end of his spear-like bill. Overhead, a pair of Fulvous Whistling-ducks headed for open water.

As I took a photograph of the Green Heron, I became aware of being “watched”. I think the clicking of the camera shutter made the Least Bittern curious, as he had worked his way higher up in the reeds and was peeking at me from the greenery. As I tried not to move, he eventually became bored with me (story of my life) and began to preen. I managed a couple of images before he snuggled back down and out of sight.

The drive along this straightaway was packed with busy birds and creatures! We alternated between hot flashes as we put the windows down to enjoy the sounds all around us and putting them back up to savor the evil luxury of modern cool air.

 

We saw over 200 Common Gallinule during the 11-mile drive. There were dozens of brand new chicks trying to learn the trick of walking on vegetation while looking for food. Within a day of hatching, these black downy puff-balls can swim on their own. Like babies everywhere, they also know how to scream and beg.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Great Blue Herons are the largest of our wading birds. Constant preening is required to keep those beautiful feathers in good shape.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Tricolored Herons run through shallow water, stop and quickly change directions and look like some sort of demented ballerina as they chase small fish. A combination of blue-gray, purple and white give this small heron its name.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

With prominent yellow feet, the Snowy Egret walks along in shallow water, uses a foot to stir up the bottom and snaps up whatever tries to escape.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Excellent swimmers, Double-crested Cormorants can dive quite deep to chase down a fish dinner. Don’t look at those eyes lest you become hypnotized!

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

I’m always fascinated how a bird such as this Green Heron can locate prey underneath dense cover. Patience and incredible sight almost always pay off.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

True to its name, the Least Bittern is a very small heron (11-14 in/ 28-36 cm) which likes to hunt from a low perch. Extra long toes allow it to grasp a reed as it lunges into the water with its long neck. Vertical stripes on its underside allow it to point its beak upward and by holding still it resembles the reeds, making it difficult for predators (and birders) to notice.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

In the wetlands, the brunch buffet can be an adventure. A Great Egret selected the fresh catfish this morning. Keeping it is another matter.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

 

Next up, the final leg of the wildlife drive provides open water, open fields, more babies and aerobatic displays. Don’t miss it!

 

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

 

Additional Information

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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