Posts Tagged With: swallow-tailed kite

Watch Out For Falling Birds !

The miracle of bird migration is typically portrayed by images of thousands of ducks and geese filling the skies with noisy quacking and honking as they lift off from northern climes headed for the warmth of tropical locations each autumn. If one is fortunate enough to observe flights of such large numbers of birds it is truly awe-inspiring.

There is another aspect of avian migration not well known to “non-birders”. It involves stealthy little feathered jewels who travel mostly at night and may never be seen by human eyes as they complete their annual journey of survival. Small songbirds begin showing up here in central Florida in late summer and even though they may travel in groups it is not unusual for them to escape unnoticed as they make their way south.

We sometimes describe Florida as having two seasons – green and brown. The sub-tropical climate is perfect for billions of insects to breed and bird migration is timed to perfectly coincide with the peak of the bug birth bonanza. With little fanfare, warblers and other woodland birds arrive in dribs and drabs surprisingly ahead of what the calendar says is the first “official” day of autumn.

So here we were, the last week of August, trudging along a sandy path at dawn already soaked due to high humidity, craning our necks to see what that movement is in the very tops of the tallest trees in the area. (Aren’t there perfectly good bugs in the lower branches?) By noon, a serious case of “warbler neck” would be making itself felt.

Today we were exploring Tenoroc Public Use Area, which was formerly a vast phosphate mining operation in Polk County. As the minerals were extracted to the maximum extent possible, the land was eventually sold to the state and private parties. An effort began to reclaim the mining pits, restore the land to a more natural ecology and develop an area which has become a premier destination for fishermen. Largemouth Bass grow well in the deep waters of the pits and careful management has made the area very popular for those seeking a “trophy”. All bass must be returned to the water immediately so the gene pool is kept intact.

Mining operations ceased here over 50 years ago, and the reclamation process by humans as well as natural forces has been impressive. In addition to great fishing, the diverse habitat has resulted in the area being a “gateway” for birding. The large number of lakes (former mining pits), wetlands, open grasslands, hardwood and pine forests – make this a very rewarding place to visit for a casual walk or serious day of birding.

It was early in the year to be expecting a very large number of migrants but we were pleasantly surprised by the diversity of what we did find. By noon we had observed 50 species of birds.

(Some individual totals which are more than one would expect on a “normal” day here: 10 Red-bellied Woodpecker, 8 Downy Woodpecker, 10 Prairie Warbler, 8 Yellow-throated Warbler, 5 Black-and-White Warbler, 5 Ovenbird, 12 Tufted Titmouse, 13 Northern Cardinal, 9 Carolina Wren, 26 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, 27 Northern Parula.)

So although the calendar (and thermometer!) says it is “summer” – fall migration is under way!

 

Tenoroc FMA

Great Crested Flycatcher

Tenoroc FMA

Downy Woodpecker

Tenoroc FMA

Prairie Warbler

Tenoroc FMA

Yellow-throated Warbler

Tenoroc FMA

Red-shouldered Hawk

Tenoroc FMA

Carolina Chickadee

Tenoroc FMA

Ovenbird

Tenoroc FMA

Tufted Titmouse

Tenoroc FMA

Northern Parula

Tenoroc FMA

Carolina Wren

Tenoroc FMA

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

The sleek yellow and blue Prothonotary Warbler has long been a “nemesis” bird for me, escaping my lens too often.

Tenoroc FMA

Prothonotary Warbler

Tenoroc FMA

Black-and-white Warbler

Tenoroc FMA

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

 

Swallow-tailed Kites breed in Florida, migrate to South America and return in mid-February. This bird should have left the state a couple of weeks ago!

Tenoroc FMA

Swallow-tailed Kite

 

Not a migrant nor a warbler. Just beautiful to look at.

Tenoroc FMA

Black Vulture

 

When you visit Tenoroc, be certain to check in at the ranger station. It’s a big area and they try to keep track of all their visitors.

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

 

Additional Information

Tenoroc Public Use Area

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

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive (4/4)

(Interceptor Road)

With so much to experience, the passage of time was of little importance. Indeed, the only way we realized it was nearing noon was the increase in temperature. The sun directly overhead combined with our ubiquitous humidity was steaming the wetlands.

The final leg of our tour (see “Additional Information” for link to a map) took us alongside an area of open water, a canal and a commercial sod farm. The latter can be a good area for spotting migrating shorebirds. Late summer, however, found us staring at a lot of nice green grass devoid of bird life. The air space above those fields was a different story!

As summer draws to a close, Swallow-tailed Kites begin forming into migratory groups in preparation for their journey to South America for the winter. These sleek aerialists will return around the second week of February to breed. Watching them twist, turn and dive as they catch flying insects and eat them on the wing is fascinating.

Not to be outdone in the aerobatic department, swallows swooped low above the  sod fields and wetlands scooping up bugs for lunch. We only saw Barn Swallows on this trip but Bank and Northern Rough-winged had recently been reported. Barn Swallows breed in the area and we have had some very enjoyable days watching the never-ending cycle of young swallows begging as the adults trudged back and forth stuffing waiting maws with small winged morsels.

Speaking of babies. We found a bumper crop of Fulvous Whistling-Duck families on the open water today. Little striped balls of fluff were constantly diving as mom and dad watched over them. Also, several new families of Black-necked Stilts were out and about. We watched one pair of adults work with two new youngsters showing them how to forage in the shallow water.

As we neared the exit gate, two events which almost always occur at this point played out again. First, we both sighed deeply and commented that it had been a wonderful morning. We just saw so much! Second, and this is quite rare, Gini whined. Normally, she is more of a “declarative” person, leaving no doubt about what she means. Now, however, it seemed a little girl was looking at me with expectant beautiful brown eyes, pleading:  “Can we go around again?”.

 

The Florida Mottled Duck is one of the only ducks in North America which does not migrate. Populations have been in trouble for over 30 years due to habitat loss, drought and hybridization with introduced Mallards. Biologists are concerned that, with continued hybridization, Florida’s Mottled Duck may become extinct in the not-too-distant future.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

A large lens is not very effective for landscape images, but this may give you an idea of what a portion of the wetlands looks like. The Great Blue Heron has declared this green spot is HERS!

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

We were fortunate to see several new families of Black-necked Stilts throughout the area. One group was near the road. As we watched, an adult and one juvenile waded about 50 yards away and the adult watched as the new stilt foraged in the shallow water. Closer to us, the second adult did the same with the other juvenile. At one point, a hawk flew overhead and the juvenile instinctively ducked and looked up. The adult let out a call and the young one immediately ran to his side. Nature’s classroom – right in front of us.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Black-necked Stilt – Juvenile

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Black-necked Stilt – Adult

Several families of Fulvous Whistling-Ducks were cruising the open water with Mom and Dad keeping watch as the ducklings dove for food, bobbed on the surface, preened and enjoyed the day. And we appreciated it.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Nearing the sod field area, we counted 36 Swallow-tailed Kites, swooping, swirling, soaring, scooping up flying insects. What a display!

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

 

Another spectacular day at Lake Apopka! If you’re in the area, stop by and be impressed.

 

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: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: