Two weeks ago, I left cold rainy Ohio for 10 days of (almost) non-stop birding in Central Florida!
I've birded as long as I've sewn -- my parents thought I should know how to sew and I thought I should chase down birds -- happily, I've been able to do both -- one as my vocation and the other as my avocation!
Since my studio has slipped into the "too messy" zone, I'm starting my re-entry with some tidying up this week, so today I'll regale you with some of my vacation photos!
Once I landed in Orlando and found some lunch, I was in full bird seeking mode!
This pair of Sandhill Cranes were sharing a pasture with a herd of beef cattle as I headed to the east coast. So close and totally oblivious to me?
The Florida tourism folks cater to birders with The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, a network of 510 premier wildlife viewing sites across the state. Their website is very helpful!
Many of the sites I visited are man-made water treatment wetlands. The first one I visited is located in Viera and literally throbs with birds.
I was delighted to find this Limpkin with two fledglings trailing behind her hoping that she would share the snail (their favorite food) she was carrying.
I came across a half dozen species of ducks still wintering around the region. This Hooded Merganser drake was in full breeding plumage and strutting his stuff for a nearby hen.
They will be heading north soon!
Little Blue Herons are half the size of Great Blue Herons and don't migrate as far north as I live so it was a treat to see them everywhere!
These are Gulf Fritillaries (I think) -- a new butterfly for me. It was delightful to see butterflies nearly everywhere I went -- hard to comprehend that 1000 miles north at home, there are no insects moving around at this time of year.
One of the most numerous birds I saw were Coot -- this group of them reminded me of the clusters of 13 year old teens I see walking home from school -- prancing around, chattering happily.
This is from a series of pictures I took for the sake of comparison. There are four different species -- from left to right, Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron, Rosette Spoonbill, and Snowy Egret.
Just as I started to snap pictures, the Snowy Egret fluffed up all his feathers and started to give chase to the two smaller herons -- it got quite comical!
That froth of feathers on top of his head is usually plastered down.
As I traveled inland, I visited several wild river areas and this was my favorite.
The Haw Creek Preserve.
I was uncertain as I traveled country roads through cabbage and kale fields that were being harvested. It seems quite remote, but the 1/2 mile board walk with several decks overlooking the creek was some of the most beautiful scenery I saw and very peaceful.
This has to be what I heard some folks call "old Florida".
The slow moving creek is deep enough for canoes and small motor boats.
The woods are mostly live oak and sweet gum that are covered with Spanish moss, bromeliads and tiny ferns.
This little squirrel was the only other creature I saw during the hour I spent there.
I found myself fascinated and frustrated by the palmetto scrub -- the texture of the leaves fascinates me but the size and density of them makes finding small birds very frustrating!
And look at this wonderful "shadow" -- another "texture" idea?
Early one afternoon, I stumbled upon a large gathering of white birds -- it was almost as though there was a sign somewhere banning any others. There were Great Egrets, White Ibis, Snowy Egrets, and Wood Storks. While I was enjoying the sight, a large pink bird stood up in the midst of the crowd -- one Rosette Spoonbill.
A rather long, birdless walk through a patch of dry woodland that was being rehabbed was just beginning to make me wish I'd made a different choice of which way to walk when I began to come upon armadillos rooting around in the dry leaves -- they have the cutest ears which are hard to see in this photo. The left side is his head and the ears look like leaves. Prior to this, I've only seen dead armadillos beside the roads.
Several days later, I walked another dry woods and was amused by the seedlings of the long needle pines -- they look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. This one was only 4 feet tall.
I did one all day guided trip (part of the Birds of A Feather Fest in Palm Coast) to the Sweetwater Wetlands outside of Gainesville, FL -- it's another huge waste water reclamation area. This is a Sora and usually difficult to see since it feeds on the ground in marshy overgrown wetland edges. This one wandered out of the grass and into these water plants while we stood overhead on an elevated walkway. The cameras were whirring as he searched for insects -- one of the best looks I've ever had at this bird.
There were plenty of alligators but most of the ones I saw were all enjoying a nap in the sunshine and not at all interested in the humans with binoculars and cameras.
I didn't spend much time on beaches for a couple reasons -- not a beach girl unless it is covered with birds like this! Shorebirds! It's the most difficult group of birds to identify especially since I get limited exposure to them in Northeast Ohio. They come through in the early spring and again in the late summer but the numbers aren't as great as at ocean beaches.
Happily this group was all the same -- Long-billed Dowitchers -- because sorting a mixed flock of dumpy brown birds can be daunting.
The most common bird everywhere I went were Yellow-rumped Warblers. There were hundreds and they were everywhere -- but hard to photograph. When a species is present is such large numbers, it's tempting to ignore all the small brown birds but it's usually "just another", but checking as many as possible sometimes will turn up one like this -- the Black and White Warbler.
(The person who named this one was pretty clever, huh??)
And sharing the tree with the B&W was this Yellow-throated Warbler -- both were only 5 or 6 feet above my head which accounts for the good photos. The B&W is very familiar to me, but the Yellow-throated is much more uncommon in my experience.
Isn't he beautiful?
The only disappointment of the trip was that I didn't find the three life birds I was seeking but that didn't take much away from nine days of nothing but watching birds and being outdoors.
One more day of tidying in the studio and it will be ready for me to get back at the projects.