Nice Wild Drive

On a recent visit to Lake Apopka, it was “splash and dash” showers all morning. The sun was still just low enough for this rainbow, which seemed to hug the ground.

low-rainbow

Just as in Merritt Island, ducks are coming in for the winter all across Florida, though they seem to be late in coming to the big parks and refuges. I have seen reports of larger numbers of scaups in neighborhood and commercial development ponds.

hooded-merganser
Female Hooded Merganser.

The first Great Blue Heron of the day had speared a large catfish, but seemed to be having trouble figuring out how to eat it.

gbh-with-catfish
Breakfast!

As is typical of central Florida in winter, there were large numbers of Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Palm Warblers will usually allow you to get somewhat closer to them, especially if there are many of them in the same place. They always seem curious and will stop to watch as I fumble with my binoculars or camera.

palm-warbler

Recently a rare Brown Booby (well, rare for inland central Florida) had been seen around the old pumphouse. I did catch one distant look at a bird that looked suspiciously like a booby, but it was just too far away to be sure. There were Eastern Phoebes, ibises, Ospreys, and (of course) more Palm Warblers around.

another-palm-warbler
Here you can see the yellow under-tail coverts and white tail spots that are good field-marks when the birds are actively flitting around.

Nearby a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk was sitting very close to the roadway in some trees. Both the typical and  pale “Florida form” varieties were present throughout the morning.

red-shouldered-hawk
When this bird matures, into next year, it will have a red, finely-barred breast and rufous shoulders (hence the common name of the species).

American Bitterns have been back in the area for a while now, but I finally saw my first of the season (FOS) birds on the first pass through the wildlife drive. One was quite close to the car, much more interested in stalking prey than anything else.

american-bittern
American Bitterns will often hide in tall reeds and rely on their coloration and pattern to stay concealed. But it’s not uncommon to find them out in the open if they feel secure and hungry, as this bird clearly did.

There a quite a few larger alligators along the drainage canals that parallel the roads. Many were well over 2 meters (6.5 feet) long. They were taking advantage of the sun, between rain showers.

What was really great was seeing Fulvous Whistling ducks for more than 2 seconds! I have this bird on my life list from seeing a bird fly quickly over the car and out of sight one afternoon back in the spring. Since then, any birding adventure where these birds were alleged to be found, I came up empty. It took a second drive around to get them, but this time, I got some really good unaided-eye, binocular, and camera looks at them.

fulvous-whistling-ducks
The first group of Fulvous Whistling-Ducks was a bit distant, but their profiles and coloration were unmistakable.

The second group of Fulvous Whistling-Ducks were much closer and were mainly preoccupied with preening. I tried to get two of the duck to look up at the same time, but to no avail.

Here is a link to the eBird checklist:
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26049077

And for the less click-inclined (47 species):

  • Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
  • Fulvous Whistling-Duck
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Anhinga
  • American Bittern (FOS)
  • Least Bittern
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Snowy Egret
  • Little Blue Heron
  • Tricolored Heron
  • Cattle Egret
  • Green Heron
  • Black-crowned Night-Heron
  • White Ibis
  • Glossy Ibis
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Osprey
  • Northern Harrier
  • Bald Eagle
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Sora
  • Common Gallinule
  • American Coot
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Mourning Dove
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • American Kestrel
  • Merlin
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Fish Crow
  • House Wren
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • American Robin
  • Gray Catbird
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Palm Warbler
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
  • Boat-tailed Grackle

There are certainly “greener” ways to bird, but some areas are better birded from a car. I try to work harder to reduce my carbon footprint and other disturbances as a result. Also, many birds that are skittish when approached on foot don’t seem to give automobiles much concern.

 

 

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