Fall all over the place

In between some “grander” adventures over the last few weeks, I’ve managed to take in some of the local changes, now that Fall has arrived, even in central Florida. Mid-October generally ushers in the dry season (though the past few falls/winters have been fairly wet), and the waterworks do seem to have shut off. With the cool weather, it’s much more feasible to spend longer mornings and even some afternoons looking for birds, whether late-season migrants or wintertime residents.

Pine Warblers are year-round residents here, and add some nice color even as our Florida greenery fades for the winter. This one was hanging out at a park near where I work.

Most of the herons and egrets also stick around throughout the year. The Space Coast is a pretty built up place, and herons have grown fairly people tolerant. Even so, I still find it a little jarring when wildlife is in such close proximity to the urban world.

This Little Blue Heron was perched on a barbed-wire fence, enclosing a retention pond. Fences allow birds and small animals in and out, but larger natives, like alligators are unable to get in. That’s probably good for developed areas (people), but the ponds and wetlands we create are poor substitutes for the real thing, for a host of ecological reasons.

As migrants have moved through the area and resident birds have dispersed, predators are never far behind. American Kestrels are back and Red-shouldered Hawks are on alert for whatever they can get.

This Red-shouldered Hawk was stalking lizards and Palm Warblers near St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park.

I even managed to squeeze in an “owl prowl” at Turkey Creek Sanctuary this past weekend! We called in both a Barred Owl (probably with too many recorded calls, honestly) and an Eastern Screech Owl. I was especially proud of us getting the screech owl, because our leader had called an end to our hike, and I suggested we try for it one more time, since we’d be near the nature center and probably far enough away from the Barred Owl’s territory. I also know screech owls are a bit more tolerant of development, and the nature center is closer to the library, community center, and the road. I was right, and we got some close looks, even without spotlighting the owl!

Fall does tend to be quiet, at least until the ducks arrive in November, but that’s not always a bad thing. I’ve got the rescheduled (thanks a lot, Hurrican Matthew) Florida Ornithological Society meeting next weekend and SCBWF is going to get here real quick in January, so some relaxing time is probably good.

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