Monday, February 08, 2016

Southwest Florida Bird Highlights - The First Four Days

With the crazy El Nino weather, my time in Florida, five days including travel days, all three of my full days had rain, clouds, and seasonably cool temperatures.  But I can't complain.  Yes, I wasn't prepared for ankle to knee high water on several of the trails I visited, but that didn't stop me from exploring.

The focus of this trip was to expand my knowledge of the birds of this part of the country. Last year, I photographed many of the tame, common birds around the lagoons and drainage ditches.  This year, I set out to see and photograph a wider array of species, and here are some of my highlights.  I'm saving the last day of the trip, day five, a very beautiful day on Sanibel Island, for tomorrow.


Roseate Spoonbills - I saw more than ever.  This one was flying across a tidal flat at Lovers Key State Park

The Reddish Egret is the athlete of the wading bird world.  It actively chases its prey, running through the water, with the ability to change direction in the blink of an eye.

The Black Skimmers on the beach at Lovers Key were quite tame. At my favorite place to see them in South Carolina, I can't get within 30 feet of them before they become agitated and I back off.  In Florida, the birds, in general, are amazingly tame.

This American Flamingo has been hanging out on the tidal flats at Bunche Beach, on the mainland near Sanibel, for nearly a month. I'm a skeptic with this bird, since they are so common in captivity.  Who knows- it could have flown here from the Caribbean. The bird does not contain any bands, which would denote it was an escaped captive. 

If you want to photograph Ospreys, Lovers Key State Park is an excellent spot.  This bird was either carrying nesting material, or, it captured this stuff in its talons when diving for a fish and hasn't been able to remove it. 

I captured my best-ever but still not great photos of a Glossy Ibis.  I find this species much more wary than its white-feathered cousin. 

I watched this rather strange encounter with a young Red-shoulder Hawk and a pair of Mottled Ducks.  The hawk had come to bathe, and I'm not sure what the ducks thought of that.  The hawk eventually left, frightening the you know what out of the ducks.

This Red-shouldered Hawk at Bird Rookery Swamp exhibits the very light facial coloration that typifies these birds in Florida. 

I hit the jackpot with my rainy day visit to Bird Rookery Swamp as I watched two Short-tailed Hawks glide above during breaks in the rain.  According to the Sibley Guide, there are less than 300 pairs of this species in the U.S.

On day four of the trip, it stopped raining, but my trek to Shark Valley was met with cold temperatures and gray skies.  This Limpkin didn't seem to mind. 

I believe this is a fairly bad photo of the Orange-crowned Warbler, a species which was new to me.  Warblers are fast moving birds.  It was quite a challenge to make any sharp images of them on this gray day. I'm fairly certain this matches up with orange-crowned.  I'd love to hear your opinion.

This Northern Parula was a treat.  It gleaned for 10 minutes or so along the Shark Valley road.  

There are ALMOST as many Palm Warblers in Southwest Florida as there are people over 70.  Almost.  Seriously, if you see a warbler like bird, anywhere, it's most likely to be a Palm.

As I was leaving Shark Valley, I watched a Double-crested Cormorant nearby.  I've got plenty of close-up images of this species, so I just happily watched it swimming and diving.  And then all of the sudden the bird came up with this.  It's actually an Oscar, a non-native fish introduced to Florida from the aquarium trade.  I had one in high school.  This cormorant had NO PROBLEM downing this massive fish.

And finally, the sublimely beautiful Common Ground Dove, a bird that I found quite hard to photograph.  This was at the end of the day of my venture to the Everglades at Fakahatchee Strand State Park.


 And there are fifteen highlights from the first four days of the trip.  Tomorrow?  Sanibel Island and the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

-Tom



8 comments:

  1. These are stunningly wonderful pictures! Especially considering the lousy weather you had to photograph them in! Bravo!

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  2. Your pictures are impressive as always. Having seen glossy ibis in the wild, I'm not surprised at how hard it was to get a picture.

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    1. Thanks Jared- I made a visit to your blog and added it to my feedly. Looking forward to learning more about your travels and finds.

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  3. Love your pics, great shots esp. the flamingo and spoonbill. Leaving from Toledo shortley to Florida for several weeks. I put most of my bird shots on facebook. https://www.facebook.com/Chaines7169

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    1. Several weeks... I'm jealous!

      -Tom

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  4. Loved loved loved your photos, taken in many of my favorite spots. Re: The flamingo. What a treat to get to see that one. There IS a flock that has been coming back to Florida every spring for several years now. Info here: http://www.floridarambler.com/birding/flamingoes-in-florida-back-for-good-birders-can-see-them-in-spring/

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