Birds of Florida

I love taking pictures of wildlife and I can’t really remember a time that I’ve encountered so many different species of birds in the US since arriving in Florida. When we first hit the Gulf Coast I started to see many gulls, shore birds, herons and pelicans. I couldn’t have ever imagined that our home base in downtown St. Petersburg was going to be a hot spot for birding. As soon as we got settled into our friend’s backyard he suggested we take Kiowa to the dog park at Crescent Lake which was about 4 blocks from his house. Naturally we did, and I was glad I brought my camera along. I was truly astounded when we got there to see the lake was inhabited by so many birds in general and such a wide variety. I was grateful that I had recently downloaded the Audubon app to help me identify the ones unfamiliar to me.  The irony is that the assignment for this months’ photo club is “birds”. I certainly have a good chance to get some good shot with so many opportunities. Since Uriah’s foot is still hurting, I had the daily job of walking Kiowa around the lake.  I honestly could not help myself and probably took anywhere from 10-40 a day! After about day 4 or 5, I had to start looking for other things to capture so I wouldn’t bore anyone following our Casita Chronicles page.  I got quite a few shots of turtles, but never did see the supposed otter that lives somewhere in the lake.  It was a bit of a challenge trying to take pictures while controlling Kiowa on his leash.  Especially because when Uriah was not with us, rather than Kiowa dragging me along on our walks like at home, I had to practically drag him around. He would stop ever 5 feet or so and look back, I guess hoping Uriah was going to catch up.

Anyways back to the birds, not only did I learn the name of many of these birds, but I also learned so much just from watching them. For example, this probably isn’t news to anyone, but I am always impressed watching herons and egrets. They are the most patient of all the birds I witnessed. They would stand still in one spot for a very long time waiting for just the right moment to catch their pray.  There were multiple sizes and varieties of herons and egrets all with a patient watchful eye.  

The Anhinga is an interesting bird that spends hours sitting with their wings spread wide drying them in the sun. Nothing seemed to deter them from this tedious task. 

There were also many species of ducks. They were often found swimming together and near the trees or hiding in larger plant growth areas.

The two strangest looking birds were the wood stork and the white Ibis.

The later seemed like a scavenger type of bird. Not only would i see them all around the lake, but I would often see them in puddles, sidewalks and lawns in the city streets or roosting in large trees.  Pelicans are so cool, I love the way they glide through the water and can make turns almost on a dime, and when they are hunting whoa look out, they dive bomb into the water with sharp precision. Crescent Lake had both American White Pelican and Brown Pelicans.

One morning when it was raining these two pelicans traveling together where both gliding with their bodies slanted at an angle, I wondered if this was some sort of tactic to stay dry.  Another thing I learned while walking in the rain was that woodpeckers came out in droves!

I hadn’t seen any all week until the rain. I even saw more than one type. I supposed the wet bark makes it easier to find food.  The Gallinule, which seem very duck like were quite loud while either mating or fighting.  Many of the waterfowl like to stand on one leg, I have no idea why. You may notice if you’ve check out my photos, that I have very few pictures of smaller birds, that’s because they don’t stay in one spot very long, they flitter about making it really hard to catch them, though I did get a few shots of blue jays. 

After we left St. Petersburg we stayed a night at Myakka River State park. That afternoon we took a bike ride that ended at a larger body of water. There I watched some egrets and herons fishing. The smaller heron was doing this interesting type of dance where it would spread it’s wings squawking while he waited back and forth.

I imagined it was some sort of strategy to trick it’s pray. It was here that I had my first sighting of a rosette spoonbill. They are really cool because they are pink, only flamingos match this color- at least in the Northern hemisphere.  There was a ruckus going on by humans so I went to check it out. Apparently a young spoonbill had gotten it’s beak tied up in fishing line. One of the park rangers’ had waded across the alligator infested river to rescue it and was successful! He said they only intervene when a problem was caused by humans. Another ward, if an animal or bird was hurt from a natural occurrence, they would let nature take its course, but today he got to be the hero and exclaimed “it was a good day at work.”

On the ride back we stopped off at a little tributary. Uriah took a phone call, so I went for a little explore in the woods and saw my first raptor in Florida. It was pretty far away so I wasn’t 100 % sure but the way it was soaring above the trees made me think it was. When I downloaded it to the computer I was happy to see that I was correct. The osprey seems to be the most common in these parts, though I’ll have to check my app to verify.

Over the course of the next few days we entered the Everglades; well technically we were in the Big Cypress National Preserve. A freshwater Swamp  Which contains a mixture of tropical and temperate plant communities dominated by a wet cypress forest. Home of  diverse wildlife, including the Endangered Florida panther, alligators, snakes, turtles and of course numerous bird species, many that I already saw in Crescent Lake but it was very cool to see them in the more wild environment. I took many more photos of course. It sure is going to be hard to choose the best 4 out of hundreds of bird photos.  In addition to many egrets, herons, ibis & spoonbills, I’ve also saw a woodpecker and the big thrill of the day was seeing a huge barred owl! 

After leaving the Everglades we headed to the east coast to visit Ed Greenberg, Max & Chris Fowler and then my cousin Josh Lerman.  Seems like we’ve now seeing more people than birds except the usual gulls and pelicans along the beach.  We did camp one evening a little inland in a county park that was home to a couple of Sand Hill cranes. They had a couple of chicks and apparently live there year round. However a few days later we saw a single one on the beach and then while driving to meet Josh this morning we saw a couple right next to the road.  Just after seeing a bald eagle!  It’s a bit tricky to capture those sightings as your driving 50+miles and hour down the road. I’m sure we’ll see even more birds before we’re through with this trip, but since I started this blog a week ago and we have good internet access for the moment, I’ll post and sign off for now.

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