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Early May at the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

In the wonderful cool weather of last weekend, I ventured out to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive to enjoy what I expect will be the last cool morning of the spring.  With most of the spring migration behind us, I expected to see our Florida birds in full breeding activity – and that’s just what I found! :)

Osprey with Fish

Osprey with Fish

My dad loves to tease me that I only photograph Ospreys if they have fish in their mouth.  While that’s not exactly true, a fish is definitely a good bonus!  This one had just snagged a small breakfast from the lake.  Some of his friends had much bigger catches.

Red-winged Blackbird Singing

Red-winged Blackbird Singing

The wildlife drive was just covered in Red-winged Blackbirds.  Every time I stopped the car, there was another male sitting in the top of a bush, singing.  Along the side of the road, males and females hopped on the ground.  I was enjoying the early morning light, and I hopped out of the car and sat down to photograph one of the females.

Female Red-winged Blackbird

Female Red-winged Blackbird

I could almost hear the thoughts of other birders as they drove by… “gosh, she has a really fancy camera and she’s taking pictures of a blackbird!?!?”  Yep!  Why not?

Sora

Sora

As I pulled into the wildlife drive, there was a Sora fully visible in between some reeds.  These are usually pretty secretive birds, not often out in the open like this.  I got out to get some closer shots, and the bird disappeared.

Why did the White Ibis cross the road?

Why did the White Ibis cross the road?

I saw a few juvenile White Ibises (with their brown spots), and then this one still in partial breeding plumage flew in.  His bright red face and legs are quite distinctive.  But he never did tell me why he decided to cross the road!

I saw several Glossy Ibises also, still in their breeding colors.  I love the blue colors on their faces.  This one flew by and I took a few quick shots.  Only after I looked at the photos on the computer did I realize that I’d caught him with a mid-air poop!

Glossy Ibis Mid-Air Poop!

Glossy Ibis Mid-Air Poop!

The Ibises weren’t the only ones taking to the skies.  A couple of flocks of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks flew overhead.  I have missed the sound of their happy calls!

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks

Common Gallinules are regulars in the waters alongside the berm roads.  It’s that time of year when baby gallinules start making an appearance.  You may be wondering if these are baby aliens, but trust me, the ornithologists have clearly classified these little guys as Common Gallinules!

Common Gallinule babies

Common Gallinule babies

As I turned away from the lake shore, a female grackle caught my eye.  She was poking repeatedly in some branches.  The next thing I knew, she picked up a frog and carried it off to feed her two young chicks!  One chick was on the ground fluttering his wings and calling out insistently for food.  He got the first few bites.  Then she flew off with a mouthful, and that’s when I realized that she was also feeding the chick in the tree overhead!  She continued to feed both for a few minutes until she caught the attention of other birds.  That frog was too good not to share.  I didn’t see who ultimately ended up with it!

Grackle with Frog

Grackle with Frog

Incoming Grackle!

Incoming Grackle!

A small flock of Barn Swallows was my last good find of the day.  They sat preening in a tree while I edged the car closer.  They didn’t mind the click of my camera at all!  Swallows are pretty and it’s hard to find them sitting still.  A great end to a beautiful morning!

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

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Early April at Lake Morton

On a quiet Saturday in early April, I escaped to Lake Morton for a few hours of springtime bird photography.  While most of the ducks had left already, a bunch of Ruddy Ducks were still around.  The males were sporting their bright blue bills.  One was splashing in the water not too far from shore.  I sat down and waited, knowing that a wing flap would follow…and it did!

Ruddy Duck Wing Flap

Ruddy Duck Wing Flap

A pair of Wood Ducks meandered in the grass.  The Wood Ducks at Lake Morton are very accustomed to people, but I was still surprised when they let me approach them to photograph them.

Wood Duck Pair

Wood Duck Pair

I settled down in the grass watching the lake on a good light angle.  A few American White Pelicans were still lingering at the lake.  A few of them were practicing their water-skiing skills…

American White Pelican Landing

American White Pelican Landing

The White Ibises were in their bright breeding colors.  I love their bright red beaks and legs at this time of year!  One flew by and obligingly gave me a good head angle. :)

White Ibis in Flight

White Ibis in Flight

It was quite a pleasure to run into Herman and his friends, who were also photographing at the lake that morning.  We had a good time with a Boat-tailed Grackle who had posed nicely at the top of a flowering trumpet tree.  His feathers shone a glossy blue as he sang a courtship song for all to hear.

Singing Boat-tailed Grackle

Singing Boat-tailed Grackle

Herman has always loved the “ugly” birds like Wood Storks and vultures.  After chatting with him, I spotted a Wood Stork standing quietly at the lake shore.  I spent some time with the bird doing some close-ups.  He has such an ancient, wise-looking face!

Wood Stork Portrait

Wood Stork Portrait

A juvenile Muscovy Duckling was out for a walk with his mom.  They walked all over the grass, biting at the mosquitos in the air.  I caught the baby with a bite in his mouth!

Juvenile Muscovy Bite!

Juvenile Muscovy Bite!

My dad recently informed me that his photography life list is lacking in certain common birds, like American Crow and Fish Crow.  We had a good chuckle over the fact that he can enhance his life list right in his own backyard!  So when I spotted a crow looking for nesting material, I laid down and got some good shots.  He finally decided that the moss was a little too much for him to carry off.

Crow Searching for Nesting Material

Crow Searching for Nesting Material

All in all, it was an excellent morning.  By the time I headed back to my car, I was a little tired from my early morning drive.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one who needed a nap!

Wood Stork Yawn

Wood Stork Yawn

Greenie Bath Time

A few free hours in the afternoon, a nice bird blind, a yard full of Painted Buntings, and a drippy hose…all the perfect ingredients for some fun bird photography!  I took a small birdbath and placed the hose to drip into it.  I positioned it near the Painted Buntings’ favorite bush, right in the middle of their flyway to the feeder.  I climbed into my blind and laughed as the first exploratory birds flew out, saw the bath, and jumped back under cover.  I had a feeling it would take a little while for them to get used to it.  But before long, the first brave greenie landed…and found that he liked it!

First Brave Greenie

First Brave Greenie

You can see the water droplets as the greenie tested the waters.  Apparently he liked it!  He decided it was time for a bath.

Greenie Bathtime

Greenie Bath Time

After a bird takes a bath, he always does a wing flap.  In this case, it was combined with a jump.  Silly looking bird!

Jump!

Jump!

Before long, our greenie had company.  You can’t keep a good bird bath a secret!

Double Trouble

Double Trouble

Things got especially interesting when the third and fourth birds decided to join in the fun.  Apparently the bath wasn’t big enough for everybody!

Bath Time Squabble!

Bath Time Squabble!

A male bunting showed up for just a second, but he immediately flew away.  I took a mental note to set this up more permanently so that the birds are used to it when I go out to photograph.  Plus, once they get used to the drip, I can set up a more photogenic perch.  But until then, here’s one more fun shot of bath time!

Water Droplets Everywhere!

Water Droplets Everywhere!

Sadly, my buntings left the yard early this week en route to their breeding grounds.  Every year they leave around April 24.  On Monday the 25th I was down to four greenies.  By Wednesday the 27th, only one greenie was snacking at my feeders.  I didn’t see him/her on Thursday.

The yard is certainly quiet without them! :(