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My Turn with the Terns!

After enjoying the sunrise at Marineland Beach last weekend, I headed over to the tern colony to check for chicks.  But all the fish that came in seemed to be courtship offerings, with no chicks in sight!

A Fishy Offering

A Fishy Offering

It was great to see Michael and Ursula as we sat in the hot sand and watched the birds.  This year the most activity was on the far side of the colony.  We saw lots of birds on nests, and lots of fish being handed off.  I think I photographed four piggy-back rides!

Strutting his Stuff

Strutting his Stuff

This guy was very active at defending his territory.  A second bird kept flying to to offer fish to his mate.  That didn’t go over so well!

You wandered into the wrong territory, little guy

You wandered into the wrong territory, little guy

There was a large chick running around in the back of the colony.  He didn’t seem to belong to any of the adults.  Everywhere he ran, he got chased off by other birds who were defending their nests.  Poor little guy.  It’s not easy being lost on a big beach!

Juvenile Wilson's Plover

Juvenile Wilson’s Plover

A pair of juvenile Wilson’s Plovers ran by my lens.  They were big enough that they almost looked like adults, but their feathers were a little blotchy and they still had white fluff on their heads.

Least Tern in his Habitat

Least Tern in his Habitat

The beach was covered in picturesque sea grasses and flowers.  This bird decided to pose for a portrait.

There was a little too much background in this next shot, so I took it into Topaz Glow and Color Efex and came up with this:

Baby Terns on the Way!

Baby Terns on the Way!

I’m not sure how the birds did after Tropical Storm Colin moved across the state.  I know a lot of the colonies on the west coast of Florida did not fare well.  I hope the terns did better.  I’m looking forward to returning and finding the results of these piggy-back rides!

Summer Sunrise

The early 3:30 wake-up call.

The 2 hour drive in pitch blackness.

The faint color in the sky and the wisp of a cloud in the early dawn.

The cool ocean breeze on my face.

The feel of sand between my toes.

The buzz of bugs on my skin.

The lap of the waves under my feet.

The silhouettes of pelicans over the water.

The gradual awakening of day.

It was so good to be out with my camera!

Summer Sunrise

Break of Dawn

 

 

Summer Sunrise

The Color Intensifies

 

Summer Sunrise

Fire in the Clouds

 

Summer Sunrise

The Sun Appears 

Summer Sunrise

Pathway to Paradise

Frequent readers of my blog will know where I headed next.  Stay tuned! :)

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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