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A Rainy Morning and an Unexpected Lifer at LAWD

It was a rainy day at the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.  It wasn’t the ideal morning to be out with a camera, but the birds were still happy to see me.

One of my first birds turned out to be three birds.  When I saw a Black-necked Stilt lying down, I wondered if she was brooding some babies.  She didn’t make me wait long to find out.  She stood up quickly and plop! two fuzzy powderpuffs were left uncovered, wondering where their umbrella had gone!

Black-necked Stilt with Chicks

Black-necked Stilt with Chicks

My next bird was a surprise.  I noticed a kingbird on the power wires, and in the bad light, I assumed it was an Eastern Kingbird.  They have been migrating through the area recently.  When I got home and saw the bird closer, I had to pull out my bird identification books.  Turns out I had seen a Gray Kingbird.  I confirmed on eBird that one has been sighted at the wildlife drive recently.  Lifers are especially fun when they are unexpected!

Gray Kingbird

Gray Kingbird

The Red-winged Blackbirds were in full voice that morning.  The males sit high above their nesting territory, singing and defending their growing families.  This one did so while showing off every inch of his red and orange stripes.

Red-winged Blackbird Song

Red-winged Blackbird Song

Juvenile wading birds are showing up all over the drive.  You can both hear and see the frustrated juvies flapping their wings and begging for food.  The problem is, some of them are old enough to start feeding themselves!  This juvenile Anhinga stuck his head waaaay down his mom’s throat in order to eat some regurgitated food.

One of my favorite subjects at the wildlife drive is ready to put on their best show. Meet this year’s juvenile Barn Swallows, who hang out on tree branches and wait for Mom and Dad to fly by with food.  The babies are so cute as they dance for their dinner.  Look at those gaping mouths!

Begging Barn Swallow Babies

Begging Barn Swallow Babies

This Barn Swallow mom flew in with a nice dragonfly.  The problem is, she had two babies who both wanted to eat it.  How to choose? Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe.  Into which mouth shall it go?

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe

The top baby was the victor. :)

Springtime Nature Therapy at LAWD

Last Saturday was a beautiful spring morning. I headed out to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive for some nature therapy. Of course my Beast came with me, but it was so great to be outside that I found myself listening and watching more than photographing. Spring migration is largely over, although I saw some Bobolinks and Michael found a few American Redstarts at the Crazy U. The wildlife drive is now full of nesting birds. Come with me and explore…

I saw these Bobolinks as I drove in through the Lust Gate.  Bobolinks migrate through Florida each spring and fall.  You often see them in large flocks.  Or in my case, I heard them before I saw them.  They were fairly far out in the field, but I didn’t recognize their calls, so I knew there were migrants around.  They let me get a few quick snapshots before they flew farther away.

Bobolinks

Bobolinks

The Black-necked Stilts came back to Florida several weeks ago, and already they are settling down to nest.  I spotted this nest off in the marsh.  The bird’s mate stood on guard nearby.  It’ll be fun to watch this nest and see the babies grow up!

Black-necked Stilt Nest

Black-necked Stilt Nest

Speaking of babies, the Common Gallinule chicks are already all over the wildlife drive.  They look like adorably ugly little aliens.  This one didn’t mind as my car stopped nearby.  He stood tall and proud on a bit of branch sticking out of the water, showing me just how much of a big boy he really is. :)

Common Moorhen Chick

Common Moorhen Chick

Here’s another Common Gallinule, this one on a nest.  The nests are made on the ground out in the middle of the marsh.  There isn’t a whole lot to protect the eggs from predators. Maybe that’s why the gallinules lay several clutches of eggs every summer, and every clutch is pretty big.

Common Moorhen Nest

Common Moorhen Nest

I was surprised to see a couple of Fulvous Whistling-ducks up close.  They are very common at the drive, and I’ve seen groups of several hundreds of ducks fly in the air, but the marsh is big and the birds often hang out far away from the cars.  (Smart birds.)  I certainly didn’t mind a chance for a close-up.

Fulvous Whistling-Duck

Fulvous Whistling-Duck

Another bird that is nesting right now is the Red-winged Blackbird.  They make a small cup-shaped nest in a bush, often over water.  Sometimes you see the nest being constructed…

Red-winged Blackbird Nesting

Red-winged Blackbird Building Her Nest

…and sometimes you have to look closely to see that the nest is already occupied!

Red-winged Blackbird Nesting

Red-winged Blackbird Female in Nest

I was happy to find the Interceptor Road part of the drive open again after repairs from Hurricane Irma.  Interceptor is where you find the adorable Barn Swallows and their cute begging babies.  I had such fun photographing them last year, and I’m looking forward to more fun this summer.  In the meantime, here’s a nice adult who posed for me and promised me cute babies soon…

Barn Swallow Portrait

Barn Swallow Portrait

Meet Our Newest Neighbor, the Nanday Parakeet

Meet our newest neighbor, the very loud Nanday Parakeet that showed up a day or two ago.  You definitely hear this bird before you see him.  He perches in the tops of nearby trees, squawking his head off.  Then he moves to a closer tree.  Then a closer tree. Then he swoops in to the bird feeder to steal a seed.

Nanday Parakeet

Nanday Parakeet at the hopper feeder

It rained this afternoon, and this poor bird was totally soaked.  Maybe that’s why he was fussing so much.  He assured me that he’s more handsome when his feathers are dry.

Nanday Parakeet at the top of the neighbor's magnolia tree

Nanday Parakeet at the top of the neighbor’s magnolia tree

Nanday Parakeets, also called Black-hooded Parakeets, are from South America.  You can read about them and listen to their very loud calls here.  Populations of introduced birds have grown in Florida, but this is the first I’ve heard in our general area.  It’s possible that it’s an escaped pet.  Last time I saw one in the wild was at Fort De Soto, where a couple posed beautifully with some yellow sunflowers.

I’ve missed my Painted Buntings, who left on schedule around April 20.  So this bird cracked me up as he perched above the bunting feeder, then fluttered down next to a perch, then used his beak to hold on and maneuver himself next to the seed.  I guess he has similar colors to a male bunting. Red and blue and green…but a bunting’s beak is not that sharp!

Nanday Parakeet Pretending to be a Bunting

Nanday Parakeet Pretending to be a Bunting

Every bird that visits our yard seems to have to pose on the bird finial.  This bird was no exception!  Our cats gawked at him and then ran to update their life list.

Nanday Parakeet posing on bird finial

Nanday Parakeet posing on bird finial

Rich and I tried to decide on a good name for this guy.  Rich suggested Squawky, which fits well with one of Whiskey’s nicknames, Squeaky.  There’s just one problem.  Squeaky is a little scared of Squawky!

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