On Saturday I headed down to Osceola County to Joe Overstreet Road, where Whooping Cranes have been eBird-ed regularly in the past few weeks. I’ve never seen a Whooping Crane in the wild before. My parents got me a book and video about Sandhill Cranes and Whooping Cranes for Christmas, and as I’ve learned more about these majestic birds I got a real itch to see a wild Whooper. It’s so sad how there are so few left in the wild. Then again, the population of Whooping Cranes was down to about 20 birds in the early 1900s, so a population in the multiple hundreds isn’t so bad, I guess.
Well, I found my Whooping Crane, and this joins many many other bad photos of lifer birds. The crane was hanging out at a ranch just north of Joe Overstreet Road. He was so far away that I could barely make him out, even with a 1600mm focal length (7DII + 500mm + 2x). But his feathers are definitely white and his face definitely that of a Whooping Crane, not a Sandhill. Now I just have incentive to go back to try for a better shot!
Luckily for me, there were plenty of other birds on Joe Overstreet Road, and most of them much closer than the Whooping Crane. I don’t get down to Joe Overstreet often enough. It’s a beautiful example of the good old Florida prairie, lined with Eastern Meadowlarks and Loggerhead Shrikes. And Wild Turkey…
I loved how his feathers glowed in the early morning light. I willed him to come closer. So he waddled farther away. Figures! :)
A pair of Bald Eagles was perched in a far-off tree. They stood preening and calling for the longest time. I sat and watched for at least five minutes before I got decent head angles from both of them.
Eastern Meadowlarks were all over the place. A few hopped up onto the fenceposts that line the road. My favorite shots were of the birds in their native grasses. Sometimes they would climb up onto a small slope and pose.
Then one hopped up onto a fencepost right next to me. With the 2x still on my 500mm, I was all ready for a head shot!
I saw several American Kestrels and a bunch of Loggerhead Shrikes. Then a shrike landed right next to me. He seemed to be hunting, so I sat and waited a while for him to go grab his next snack. So what did he do? Dive down into the grasses and stay there! Silly bird. :)
My favorite shot of the day was a Red-Shouldered Hawk that was perched on a dead snag some way away from the road. The light on him was perfect. A great last shot for a fun morning!