Beyond the BackyardOrlando Wetlands Park

Sunrise Walk at Orlando Wetlands Park

Last Saturday the sunrise forecast showed a red circle over Orlando Wetlands Park.  I got there about 20 minutes before sunrise and the forecast had changed.  The red dot had shrunk and moved north.  Oh well, it was still a beautiful day to be outside.  Probably the last cool morning of the summer.  Sunrise wasn’t totally bad, either…

Sunrise at Orlando Wetlands
Sunrise at Orlando Wetlands

The first thing I heard when I got out of my car was a flock of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.  We have a pair nesting near my house, and the call of (I think) the baby is quite…loud. Insistent.  Sharp. Not at all what I expected!  I heard similar calls at Orlando Wetlands.  The gnatcatchers were staying pretty high in the trees but I did catch a quick glimpse of one.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Next I heard a rustling on the side of the path.  I stopped to listen, and a raccoon emerged from the vegetation and started sniffing around.  When he saw me, he was a little wary, but I stayed still and he continued about his business.

Raccoon
Raccoon

As I hit the main trail leading through the wetlands, I noticed a bunch of Black Vultures hanging out in the treetops.  Normally I don’t stop and photograph vultures, but these caught my attention.  (See, Herman, you got me hooked on ugly birds!)  These birds can be so awkward.  Watching two of them try to land on the same perch was interesting.  Apparently that’s easier said than done when your wings are designed for flight, not for small tree-top maneuvers!

Black Vulture
Black Vulture

Summer nesting is in full swing.  Every time I turned around, I saw juvenile grackles.  It was a nice day just to wander around and listen.

Juvenile Grackle
Juvenile Grackle

I spotted a Pileated Woodpecker in the distance.  He was intently drilling out a hole in the side of a tree.  Look closely in his mouth and you’ll see a bit of the tree.

Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker

Female Red-winged Blackbirds were flying themselves ragged, trying to find enough insects to take back to their nests.  The males, however, did not seem to share the baby-sitting duties.  Instead they spent the morning fluffing up those red wings and singing the song of summer.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

I spotted a tiny Least Bittern fly into a clump of vegetation.  Least Bitterns don’t often come out into the open.  I kept hoping he’d come closer but he had more important things on his mind…like finding some good bugs for breakfast.

Least Bittern
Least Bittern

Orlando Wetlands is good for finding Purple Gallinules and this morning was no exception.  I found several as I meandered up and down the path.  Look at those beautiful feathers:

Purple Gallinule
Purple Gallinule

Surprise!  Not too far away was a baby Purple Gallinule.  He looks so different from his mom and dad!

Purple Gallinule Chick
Purple Gallinule Chick

But the real stars of the morning were the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.  I’ll leave their story to my next post.  What a fun day to be outside!

Black-bellied Whistling Duck
Black-bellied Whistling Duck

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