Beyond the BackyardLake Apopka

Last But Not Least (Bittern) – Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

On my last off-Friday, my dad and I returned to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive to try again for the rare visiting Fork-tailed Flycatcher.  I promise, you’ll see him soon!  Rare birds get their own posts. ;-)

It was a rainy Friday morning, and apparently rain brings out a common but rare-to-see-out-in-the-open bird: the Least Bittern.  They were literally all over the place!  Each of the following photos was a different bird.  It was just crazy.  We must have come across at least ten of them, out in the open and easy to photograph.  Here are my favorites.

Least Bittern - I almost could have reached out and touched this guy, he was so close to the car!
Least Bittern #1 – I almost could have reached out and touched this guy, he was so close to the car!
Least Bittern #2
Least Bittern #2 – I think this one is a juvenile bird.
Least Bittern #3 - In his characteristic "Looking for Fish" pose
Least Bittern #3 – In his characteristic “Looking for Fish” pose
Least Bittern #4 - Out on a Log.  He sat there forever and allowed us to take as many photos as we wanted!
Least Bittern #4 – Out on a Log. He sat there forever and allowed us to take as many photos as we wanted!  He still has pretty good breeding colors.
Least Bittern #5 - In Stalking Mode
Least Bittern #5 – In Stalking Mode

It wasn’t just a bittern morning, though.  The Barn Swallows also enjoyed the rain.  The babies must be learning how to feed themselves, because we didn’t come across a branch lined with hungry gaping mouths.  Instead we found this bird, taking a bath in the falling raindrops.

Barn Swallow Taking a Shower
Barn Swallow Taking a Shower

The baby Black-necked Stilts are growing up, too.  They are getting taller and starting to look more like the adults.  Mom and Dad were still extremely protective, fussing at any birds that came anywhere near those babies.  They are fairly far out but I could photograph them through gaps in the bushes.

Black-necked Stilt Juvenile
Black-necked Stilt Juvenile

This next shot was rather a sad one.  We found another Red-winged Blackbird nest, and we watched it for a few minutes hoping that maybe a cute baby would stick his beak out.  Unfortunately, what we saw was quite the opposite.  A Common Gallinule wandered up to the bush, climbed the branches, stuck his head into the nest, and emerged with an egg in his mouth.  I guess the gallinules need to eat, too, but it still made me sad. I’ve never seen this behavior before.

Common Gallinule Snatching Red-winged Blackbird Egg
Common Gallinule Snatching Red-winged Blackbird Egg

Note to self: return to Lake Apopka in the rain!  You’ll see lots of bitterns, and with no strong sunlight, you can shoot in all directions.  The drive is absolutely fabulous right now.  As one lady remarked to me the other day, “this place is always the same, but it’s always different too, and that’s what makes it so neat.”  Yep!

One More Least Bittern!  Such a Stare!
One More Least Bittern! Such a Stare!

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