I headed to Oakland Nature Preserve one morning in late November to say hello to our visiting winter birds. The first bird who greeted me was a fun one – an American Kestrel. This little falcon is technically year-round in Central Florida, but I find it easier to spot them during the winter months. They are fairly skittish, so I was excited when this one let me get close enough for some good images.
Potato chip! Sweetie! Potato chip! I heard the cheerful calls of American Goldfinches and did a little happy dance. While I had been hearing them around my house since around the middle of November, I hadn’t seen them yet. I finally spotted my first two first-of-season birds at the very top of a tall tree. It’s amazing how far their little voices carry!
I was hiking a part of the reserve where I usually spot lots of small birds. On this particular day, the birds must have been having a breakfast party elsewhere. This Palm Warbler hopped out onto a tree branch and flipped his tail for me, telling me that a common bird in good light is a good consolation prize when the less-common birds were busy.
A Pine Warbler hopped back and forth in the deep shadows of an oak tree. At first I thought I saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet in there with him, but the elusive bird declined to come out for a photo.
I hear that the Field Sparrows are back this year, and I wandered around looking for them. They must have been at the Birdie Breakfast Party. A Northern Mockingbird hopped up to the top of some vegetation to gaze at me, then he let loose with a warbling song. It made me realize that it’s been a while since I’ve photographed our state bird!
As I scouted for some bluebirds, a Red-shouldered Hawk flew overhead. Then his partner flew in after him. One sat high in a treetop while the other circled repeatedly nearby. They didn’t understand why a long white lens was suddenly trained on them, making strange clicking noises…
I headed back to my car, pausing to listen to the soft calls of Painted Buntings and a Gray Catbird. Then I noticed something moving on the sidewalk. A Gopher Tortoise! He pulled himself along the path, and I quickly knelt down to his level, grinning from ear to ear as I imagined sharing the photos with Rich. It’s not every day that I get a surprise visit from a turtle! :)
Want to learn more about nature photography at Oakland Nature Preserve?
Check out my Oakland Nature Preserve page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!