There’s a small hint of fall in the air now. It’s very subtle. The light is changing, the days are growing shorter, and there’s a breath of coolness in the early morning air. A sign of changing seasons and returning birds!
As our Black-necked Stilts and Least Bitterns start making their way south for the winter, it’s nice to say hello to returning friends! The Belted Kingfishers are one of our earliest winter birds to come back to Lake Apopka. I’ve seen kingfishers as early as mid-July, although this year, I didn’t see my first bird till early September.
“Chip! Chip!” My heart did a happy dance when I heard the familiar call of a warbler. The Yellow Warblers have been moving through Florida for the past few weeks, and I spotted several diving for bugs. They were all over the drive – at the Lust gate entrance, down by the lake, and in the trees and bushes as I drove along.
This baby Common Gallinule reminded me that the summer breeding season is still going. Common Gallinules lay several clutches of eggs throughout the season. That way we get baby “aliens” all summer long!
The little Common Yellowthroats are technically year-round birds in Central Florida, but they are often easier to find in the cooler months. This little female chipped until I finally spotted her deep in the vegetation.
The Least Bitterns haven’t left yet and I miss them already! Watching my little family grow up this summer was so special. This adult posed out in the open as three cameras poked out the windows of the van in front of me. The bittern grabbed a fish to charm the cameras.
My last photo of the morning was this Red-shouldered Hawk, perched up in the top of a tree. He said that no matter how many hints of fall I was seeing that morning, it was still hot out. Very hot. He asked me if I could find some birdie air-conditioning for him!
On a late July turtle walk to the Archie Carr Wildlife Refuge, Rich and I walked a good stretch of the beach without encountering a turtle. I wondered if it would be a turtle-less morning when I spotted sand being thrown in the dunes. That’s a sure sign of a nesting Green sea turtle. Green sea turtles dig giant nests and scatter sand widely to disguise the true location of their precious eggs.
That turtle kept us waiting for an hour! We took several little walks up and down the beach, waiting for her to finish her nest. Rich wrote the turtle’s nickname in the sand – “SLOW POKE!”
The turtle was worth the wait. After she emerged from her nesting hole, she started her slow crawl down the beach. Rich and I were the only people around, and we gave her plenty of space.
It was long past sunrise, so I didn’t even try for the “turtle entering the water with the sunrise in the background” shot. Instead I ran down to the water and waded in so I could photograph her as she approached the waves. You could see the relief on her face as she approached her water home.
The waves began to rinse the sand from her. She gave me a final portrait pose as she entered the water. Already the waves were washing away her tracks as she headed into the waves and swam off. With any luck, the eggs that she left buried in the sand will hatch in about two months!
A late July bike ride at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive posed a very interesting and profound question…why did the Purple Gallinule cross the trail?
Apparently the bugs are better on the left side than on the right side! :)
The gallinules were growing up. Instead of fuzzy little black babies, I saw light brown juveniles with beautiful iridescent wings. They weren’t the only babies growing up, either.
A late-nesting Great Egret was feeding her juvenile down by the lake. The nagging calls of “feed! feed! feed!” came clearly across the marsh as I watched the flapping of white wings. The juvenile was eager to either poke Mom’s eye out or shove his beak down Mom’s throat to eat regurgitated food. Mom was happy to facilitate the second one!
It’s always pretty easy to find an Osprey bringing in a fish. I told this Osprey that he needs to try a little harder. He’s not living up to his competition, who bring in much bigger fish!
It’s been a good year for Northern Flickers at Lake Apopka. I spotted this one in a distant tree in the cool morning light. A few seconds later, he took off and flew towards me. I could see the bright yellow under his wings in my first-ever in-focus flicker flight shot.
I can’t wait for the weather to cool and the winter birds to start coming back to Lake Apopka!