Black Skimmer Babies!

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Rich and I spent a pleasant evening at a Black Skimmer colony in mid-June. I tried to time the visit with the hatching of the babies, but I was off by about a week. The colony was full of blond fuzzballs running around, begging for fish. I sprawled on the sand and enjoyed every minute with them! :)

Black Skimmer Baby
Black Skimmer Baby

The baby above was one of the youngest that I saw at the colony that evening. He was so cute! All evening I watched for little guys of this size. Most of the other chicks were a few days older. Older chicks are more active, but a little less cute….

Baby Black Skimmer Feeding
Baby Black Skimmer Feeding

This slightly older chick was happy to accept a needlefish from Dad. Dad stood watching for a few seconds as the baby maneuvered the fish into his mouth. It didn’t take long for the fish to disappear in a single gulp!

Black Skimmer Tug of War
Black Skimmer Tug of War

Nearby, another adult handed off a needlefish. But the second baby wasn’t so adept at swallowing. The baby kept dropping the fish, and the adult kept picking it back up and handing it back the baby. At times it looked like they were playing tug-of-war. The baby finally won.

Black Skimmer Feeding Baby
Black Skimmer Feeding Baby

Feeding time is a big part of living in a skimmer colony. Babies who are hungry will bite at Mom’s beak to beg for food. The parents are very patient.

Black Skimmer with Fish
Black Skimmer with Fish

The adults sometimes forget their target audience. They bring in adult-size fish and wonder why the babies won’t eat them. The perplexed look on their faces is priceless.

Black Skimmer Chick with Fish in his Mouth
Black Skimmer Chick with Fish in his Mouth

This juvenile accepted a big fish and then struggled to swallow it. He paraded it right in front of my lens!

Black Skimmer with Chicks
Black Skimmer with Chicks

This particular nest was my favorite one of the evening. There were four chicks that kept Mom very busy. The biggest chick bulled the younger ones, especially the baby. Mom patiently sat on them when they got too rowdy.

Black Skimmer with Chicks
Black Skimmer with Chicks

As the sun crept low on the horizon, the colony was bathed in golden light. The babies were most active as the breeze picked up and the parents brought in the last meals of the evening. This mom sat quietly with her two chicks. It was a great end to a great evening!

Summer Morning Walk on the Beach

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It was a beautiful morning in mid-June. I headed to the beach for some breeze, some exercise, and a chance to photograph some summer beach birds.

Brown Pelican Landing
Brown Pelican Landing

It was a good morning to find pelicans fishing in the surf. Some were quite close to the beach. I enjoy capturing the “incoming” shots as they put on the brakes and land. Look at those feet!

Black-bellied Plover
Black-bellied Plover

This Black-bellied Plover apparently missed the memo about migrating to Alaska to breed. He certainly looks spiffy in his dark black breeding colors!

Laughing Gull
Laughing Gull

This Laughing Gull had caught a prize. I think it was a piece of a crab’s shell. The gull paraded at the edge of the surf with his prize in his beak. It caught the attention of other gulls who tried to steal it. I bet this guy would be less hungry if his mom had taught him not to flaunt his food!

American Oystercatcher
American Oystercatcher

A pair of American Oystercatchers slept lazily in the shade of a nearby building. They later awoke and started to call. I love their voices and their bright orange beaks. Then they settled back down on the sand to nap again.

I went home and took a nap, too! :)

Some Summer Surprises at Lake Apopka

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No two trips to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive are the same. Activity starts to wane as the summer heat sets in and the nesting birds fledge. But you never know what surprises await you!

One of my first images of the morning was of a juvenile Green Heron. He was perched out on a low branch over the water. Then as I watched, he was joined by his brother! The two juvenile herons still had downy feathers. They stood watching the world around them, contemplating that day when they’ll be able to fly off into it…

Juvenile Green Herons
Juvenile Green Herons

A little farther down the road was this pair of Blue-winged Teals. I looked at them in surprise, wondering if they knew that most of their friends migrated long ago. I guess these guys have decided to spend the summer in Florida. It’s cooler up north, you guys!

Blue-winged Teal
Blue-winged Teal

Least Bitterns were everywhere. Adults were fishing for breakfast, and juveniles hung out in the reeds waiting for their parents to bring them food. Least Bitterns are known for being fairly secretive birds, but at Lake Apopka, they are pretty easy to find out in the open.

Least Bittern
Least Bittern
Least Bittern
Least Bittern

I heard the distinct nagging call of a juvenile wading bird. As I scanned the trees, I located this juvenile Snowy Egret who was chasing after Mom. Mom finally regurgitated some food for the baby, who continued to dance after Mom flew away. It’s hard to please hungry birds who haven’t yet figured out that they can feed themselves!

Juvenile Snowy Egret
Juvenile Snowy Egret

A Black-crowned Night Heron sat out in the open on a low branch. There seem to be more night herons than in years past. This one still has the long white breeding plume on the back of his head. Look at that red eye!

Black-crowned Night Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron

I really did a double-take on this next one. Usually it’s the Limpkins and Snail Kites that fly in with Apple Snails. Their beaks are curved to accommodate extraction of the meat. But this was the first time I’d seen a Boat-tailed Grackle fly in with one! He balanced both himself and his breakfast on the tip of a branch, then proceeded to attempt to eat. He ended up dropping the shell in the process.

Grackle with Apple Snail
Grackle with Apple Snail

Then I looked up and saw another surprise. An Eastern Kingbird was flying from branch to branch, grabbing flies in mid-air. Although I’d seen reports of Eastern Kingbirds on the drive recently, I didn’t expect to find one in that particular spot. I was glad for my Beast because the bird stayed pretty far out.

Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird

I looked down and chuckled. A baby Common Gallinule was crawling on top of a lily pad. I think he wanted me to see his very large feet. I wonder if his friends call him Big Foot?

Baby Common Gallinule
Baby Common Gallinule

A Black-necked Stilt nesting in the distance had two tiny chicks. I had to position my car very carefully to align the camera with a break in the vegetation. Then I sat, watched, and said “aw!” Mama Stilt half-sat with those long legs of hers, and the baby came to nestle underneath her. It was very sweet.

Black-necked Stilt and Baby
Black-necked Stilt and Baby

I think this next bird is a Bank Swallow. I think. It was hanging out with the Barn Swallows. The white patch around his neck extends up around the back of his head. His voice was a little different, too. eBird shows records of Bank Swallows around the first week of June for the past years, and this visit was in that timeframe.

Bank Swallow
Bank Swallow

My last bird of the morning wasn’t particularly surprising. Red-winged Blackbirds were active throughout the wetlands, caring for their young. This female perched on a cattail and posed so photogenically that I had to take her picture.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

As I left, the birds called “Bye-bye! See you soon!”

Yep, they will :)