I headed to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive in late May with the hopes of finding some Black-necked Stilt babies. The wildlife drive is full of life at this time of the year, and I found not just the stilts, but several special families! Come meet them with me…
Black-necked Stilt Family #1
This Black-necked Stilt family nested very close to the road. Take a look at the first photo and count birds – how many do you see?
When I asked Rich to count babies, he first said “Two!” Then, “Three!”
I sat there grinning at him as he searched. Finally he spotted the extra pair of legs under Mom.
The little mound behind her is the nest. Mom and Dad kept a careful eye on the people as their four little adventurers wandered around unconcerned.
Least Bittern Family
Further down the drive, I spotted a Least Bittern flying near the edge of the reeds. I focused in and saw not one, but two Least Bitterns. It was an adult attempting to leave and a juvenile who flapped his wings as he begged for food from his parent. After Dad escaped, the juvenile bird was left alone to yawn. Then he was bored, and still hungry, so he decided to go fishing himself. It turned out that he was fully capable of feeding himself! :)
Black-necked Stilt Family #2
This next family has stopped traffic on recent weekends because the adults kept bringing the babies up on the drive. I was glad to see them further out in the fields. The two parents were super-vigilant, chasing off every moorhen and other bird that wandered near the babies. The babies were pretty autonomous, just roaming around in the vegetation that was taller than them.
A little further down the road, I checked another nest that I had seen on a previous visit. The nest was gone. The stilts nest at the edge of the water, and if the water level rises, the eggs get submerged. I wonder if that’s what happened here. Nearby I saw two pairs of Black-necked Stilts that each appeared to starting a new nest. Looks like we might have a second batch of cuteness planned this summer!
The stilts and bitterns were the primary stars of this particular visit, but they weren’t the only fun birds on the drive. All over the trails, tiny Common Gallinule babies were being fed. Even though they are common birds, I never get tired of photographing the little “aliens!”
I spotted a Green Heron with bright red legs. I’m not sure I’ve seen one in full breeding plumage before. I begged the bird to come closer, but he got distracted by another Green Heron. They headed off into the reeds. Maybe I’ll see him with his children later in the summer!
All over the trails, the male Red-Winged Blackbirds sit high in the bushes, standing guard over their nests below. Now the little babies are starting to emerge from those nests. I found this juvenile hopping from branch to branch as he waited for his dad to bring him breakfast. The little baby couldn’t believe it when I told him he’d grow up to look just like his dad! ;-)