Bird Family Vignettes from Lake Apopka

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Lake Apopka

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?

Black-necked Stilt Family
Black-necked Stilt Family

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.

Baby Black-necked Stilt
Baby Black-necked Stilt
Baby Black-necked Stilt
Baby Black-necked Stilt
Baby Black-necked Stilts
Baby Black-necked Stilts – look at that wing stretch!

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! :)

Least Bittern Parent and Chick
Least Bittern Parent and Chick
Juvenile Least Bittern Sticking his Tongue Out
Juvenile Least Bittern Sticking his Tongue Out
Juvenile Least Bittern Fishing
Juvenile Least Bittern Fishing

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.

Black-necked Stilt
Black-necked Stilt Parent – Do you see the baby in the background? They blend in!
Black-necked Stilt Chick
Black-necked Stilt Chick

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!

Black-necked Stilt
Black-necked Stilt Nest Under Construction

Other Birds

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!”

Common Gallinule Feeding Chick
Common Gallinule Feeding Chick

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!

Green Heron in Breeding Colors (Red Legs!)
Green Heron in Breeding Colors (Red Legs!)

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! ;-)

Red-winged Blackbird Baby
Red-winged Blackbird Baby

Checking out another Black Skimmer Colony

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Black Skimmer Colonies

As my dad and I left Fort De Soto on his birthday outing, we stopped at a nearby Black Skimmer colony to check on the progress of the colony. The birds had staked their claim to a part of the beach, in the middle of a fairly busy section. The area was roped off, meaning that some of the birds were already on eggs. The birds seemed to be paired up and sitting near scrapes, but we only saw one egg. A number of them were congregated by the water. We didn’t stay long, but we look forward to the promise of cute babies in a few weeks! :)

Black Skimmer Bark
Black Skimmer Bark
Black Skimmer in Flight
Black Skimmer in Flight
Black Skimmer on Egg
Black Skimmer on Egg
Black Skimmer Piggy-back Ride
Black Skimmer Piggy-back Ride
Black Skimmer Skimming
Black Skimmer Skimming

An Apple a Day and the Birds will Play!

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Fort De Soto

In late May, I took my dad on a birthday trip to Fort De Soto. We had a great morning at North Beach, watching the shorebirds and enjoying the water. Our first bird of the morning was carrying an apple left on the beach. We decided that our new adage will be: “An apple a day and the birds will play!” ;-)

Ring-billed Gull Carrying Apple
Ring-billed Gull Carrying Apple

A small flock of Common Terns was hanging out at the edge of the water. When a person would walk by, the birds would spook and fly off. Although I felt badly for the birds as I thought of the upcoming Memorial Day weekend festivities, the frequent flight shots were fun for photographers…

Common Terns in Flight
Common Terns in Flight

The Common Terns weren’t the only flight opportunities. The Least Terns were hanging out at the edge of the beach, diving for fish for breakfast. They are fast fliers and a challenge to capture through the lens. I certainly enjoyed trying! :)

Least Tern in Flight
Least Tern in Flight

We spotted one of the local Reddish Egrets, also known as “Big Red,” off in the surf. I love watching his “drunken sailor” antics. He darts erratically in the waves, using his wings to cast shadows on the fish below. Then he does a quick dive and comes up with a nice fish. He fit right in with the fishing boats in the distance…

Reddish Egret "Big Red" Fishing
Reddish Egret “Big Red” Fishing
Reddish Egret "Big Red" Fishing
Reddish Egret “Big Red” Fishing

Back up on the beach, we found a small Wilson’s Plover. She looked like she was on a nest, but I didn’t see any eggs in the area. It’s almost time for tiny fuzzballs to start showing up on the beach. They look like cotton balls on q-tip stick legs. So cute!

Wilson's Plover
Wilson’s Plover

The Least Terns at the water’s edge were focused on fishing and breakfast. The terns back on the beach had other things in their minds. We saw a pair of terns doing a fun courtship ritual. The male had a fish and the female was dancing her approval…but minutes passed and nothing happened! The birds continued to dance and I wondered if a bird ever just drops the fish and flies off. A third bird flew in with a second fish, and the first male chased him off. Such drama on the beach! After probably 15 minutes of teasing, the birds finally did their piggy-back ride…

Least Tern Courtship
Least Tern Courtship – Two males and two fish for this bird to choose from!
Least Tern piggy-back ride (yep, this is a family-friendly site!)

Our last bird of the day was a Whimbrel! I’ve only seen a Whimbrel once before, also at Fort de Soto’s North Beach. The bird was standing on the beach with a pair of Black-bellied Plovers. I tried to get on a good sun angle, but a walker startled the bird and he flew. I was shooting straight into the sun as he flew off, but I managed to catch his open mouth as he called to say goodbye. :)

Whimbrel in Flight
Whimbrel in Flight