I could tell from his beak markings and partial breeding plumage that this was one of the birds I had seen earlier in the morning. Apparently he didn’t get enough fish at the wading ponds, because he kept pulling fish after fish out of the water.
I love watching these birds hunt. They throw their wings around to create shadows on the fish. The result is a fun dance that is always fun to photograph.
I seriously don’t understand how the bird could keep dancing and flying around with such a full belly.
The color of the gulf was so pretty that morning. I ended up sitting down in the very shallow water, which gave me a wonderful angle to the antics of this bird. The waves splashed and sparkled behind him while he contemplated his next move.
“Jump for Joy!” The ballerinas could take lessons from this bird. He has mastered the art of pointing his toes in mid-air!
I returned to Lake Morton in mid-April to check on the swan nests. Cygnet Watch concluded this year for me with no cygnets. But there were plenty of other things to see. Want to see more? Well, we can join the Wood Ducks for their race…ready, set, go!
This Mute Swan sat patiently on her nest. I think it was a relatively new nest, possibly one she took over after the previous occupants had vacated. She tucked her nose into her feathers, watching me but not wanting to wake up entirely. It was an early morning!
This white duck didn’t mind the early morning wake-up call. There were three of them swimming together, splashing in their baths and giving me fun wing-flaps. I think these birds are related to Mallards…at least, in some remote, Morton-menagerie sense!
I’ve been loving the opportunities with the Wood Ducks this spring. On this particular morning I didn’t see any Wood Ducklings. But I did see these three adult male ducks in a row! They were also splashing and giving themselves an early-morning bath.
I heard tiny noises and looked down in the lily pads to find this nest of Common Gallinule chicks. Mom was brooding them, then she stood up to give me a good view of their five little beaks. Give them a week or two and they’ll be running all over the lake shore.
The Lesser Scaup that I saw last time was still there. When birds don’t migrate on time, it’s usually for a reason. When this bird raised his wings for a bath, I saw the missing flight feathers. Hopefully he’ll grow them back and find his friends up north.
I came across another Common Gallinule family. Mom was searching for food in the grass. The babies would come racing up to her to grab a morsel. My best shots were when I laid down in the grass to get down at the birds’ level.
When I heard a repeated “nah, nah, nah!” call, for a moment I thought I was at Fort De Soto with the courting terns! It was a pair of Laughing Gulls. Based on their behavior, I think we’ll have more gulls at the lake in a few weeks!
I arrived at one of the last swan nests. When I saw Dad sleeping in the roped-off area next to Mom and the nest, I hoped to find cygnets. Based on their behavior, it would not surprise me that the hatching was imminent – but alas, it didn’t happen while I was there! Look at her white feathers in the soft morning light. She’s going to make a great mom.
The swans weren’t the only ones giving me good head shots on this particular morning. I came across another Wood Duck at the edge of the lake. I crawled closer and closer as he preened himself. His feathers glistened in the sunlight. What a great way to end a fun morning!
It’s been a long time since I’ve driven the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. Biking it on no-traffic days has been a lot more fun. But on this particular day, BirdCast forecast a good movement of migrants and there was a chance of rain, so I decided to drive it instead.
I spent some time with a fellow birder at the Lust Road entrance, where a Yellow-breasted Chat had been hanging out for a few days. At one point I thought I had the chat, but my flash of yellow with (I thought) white eye rings turned out to be a Palm Warbler! Oops.
After an hour, I moved on to the drive. One of my first birds was a Gray-headed Swamphen on the side of the trail. He was eating at the seeds of a wild daisy.
I arrived at my target location, the cluster of trees at the Crazy U that seems to be a good little migrant trap in April. I stood staring at the trees. At first there didn’t seem to be much going on, but after a few minutes, I started to make out little birds darting around. First a Gray Catbird meowed at me and showed me his red parts…
Then I found a Prairie Warbler hanging out in the shadows. He’s just starting to molt into his breeding colors. Give him a few weeks and he’ll have brilliant black spots!
I wandered around, spotting a pair of Black-necked Stilts in flight. I got a few distant shots. Then I looked down and saw this Savannah Sparrow. I doubt he’ll be here much longer.
Back to the trees. Patience is important when you’re looking for migrant birds. I spot a flash of yellow deep in the leaves and find a Yellow Warbler. He was preening. When he finished, I hoped he’d hop out where I could see him better, but he burrowed deeper into the tree. Silly bird!
After a while, I moved on again. It was already getting pretty late in the morning. Do you remember the Great Blue Heron nest I saw on my last bike ride? Well, apparently it’s been a few weeks! The baby has not only hatched, but grown up into a juvenile who is allowed to stay home alone at the nest while Mom and Dad take a break. Time flies!
Along Welland, the light is beautiful. I come across a Purple Gallinule who is very close to the road. I ask him if he has babies yet. Apparently not!
Spring is the best time to find Red-winged Blackbirds around Lake Apopka. They are all over the place! The males like to perch tall in the bushes to sing. When a bird is very close to the trail, my 600mm is too much lens, and all I get is a head shot!
It was very late by this point, and I didn’t stop at the sod fields. I left resolved to return shortly, but on my bike. You see, the Gray-headed Swamphen left me with a very important question that I have to explore: Why did the swamphen cross the road? :)