First of Fall Painted Bunting at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

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As I got on my bike last week, I heard the familiar call notes of Painted Buntings in the parking lot at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. I looked around until I finally spotted one of the birds doing the calling – a female/juvenile in the top of a tree. Welcome back, little guys! We’ve missed you! (and I am watching for you ever day in my backyard – there’s plenty of millet for hungry travelers!!)

Painted Bunting
Painted Bunting

As I pedaled down Lust Road, a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron was searching for his breakfast. I paused, and he trained that bright red eye on me. I think he prefers to be left alone on days when the cars aren’t around!

Black-crowned Night Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron

A group of Common Gallinules started to swim suspiciously towards each other. They lower their necks to swim very close to the water, then start circling each other when they are about to start a fight. I got ready for the action shot and then laughed as they kicked at each other.

Common Gallinule Ruckus
Common Gallinule Ruckus

At the Crazy U, the usual little birds were hanging around. Yellow Warblers seemed to be everywhere. I must have see at least 10 Yellow Warblers as I looped towards the lake and back. First this one posed near some pink flowers…

Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warbler

…and then a couple of Yellow Warblers posed beautifully on the tops of some grasses. I think they were bathing in the dew droplets under the leaves. It’s convenient when you can take a bath and grab bugs for your breakfast at the same time!

Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warbler

The reddish streaks on the Yellow Warbler’s stomach distinguish him as an adult Northern variety of Yellow Warbler. In contrast, I found a darker warbler down the trail that didn’t have the red streaks. According to Cornell, he’s an immature Northern bird. Now I want to see the Mangrove and Golden varieties!

Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warbler

This Prairie Warbler was getting jealous of all the Yellow Warblers. He told me that he’s also yellow and just as pretty!

Prairie Warbler
Prairie Warbler

My last bird of the morning was a fun surprise. A Pine Warbler! They are year-round residents in Central Florida, but I think he was my first Pine at LAWD. He was in a mixed flock with Yellow, Prairie, and Palm Warblers down by the lake. He reminded me that during migration, good finds can turn up in any tree – so you just have to get out and look for them!

Pine Warbler
Pine Warbler

BYOP: Bring Your Own Perch!

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It was another beautiful late summer morning at Lake Apopka. I biked up the Crazy U in search of warblers. Apparently the cardinals thought I brought my bike for their amusement! I chuckled when a male cardinal hopped onto my handlebars and stayed there for quite a while. Apparently it was Bring Your Own Perch day at the wildlife drive!

Cardinal on my Portable Perch!
Cardinal on my Portable Perch!

While the cardinal enjoyed hanging out on my bike, I turned my attention to the little birds hanging out in the trees. It’s been a good year for Prairie Warblers. Some are still showing off their bright black breeding plumage as they hunt for bugs for breakfast.

Prairie Warbler
Prairie Warbler

A Red-bellied Woodpecker chuckled at me as he flew in to the treetops. Or maybe he was laughing at the cardinal on his new perch. The woodpecker posed briefly in the soft morning light before disappearing deep into the trees.

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker

A female Common Yellowthroat shyly poked her head out and said good morning. She’s pretty with that bright yellow stomach.

Common Yellowthroat
Common Yellowthroat

Eventually the cardinal relinquished control of my bike, and I headed down to the lake. On the way, I spotted a Red-shouldered Hawk eating his breakfast on the top of a pole. He didn’t offer me a taste, but I think snake was on the menu.

Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk

I got a little closer as he finished, and he gave me a great take-off shot as he headed off to find his next meal.

Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk

My last bird of the morning was a Great Blue Heron who flew across the path in the gorgeous light. That’s one advantage to being on a bike – it’s pretty quick to stop, grab your camera, and focus! He promised to pose again if I came back soon…I will have to take him up on that offer.

Great Blue Heron in Flight
Great Blue Heron in Flight

Playing Peek-a-boo with Warblers at Lake Apopka

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Yesterday was a beautiful morning to be out at Lake Apopka. The yellow flowers are all over the marsh, and the blue sky was beautiful as I played peek-a-boo with warblers.

Blue Skies over Yellow Flowers
Blue Skies over Yellow Flowers

At this time of year, one of my favorite places to hunt for warblers is at the Crazy U. Several Prairie Warblers were hopping in and out of the trees. One was even singing, which surprised me for October (or maybe one of the many birders was playing a call.) Not at all timid, the Prairie still in breeding plumage hopped out on the top of a bush and posed for my camera.

Prairie Warbler
Prairie Warbler

The other warblers made me work harder. This Yellow Warbler stayed pretty deep in the tree most of the time, but popped once or twice to play peek-a-boo. It was fun to run into Roberta and help her see this beautiful guy, too!

Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warbler

The most common little bird this morning was (aptly named) the Common Yellowthroat. I saw males, females, and first-year juvies out searching for breakfast. Most darted out only briefly to grab a bug. This female, though, posed beautifully in the soft morning light against a gorgeous green background.

Common Yellowthroat
Common Yellowthroat

My other fun find of the morning was a small group of migrating Pied-billed Grebes. A couple of them still showed the faint lines of their baby plumage. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen a grebe nest at Lake Apopka – maybe next summer!

Pied-billed Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe