On my last visit to Lake Apopka, I birded the Lust Road entrance for a while, then decided to stretch my legs and walk to the Crazy U. This turned out to be a little annoying with all the cars on the drive. Still, it was a beautiful morning, and I saw lots of great birds.
I haven’t posted a photo of a coot this year! Long-time readers of my blog will remember that I post my first-of-fall coot as a hint of coming winter birds.
Blue-winged Teal mixed in with the coots and Common Gallinules along the Lust Road canal. The male Blue-winged Teal is so pretty, especially when the sun hits his feathers to reveal an irridescent glow…
Perched in the cattails, a Boat-tailed Grackle threw his head bang and sang. I noticed that the Red-winged Blackbirds seemed to be starting to stake out their nesting territories too. The early spring months are my favorites, with the winter migrants still here and the local birds starting to nest.
A Double-crested Cormorant caught a fish, then swam in circles with it trying to drown it into submission. It’s much easier to swallow a fish who isn’t fighting back. What’s neat about this next picture is the cormorant’s bright blue eye and a hint of blue mouth, another sign of breeding plumage on the way.
I spotted one of the Gray-headed Swamphens out in the open, a bit before the Crazy U. The bird was wading for his breakfast. Every once in a while he’d pull up vegetation with his feet, then pick it out from his “fingers” and eat it. What big feet he has! His purple and blue feathers glistened in the sunlight. Such a pretty bird!
He didn’t get to enjoy his breakfast for very long. As I watched him through the viewfinder, he became very suspicious and started watching carefully over his shoulder. Then I noticed the alligator swimming by. All the birds seemed to give the alligator some extra room as he made his way through them.
On a visit to Lake Apopka in early February, I didn’t feel like driving the whole wildlife drive. So I birded the Lust Road entrance. There are ton of birds in the bushes and trees, but you have to be fast on the camera trigger finger to get photos of some of them.
When I first arrived, I noticed this Common Ground Dove perched in the bushes. He looks cold! The sun was just beginning to shine and it warmed us both.
I finally saw one of the Song Sparrows who hang out in the bushes behind the entrance kiosk!! I’ve looked for these birds on multiple visits. They are harder to find than the more common (and similar-looking) Savannah Sparrows. I lucked out and saw the Song Sparrow perched out in the open when I first walked up. Then he dove into the bushes and hid for the rest of the morning.
A Swamp Sparrow rooted in the underbrush nearby. Every once in a while he would pop out, giving me a quick glimpse before he disappeared again.
The Northern Cardinals were busy, darting in and out of the bushes. The female is starting to look spiffy in her breeding colors. She brought in a snail to show off for the camera.
Across the canal, a juvenile Common Yellowthroat hopped along the rocks. His face is starting to darken as he gets his adult plumage with black mask. He popped out momentarily and then dove back into the bushes.
Another quick visitor was this little Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. He hopped up onto the fence, posed for a second, then darted along. It must be hard to find breakfast bugs on colder mornings.
The last visitor of the morning wasn’t a bird, but he was fast to appear and disappear! This otter charmed the photographers by swimming down the canal, offering a quick glimpse before he disappeared. What a fun way to start the day!
The Pine Warblers were everywhere! They were big fans of the suet feeder. They perched in the nearby tree to await their turns at the suet, giving me plenty of photo ops. I don’t get to photograph Pine Warblers very often, so watching them was a treat.
Chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee! The cheerful calls of Carolina Chickadees filled the air. These little birds would hop to the feeders, grab a sunflower seed, and then take it away to eat. Getting them to stay still for a photo in a non-feeder location turned out to be a challenge…
Potato chip! Potato chip! There must have been 15-20 American Goldfinches in the trees that morning. Their cheerful calls kept me grinning as I watched them devour sunflower seeds and nyger from the sock feeder. A couple of them were starting to turn a brighter yellow as they begin their molt to their springtime breeding plumages.
The Tufted Titmice were the other feeder clowns. Like the chickadees, they darted in, grabbed a sunflower seed, and darted away to eat it. If you need practice on fast-focusing technique, try following these little guys around!
A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker flew in overhead. I watched as he pecked at the tree trunk, pulling out sap and insects for breakfast. Yum!
I can’t go to Chinsegut without looking for Red-headed Woodpeckers. It’s where I saw my lifer Red-headed Woodpecker years back on a special trip with my dad. They’re still there, hanging out high in the treetops. I wonder if they look down and wonder what all the silly people are doing, watching the feeders for Purple Finches.
I reluctantly said goodbye to the birds, hoping I’d get a chance to return and see a male Purple Finch. The calls of Eastern Bluebirds reminded me that there are plenty of trails to explore and enjoy at Chinsegut. The Pine Warblers urged me to return soon!