Springtime bird photography at Lake Morton, Lakeland. Baby ducklings, birds in breeding plumage, nesting Mute Swans, cooperative Wood Ducks!
Photographic highlights of the Lakeland Christmas Bird Count, Outfall Wetlands property. Best bird was Northern Waterthrush.
A spring morning is a great time to walk around Lake Morton. While I didn’t see babies, the lingering winter migrants kept me entertained.
There were lots of fun birds to photograph on my last visit to Lake Morton. Besides the juvenile swans, there was a family of baby Limpkins, as well as the regular “menagerie” of ducks and geese. Early mornings are always good for bath shots! So here’s some more from Lake Morton… A pair of Black-necked Swans was added to the lake last year. They are very pretty, and I really enjoy photographing them. This one was splashing around and peeping to his partner. I love the open beak in the image above! All sorts of juvenile ducks are growing up around the lake shores. Those ducks interbreed so much that some of the juvies have some very interesting colors. This one was pretty with his white feathers that contrast with his bright green patches. Lake Morton is a good place to go to photograph Wood Ducks. These birds are usually secretive and hard to approach, but at Lake Morton, they are used to people. I saw plenty of juvenile male Wood Ducks during my visit. Their molting feathers aren’t quite as impressive as their parents’ feathers! This adult posed near me, and the calm waters made for a perfect reflection […]
On my way back from Fort De Soto last Saturday, I stopped at Lake Morton to see if there were any cygnets (baby swans). I’ve been keeping an eye on the nests there for the past few weeks, as it is getting to be that time of year when tiny gray fuzzballs appear under the mother swans. It was mid-day when I got there, and the light was really harsh, but the Beast and I took a walk around the light and still found plenty to photograph. There weren’t any baby swans yet, but I did see some other cute babies… The two little yellow ducklings are still at Lake Morton and they are doing well. They’ve gotten so much bigger than when I saw them last, and that was just two weeks ago. It’s so sweet to watch them stick together. Pretty soon we won’t be able to distinguish them from all the other “stooges” (my name for the white ducks that come begging for food!) The Black-Necked Swans were out on the lake together. I loved how they swan together, and their necks would cross in a heart shape sometimes. I was hand-holding the Beast and not quite […]
The weather was cloudy and rainy on Saturday morning, so I didn’t want to venture miles from my car with heavy camera equipment. I opted for a trip to Lake Morton, where I knew I could find cute babies. I knew I’d be too early for swan cygnets, which probably won’t hatch till late April or early May. But with all the ducks at the Lake Morton menagerie, there were bound to be at least a few chicks…and there were! Baby Ducklings My friend Kim posted some really fun shots of baby ducklings on Lake Morton. She thinks that these cuties were an Easter gift that got dropped off at the lake. Poor birdies – they don’t deserve to be bought because they are cute, then abandoned because they don’t make good pets. But at least they ended up at a place where they might survive. They can join other ducks on the lake, and there’s never a lack of bread and other goodies from lake-walkers! They were nestled in the grass when I walked up, so I didn’t even notice them at first. I think I surprised them, and they took to the water. I quickly backed off, then […]
As I wrote yesterday, my friend Carla came with me on a photography expedition last weekend. We first visited the Circle B Bar Reserve, and then we headed to Lake Morton. Carla saw her first swan’s nest! The beautiful Mute Swans are nesting all around the lake right now. We counted at least eight nests. The City of Lakeland has roped them off this year and posted a sign by each explaining that it is illegal to tamper with the swans or their eggs. I was so glad to see this after last year’s disturbing egg thefts. Last year I had the privilege to photograph a cygnet (baby swan) on the nest on the day that it was born. It was incredible! I hope this year’s babies fare better. Speaking of babies, we found a small family of Mallards with very young chicks. They were so cute! I heard their little calls at about the same time that Carla said, “Jess! Look at the babies!” They posed for a minute for us. I love how the mom and dad seem to be showing off their babies, and the baby on the front right is posing too, but the one on […]
I was a little surprised to find a tiny Mallard chick at Lake Morton on Sunday. He toppled into the water to follow Mom when I accidentally spooked her. He had a whole family of Mallards who seemed to be watching out for him. It’s unusual to see just one of this size – the clutches are usually pretty large, which is good given the low survival rate of the chicks. I guess late-season clutches are smaller. I also saw lots of juvie Wood Ducks at the lake. In the wild, Wood Ducks are extremely skittish, but the ones at Lake Morton are used to people. Even so, they are the first to hit the water when a person approaches. So I made sure to get low and photograph from afar when I saw a group of these pretty birds.
A few weekends ago when I was photographing at Swan Lake (a.k.a. Lake Morton), I looked up from the cute babies to see this Mallard sitting posed in great light with a perfect reflection. I loved the contrast of his feathers against the blue lake background. I kinda wished the cute babies would have stood as still as he did, too! :)
While checking on the swan nests at Lake Morton recently, I’ve gotten to see some other fun babies too. In early April, I came across a flock of recently-hatched Mallard chicks, probably between 12 and 18 of them. In later visits, the babies were bigger, although in fewer numbers. They are certainly well-fed at that lake, so they do grow quickly! But my best surprise was finding this pair of Wood Duck babies. They are a little smaller and daintier than the Mallard babies. Mama is very careful with them, and she moves them off into the grasses as soon as you approach. I stood watching and she eventually let me get a better look at the babies.
Last week Rich and I were in Lakeland to judge the Florida State Science and Engineering Fair. We had a great time talking to the students about their projects. Afterward, I twisted Rich’s arm into taking a nice walk around nearby Lake Morton. I wanted to see if the Mute Swans were nesting yet – and yes, they are! Two hours and a gorgeous sunset later, I had a cardful of images, and Rich was still patiently waiting to leave… What a nice hubby! The White Ibises were in spectacular breeding plumage. Their legs, faces, and beaks turn bright red, and the females get a little pouch under their chins in the height of breeding season. I had one such female pose right in front of me with the blue lake water as a background. I love how the background brings out the blue in her eye. The Ring-Billed Gulls were very unafraid of people – they are fed all the time, and they allow photographers to walk right up to them. Rich didn’t know what to think when I laid down to get face-to-face with one, hehe! I was ecstatic when a pair of Wood Ducks flew down […]
I hope this picture of a Mallard duckling doing the splits will bring a smile to everyone on Easter. More from Lake Morton in the next post!
After Dyeyo and I went to Merritt Island last week, we stopped by my neighborhood pond where the Hooded Mergansers have been hanging out. We got there around 3 in the afternoon, when the afternoon light was hitting the pond at a great angle. I love how the green trees in the background color the water, sometimes bright green, and sometimes a golden glow. The Hoodies are a pain to expose correctly. Their bright white spots are easy to overexpose, but if you stop the lens down too much, you lose detail in the blacks. Not to mention that the cars passing by on the street were causing all sorts of colors and shadows to reflect in the water. I tried for pleasing backgrounds with some blinkies in the white head, knowing that I could regain some detail in post-processing. I was pretty happy with the results. The Hoodies weren’t the only ones at the pond. A pair of Mallards flew in and posed nicely in the clear water. They obligingly swam fairly near to me, at a good sun angle. Or maybe they were swimming away from Rich (we sent him to the other side of the pond to […]
Rich’s favorite part of our Callaway Gardens vacations is seeing the many turtles in the lakes. The two best places to see turtles are in the lake right outside the Discovery Center, and at the little pavilion by Mockingbird Lake. We also saw them sunning themselves on a log in the middle of Hummingbird Lake several times in the late afternoon, prompting Rich to unofficially change the name of the lake to Turtle Lake. The turtles at the Discovery Center are certainly accustomed to being fed. There are food dispensers along the bridge, and the fish, turtles, and ducks come flocking whenever they hear the machines being operated. When Rich threw pellets into the water, aiming at the turtles, quite often the fish or ducks beat the poor turtles to the food. So we shook our pellets into a little bag and took them over to Mockingbird Lake, where the fish were less pushy and there were no ducks to steal the food. So the turtles fared better there. When Rich first started throwing in the pellets, he attracted one or two turtles. But word spread quickly, and we started to see turtle heads popping up halfway across the lake. […]
It’s the time of year when Mallards molt their flight feathers, and become flightless for a few weeks. We’ve seen far fewer Mallards around for the past week or so. But some are still flying:
These Mallards were definitely having a “bad feather day.” The wind was blowing down by the pond! Now cross your fingers that we get some rain…
The Mallard babies at the Stoneybrook ponds are almost as big as their parents. So we were surprised to see two tiny chicks the other night. They are so cute when they are little! I’m constantly amazed at how baby ducks look so different than their parents. Unfortunately, we went back the next night, and we only found one little Mallard. We named him Chico. He’s fun to watch — while all the other ducks stick together as they roam the golf course, he wanders off on his own. Even the lawn mower didn’t seem to bother him. He’s a brave little guy!
Rich and I were walking by Black Lake last week when we noticed this Mallard. He’s missing part of the top of his beak. Poor thing. It must be hard to go through life as a duck with the top part of your beak missing. This guy and his friend were under the same tree (in the same shade!) every time we walked there in the past few weeks.
The Mallards are the only dependable birds on our walks these days. There’s one with a bright green head that appears to be the father of the juveniles at the Pebble Ridge pond. He’s pretty.
…and they aren’t the only ones! Happy birthday, Dyeyo D!! Believe it or not, these are the Mallard babies that I photographed as tiny chicks just a few short weeks ago…