Beyond the Backyard

A Visit to the Swallow-Tailed Kites on Powerline Road

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Swallow-Tailed Kite. Powerline Road, Hernando County.

Every year in the summertime, the people on Birdbrains start talking about the kettles of Swallow-Tailed Kites on Powerline Road in Hernando County.   Last year I really wanted to go and see them, but I didn’t.  This year Dyeyo and I decided to drive out there to see what there was to see. We found kites!  Not in the 75+ numbers as described on Birdbrains, but we easily saw 15-20.  They roosted in some distant trees, then flew over the grasslands, generally staying pretty far from the road.  Occasionally we’d luck out and one would fly towards us. Powerline Road is also known for Eastern Bluebirds, American Kestrels, Burrowing Owls, Eastern Meadowlarks, and Red-Headed Woodpeckers.  We saw all these kinds of birds as we drove up and down. I love the song of the Eastern Bluebirds, so I made a video when one started singing on a powerline. It’s too bad it was so windy that day – you hear more wind than song! The excitement about birding at Powerline Road illustrates clearly two distinct types of birders. The first group is what I’ll call the “birdy birders.”  They are most interested in species counts, rare sightings, and bird […]

Beyond the Backyard

Slow Season this Year at the Gatorland Rookery

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I spent a morning at the Gatorland rookery the weekend before last.  My friend Debbie Tubridy was in town, and we decided to check out the rookery, expecting it to be teeming with birds.  But it wasn’t!  The morning-light side of the rookery didn’t have nearly as much activity as in previous years.  I was very surprised as I walked out onto the boardwalk and saw open expanses of Brazilian Pepper without any birds.  The Great Egrets are nesting, but we saw very few Tricolored Herons or Snowy Egrets.  It was disappointing.  I wonder if the weather is a factor, if the birds aren’t nesting as early because we keep getting cold snaps.  It didn’t seem to bother the Great Egrets, but maybe the Snowies and Tricoloreds have more sense than to nest when it’s still dipping into the high 30s?  Maybe? There were a couple of Great Egret nests with young chicks very close to the boardwalk.  These were very popular with the photographers with intermediate telephoto lenses, as well as with tourists with point-and-shoots.  The family pictured above has slightly older chicks.  There was still plenty of nesting and courtship going on with other Great Egret pairs.  Several […]

Backyard photography

Swallow-tailed Kites!

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I’ve been after a good Swallow-tailed Kite picture all summer. This weekend I was supposed to go to the Hernando County location where the kites are feeding on a field overrun with grasshoppers. But that opportunity didn’t work out, and I was a little disappointed. Then I was working in the backyard this afternoon, doing weeding and dripping with sweat, when I looked up and saw a Swallow-tailed Kite dipping low right over my head! Fortunately my husband is the forgiving kind who tolerates his wife banging on the window during the World Cup soccer finals — “Can you please bring the camera to the door? Hurry! Kites!!” It took me a minute to relocate the kite, who actually turned out to be one of four who were flying in circles overhead. Their calls were fun to listen to as I tried to focus on the birds flying through the overcast sky. I did end up with a couple of decent shots, and this was my favorite. Now if only the Mississippi Kites and the Snail Kite from Hernando would come fly over my yard as well! Just give me a five-minute warning… :)

Beyond the Backyard

Cloudy, Breezy Days are Great for Bird-Watching at Gatorland’s Bird Rookery

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This morning was cloudy, breezy, and great for getting outside! The birds at Gatorland’s Bird Rookery took longer to wake up, probably because the sun wasn’t shining as brightly as usual. The rookery was eerily quiet when I first got there, and then the babies started fussing as soon as the sun started to break through the clouds. As I arrived at the rookery, I saw the fledgling Swallow-tailed Kites in the pine trees near the entrance to the Swamp Walk. They were more intent on preening than posing. The cloudy skies and diffused light made for some great birdie portrait lighting. This Tricolored Heron fledgling ventured out onto this branch and then watched as other fledglings flew over him. The trees were covered in fledging Cattle Egrets. If you looked down into the branches, though, there are still plenty of nests under incubation. This baby peeked out at me through a “window” in the leaves. Nearby, this juvenile Cattle Egret was posing for me. Actually, he thought he was waiting patiently for his mother to return with breakfast (and he got excited anytime a grown Cattle Egret flew overhead!) – but he also posed nicely while he waited! The […]