A Few Recent Bird/Wildlife Shots from the S. Fla Wetlands

Discussion in 'Non Disney Photos / Mobile Phone Photos' started by zackiedawg, Jan 8, 2021.

  1. zackiedawg

    zackiedawg Member Staff Member

    For any considering an excursion down here for some birding and wildlife shooting, I haven't posted any recent wildlife stuff in a while, as it's not a general topic too many are interested in. But thought those that are might like a glimpse of some of the stuff we've been seeing down here the past few weeks...so here's an appetizer of stuff taken since Christmas - a bit of wetlands tapas:

    Roseate spoonbill:
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    Red-shouldered hawk:
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    Great blue heron in flight, low over the water:
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    Wood stork flying past:
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    Alligator opening its mouth to exhaust excess heat:
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    Brown water snake all coiled up on a palm frond fan:
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    Pied-billed grebe:
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    Female anhinga with a nice sized fish:
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    Green iguana wearing his orange mating colors, saying hello:
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    Osprey, fresh out of the water with a fish catch, shaking itself off while flying:
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    Common yellowthroat down by the water:
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    The hard to find and hard to catch in the open, sora:
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    A Florida cooter, taking a load off his feet to rest high and dry:
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    The lovely male least bittern, another bird that birders from abroad really hope to see down here:
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    Tricolor heron, making the plunge for a fish:
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    Joanie Eddis-Koch likes this.
  2. gary

    gary Member

    all right, you have me interested
     
    Joanie Eddis-Koch likes this.
  3. zackiedawg

    zackiedawg Member Staff Member

    This is really a great time of year down here - not only the wintering and migrating birds, but the cooler weather, and now the nesting is really starting in earnest.
    This past Saturday, 1/9/21, I had a couple of hours at the end of the day to pop into my local wetlands spots. Starting around 3:20pm and wrapping up at 5:15pm, just under two hours just taking a 2 1/2 mile slow walk and shooting what I came across...this will give an idea of the density and diversity:

    Really close up of a double-crested cormorant standing about 10 feet from me, and staring down at the water looking for fish:
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    Pied-billed grebe cruising along:
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    Red-shouldered hawk flying over me and circling:
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    Tricolor heron flying past me, low and close:
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    The gorgeous American bittern, enjoying some late afternoon sun:
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    A little blue heron cruising past:
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    Eastern phoebe perched on a branch:
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    Tricolor heron flying overhead as sunset light kicked in:
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    Roseate spoonbill flying past catching that warm sunset glow:
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    A great egret passing high overhead, catching the final sunlight of the day:
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    Joanie Eddis-Koch likes this.
  4. Nancy AK

    Nancy AK Member

  5. zackiedawg

    zackiedawg Member Staff Member

    Well it's been about a month, and I haven't shared any of the wildlife since January 9. But it's still fast and furious down here - nesting season is ON, thousands of birds have nests built, lots of feeding and nest building and flying all about. It's been crazy! Here are a few more to share taken on a few weekend days from January 16th to January 30th:

    Purple gallinule:
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    Pine warbler:
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    Tricolor heron who tried to plunge down on a fish but came up empty:
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    Boat-tailed grackle male, in his glossed up iridescent beauty, flying past:
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    Black-bellied whistling duck flying head-on:
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    Double-crested cormorant coming in to land:
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    Another tricolor heron flying past:
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    One of our rare winter visitors - the female hooded merganser:
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    Also here for the winter - the American wigeon:
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    We've got the lesser yellowlegs down for winter:
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    Not to be overlooked, we also have the greater yellowlegs here!:
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    It's not all birds...here's a banded water snake, showing why they're called 'water snakes':
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    And the usually very elusive sora, which down here in winter can be spotted 4-6 times a day:
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    We've got a few larger reptiles around Florida too - and as you can see, they're happy to be here:
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    Though some nests are just being started and some haven't laid their eggs yet, other species have already hatched their eggs, and the chicks are growing fast. Here's a great blue heron chick, getting quite large already:
    [​IMG]
     
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  6. zackiedawg

    zackiedawg Member Staff Member

    Time for another update, as it's been almost 2 weeks! The wetlands are crazy-go-nuts now, full of nesting birds and breeding birds and wintering birds, and all the usual reptiles too. We're entering prime nesting season and soon the wetlands will be full of noise from thousands of screaming chicks wanting food. This is what I call 'BIF-palooza' season, as you can stand almost anywhere, and photograph 10 species of bird flying past you, about one every 5 seconds, as close as 10 feet. Here are some shots from the first few weeks of February, up to this past weekend:

    The wood storks have arrived by the hundreds, and have either built their own nests or stolen the nests of other birds. The first order of business for the wood storks is to start making new wood storks:
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    And then, start gathering more sticks to build those giant nests:
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    The osprey are always flying around, looking for fish below:
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    The sora are supposed to be secretive, elusive birds to find in the wetlands. Not here - there are dozens of them, and they don't even run and hide when you spot them:
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    Speaking of 'elusive' - one of the very hardest birds to ever spot and photograph - the excellently camouflaged whip-poor-will - was having a rest on a downed branch on the ground. That's the only reason I was able to notice it - just enough separation from the ground in the background!:
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    I did mention reptiles - I've been sharing all the bird life, but some reptiles deserve a little attention, like this beautiful brown basilisk lizard still wet from a recent rain, showing off all of his ridges, sails, dewlaps and all:
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    The red-winged blackbirds sometimes get a little annoyed with the paparazzi, and gives them a piece of their mind:
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    The pied-billed grebe chicks have hatched, and boy are they hungry - mom had caught a fish and baby was after that thing:
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    The male blue-winged teal is looking beautiful with all the mating colors turned on:
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    Also busy nesting right now is a pair of red-shouldered hawks...the male was on a tree across from the nest watching anyone who passed by:
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    The great egrets are all nesting right now, and they've all turned on their full breeding colors - the long aigrette feathers on their backs and the lovely green lores on the face:
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    And the cattle egret - that plain white bird with little bits of pale yellow that stand around on the backs of cows, can actually become quite stunning when they turn on their breeding colors, as seen here:
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    The wood storks...yep, the job of building the nests is never really over. Rather than haul tiny sticks over dozens of flights, some wood storks try to reduce their travels by bringing home entire trees:
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    I encountered the otters again. Or I should say, they encountered me. This one popped up out of the duckweed, saw me, and seemed very curious:
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    I don't speak 'otter' - but this had to mean something. It walked up onto the shore about 8 feet from me, stared at me for a few seconds, then turned around, stuck its bum my direction, and wiggled it around furiously, before plunging back in the water:
    [​IMG]
     
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  7. These are awesome!! It's like a beauty pageant for birds.

    Would you say that February is the peak month for the breeding plumage? These birds are stunning and your photos capture them excellently!
    Thanks for sharing them.
    ~Joanie
     
  8. zackiedawg

    zackiedawg Member Staff Member

    Thank you! I think probably mid-February and into March is definitely peak for breeding colors - in February some of the birds have turned them on, but more start to come into their colors right now. The great blue herons, great egrets, and cattle egrets started in late January, but just in the past few weeks, the least bitterns, tricolor herons, little blue herons, snowy egrets, and roseate spoonbills are really getting their full breeding colors. All of them will keep them for at least a month - so March is probably the overall peak - and you have the added bonus of having many of the chicks hatching during the month.
     
    Nancy AK likes this.
  9. I've been seeing a ton of pictures popping up on Facebook from places like Lake Apopka wildlife drive page.

    I have to say it's really enjoyable to see all of them. I have been following along for the last two years on Facebook and I'm trying to learn the names of The birds. My favorite so far are the Gallinule birds.

    I've established a bird habitat with feeders and a water source in my backyard for over 25 years. Karl and I really enjoy watching our visitors all throughout the year.

    I've managed to capture this guy in the summer:
    2021-02-28_12-05-23.jpg

    And in January of 2019 this hawk came to my feeder in search of a protein snack.
    2021-02-28_12-07-59.jpg

    I plan to practice using the new focusing system of my Nikon D6 with the local birds at some of the nature walks around my home as soon as the weather gets a little bit better.

    You still have the coolest birds in your neck of the woods!

    ~Joanie
     
    Nancy AK likes this.
  10. zackiedawg

    zackiedawg Member Staff Member

    We're definitely blessed down here when it comes to birds. With all the tropical like birds that live down here year-round, all the invasive species that have established here, the wintering species that come down, and the migrating species that pass through.
    Your backyard sounds very nicely done - I have always kept feeders around the yard, but not quite as well planned - mostly just millet and black-oil sunflower for the regular yard birds. I don't get too many exotic species - mostly blue jays, cardinals, grackles, thrashers, 3 kinds of doves, and a million squirrels. I never tried hummingbird feeders as we really don't get too many down here - though I've spotted one in my yard once many years ago.
    I have had a resident backyard cooper's hawk for years now - he figured out that there are lots of feeding opportunities and he doesn't eat the seed! He scores mostly doves, one or two a week...and occasionally something else. Your backyard birds are lucky that hawk didn't decide to move in to your yard and make it his own personal restaurant!
     
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  11. My feeders are more like the drive-thru windows. I've seen some super fast Peregrine falcons fly through hoping to catch something in mid-flight.

    Every once in awhile I'll find a pile of feathers in random places in the yard and I've witnessed some Hawks that land on that fence and feed from what they've caught.

    About 2 weeks ago Karl saw a deer in our backyard. It's pretty muddy out there right now so we haven't let Buddy in the backyard, but he seems to sense that deer are walking across and around our yard.

    In the early fall he chased a skunk and was very surprised when it turned out not to be the neighborhood cat that always gets him riled up.

    He didn't get sprayed but I think he came in contact with the skunk on his face, so he had some of that odor on him which took a long time to wear off, even though we used the special shampoo. We dodged a bullet on that one...

    In the winter we get what I would call a flock of cardinals. I counted close to 20 one year.

    I'm happy to say that house finches are making a comeback after suffering from a devastating virus that really diminished their populations in this area. I love to listen to the house finches singing and I think they have the prettiest song.

    We get a million different kinds of "sparrows", which I would have to photograph and then try and identify. We also get blue jays and red wing blackbirds, morning doves and every once in a while a goldfinch. I wish I could get more goldfinches. They used to be more plentiful in the late 80s and early 90s around here.

    My favorite are the Chickadees. Every time I fill the feeders I loudly whistle their song. It's just me letting every bird in the neighborhood know that the sunflower seed has been restocked along with the peanuts that the Jays love. I'm sure they're listening and waiting for me to go back in the house so they can chow down on the fresh seed.

    In the late spring and early summer, when the Grackle babies come, I love it when they bathe in my bird creek and stand right under the two foot tall waterfall and have the water knock them silly on their heads. They are hilariously dopey when it comes to that waterfall!

    I recently installed two new feeders that I purchased at Walmart and they seem to do a pretty good job of keeping the squirrels away from the seed, especially when compared to my previous feeders which were quite porous and easy for anybody to get the seed. This new style (pictured) is proving pretty durable and holds a large volume of seed.

    I learned a long time ago to have two two feeders containing black oil sunflower seeds to cut down on all the fighting and mean bird behavior. If there is a bully at the one feeder, all the other birds just go to the second feeder and things are a lot more peaceful.

    Every once in awhile you get a bird that just wishes to be dominant and doesn't want anybody at the feeders when it's there. It's quite amusing watching the bully trying to protect two feeders at the same time. When the bully chases the birds off of the one feeder they always just go to the other feeder and the bully wears himself out!

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    The squirrels in my neighborhood are so fat and lazy from all the acorns and the seed in everyone's feeder that I almost expect to see them lounging in miniature lazy boy chairs in the trees and smoking cigars while they surf the Internet on their tiny little smartphones.

    ~Joanie
     
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  12. Nancy AK

    Nancy AK Member

    @zackiedawg excellent photos, thank you for sharing.
     
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  13. gary

    gary Member

    so the first week of march 20222 would be a good time for a visit?? my plan will be to fly to west palm on a friday am from islip, rent a car shoot friday evening, saturday and sunday and fly home monday am. i will be semi retiring sometime over the next 8 weeks, its taking a little longer than originally planned due to our agency merging with another soon so a number of staff have resigned to take positions with our current parent agency to preserve their existing pension time. me it doesn't matter since i am vested and wouldn't add that much per year if i continued full time. my new workweek when it takes effect will be tuesday wed, thursday, off friday to monday each week. so i am thinking ahead for a nesting birds trip in 2022. southwest will probably still have a couple nonstops to west palm, those have been in place for many years so probably are not in danger of the southwest occupancy cut, if a flight doesn't average 84% full they cut it.
     
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  14. zackiedawg

    zackiedawg Member Staff Member

    I think first week of March would be excellent - you'd have a pretty good chance of catching some eatly migrants, lots of wintering species, and lots of nesting action with many chicks hatched or hatching.
    And I cannot state enough just how close we get to our birds - no problem shooting several dozen birds within 10 feet, and almost everything is within 100 feet. Not my video, but an example of what the first week of March looks like when you enter Wakodahatchee wetlands:
     
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  15. zackiedawg

    zackiedawg Member Staff Member

    Mine don't have la-z-boys, but they use my fence like a chaise lounge...when they're not eating, they're usually hanging around the yard like this:
    [​IMG]
     
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  16. zackiedawg

    zackiedawg Member Staff Member

    It's been two more weeks since the last post...so thought it might be time to share some more of the very active wetlands, covering the last week of February and the first few of March so far, up through a very good Saturday March 13th -

    Least bittern's intense fishing stare:
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    Male boat-tailed grackles having a show-down on the rail:
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    Great egret soaring in the sky, with breeding colors:
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    Tricolored heron also starting to show the breeding colors - blue bill, red legs:
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    The amazing color palette of the male painted bunting:
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    Great egret mating display - like a white peacock:
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    Glossy ibis in flight, showing off its iridescence:
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    The snowy egrets have also gone into their breeding plumage and colors - the yellow behind the bill and yellow feet turn a blood-orange color and the plumes grow atop the head and on the back and neck:
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    The grumpy looking purple martins are back by the thousands, filling up all the martin houses at every wetlands:
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    Not too many ducks can match the grandeur and beauty of a male wood duck in full adult coloration:
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    The red-shouldered hawks are so busy hunting that they'll sit 20 feet away from you and ignore you completely:
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    I have called these 'rare' to spot - but the past month, I've spotted them 4 times now...the Wilson's snipe:
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    And I'll wrap it up with the same species I started this post with...a least bittern with a fish:
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  17. These are spectacular! I'm using your picture to teach myself the bird's names. Thank you for taking the time to share these wonderful captures.

    ~Joanie
     
  18. zackiedawg

    zackiedawg Member Staff Member

    Thank you Joanie. I have gotten pretty good over the years with IDing most birds that might be spotted here - of course, it took shooting birds and wildlife for nearly 20 years to become proficient at identifying birds both by sight and by sound. I still get stumped on a few - especially if it's something exceedingly rare to our area. Winter and Spring are just such a ridiculous bounty of birds down here in South Florida!
     
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