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05/10/11
Looking forward to a second spring
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Florida & SE US, Birding "Patches"
Posted by: Ken @ 10:02 pm

In south Florida we enjoyed a mild spring that provided some interesting birding in the wetlands next to our home. Before departing northward with the migrants, we got out nearly every morning.

Common Nighthawks were moving through. Two pairs seemed to take possession of separate territories along the gravel road that leads to the wild area. They took turns swooping down over our heads, startling us with loud “booms.”

One nighthawk perched on a wire overhead, depending upon balancing lengthwise, as its feet do not provide a very strong grasp:

Common Nighthawk onwire 20110501

The nighthawks provided me an opportunity to practice taking flight shots. Most photos showed only blue sky, as their flight is erratic and difficult to follow. I discovered that the best way to capture them in flight is to shoot with both eyes open– track with the left eye to keep the bird in the viewfinder with the right:

Common Nighthawk 2-20110501

When perched lengthwise along a tree limb, or among dried vegetation on the ground, the protective coloration of nighthawks makes them almost invisible:

Common Nighthawk 20110420

We had the driest winter on record. Water levels on the lake fell quickly, exposing mud flats and shallow pools, some of which trapped small fish, much to the delight of wading birds. The immature Reddish Egret, usually only found in coastal salt or brackish marshes, continued to entertain us with its antics.

Click on this 180 degree panorama of the lake and find a link to a large view that will scroll in your browser:

Harbour Lakes Pano 20110422
 
Here the egret uses both wings to shade the surface of the water, either to reduce the sun’s glare, and/or to induce unsuspecting fish to seek shelter in the shadow:

Reddish Egret immature 3-20110426

Black-necked Stilts announce the arrival of spring.

Black-necked Stilt 20110412

We were visited by only one stilt, and it posed in front of the Reddish Egret, a Double-crested Cormorant and a White Ibis:

Black-necked Stilt 2-20110426

A Tricolored Heron flew in just as the stilt departed:

Black-necked Stilt 3-20110426

A flock of 30 small sandpipers settled down on the mud flats. Their stooped posture, warm brown backs, drooping bills and yellowish legs revealed them to be Least Sandpipers (click on photo for more views):

Calidris Sandpipers 6-20110425

All at once, they took flight (click on photo for more views):

Calidris Sandpipers in flight 3-20110425

A larger, slender sandpiper continued foraging in one of the pools. It struck a graceful pose, revealing its bright yellow legs and long, slightly upturned bill, features of a Greater Yellowlegs:

Greater Yellowlegs 2-20110426

A pair of Killdeer were courting when an interloper suddenly flew in. It expanded the upper black band on its neck as a threatening display, before being chased off by the male (click on photo for more views):

Kildeer interloper 20110412

A nearby Semipalmated Plover looked somewhat like a small Killdeer, but has only one ring on its chest:

Semipalmated Plover 2-20110422

One morning, a White-tailed doe walked right up to me. She had a following wind and did not show signs of alarm until I moved my hand to adjust the camera settings. We do not see many deer, so this was a real treat:

White-tail doe 20110426

 Before leaving Florida, we spent two nights at Marco
Island with our daughter’s family and her husband’s parents and other
relatives from Miami., boating and fishing. We
took a break from fishing to briefly visit Big Cypress Bend boardwalk in
Fakahatchee Strand. We encountered a Black Bear on the boardwalk not
more than 30 feet in front of us! I did not bring my big camera gear and
my Canon Powershot A40 was tucked away in its case.

What
a great place! Mary Lou actually gets credit for spotting the bear. As
usual, she was 20 paces ahead of me, while I was stopping to smell the
flowers. When she first spotted the bear she thought it was a black
garbage bag that someone had left on the boardwalk, As she got nearer,
it started to move– that’s when she called me and I came running. The
bear ran away from us on the boardwalk, its footsteps loudly banging on
the planks. It then jumped off to the right and hid in vegetation only
about 30-40 feet away. It stayed there for several minutes, until we
gave up and departed. My Point-and-shoot camera photo of the hiding bear
shows only a dark shadow.

I took this photo just before the bear encounter, and had just stored the camera back in my bag, so I missed a shot of the fleeing bear:

Mary Lou on Fakahatchee boardwalk 20110429

2 Responses to “Looking forward to a second spring”

  1. Marias Teater Says:
    I am now completely surprised by this amount of shots! What a quality! What birds! I believe you are really devoted to birding!
  2. mary ann kolb Says:
    As usual stunning photos. You almost made me want to get a camera but I know I would not have the talent your pictures show. Thanks again. Mary Ann (from rec.birds)

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