Sunday, May 31, 2015

Florida Trip Wrap Up

Female Blackbird
It was a great trip for both of us. I saw 6 life birds and my friend had 8 or 9 life birds with a total of 72 species of birds.  We also saw too numerous to count American Alligators, many Green (native) Anoles, & Brown Cuban Anoles, 2 Florida Soft-shelled Turtles, a White-tailed deer, many different species of dragonflies and butterflies.  I think my toughest life bird to get was the Least Bittern and was happy to see 3 of them during the week.

Least Bittern

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Orlando, FL ~ Gatorland

Cattle Egret Breeding Plumage
Our last stop on our trip was Gatorland. This is a wild alligator breeding marsh with a bird sanctuary that is the largest and most easily accessible wild wading bird rookery in east Central Florida.  I had heard many great things about the rookery at Gatorland where egrets, herons, anhingas, wood storks and cormorants have nests.  The birds display in the spring, build nests, lay eggs and bring up their babies in the rookery.  The great part about this is that Gatorland has built a boardwalk across from the nesting areas which allows you to look into the nests and take pictures,  It was an awesome place where we saw baby birds of many ages.  I would love to come in March when the birds are displaying and building nests.
Double-crested Cormorant on nest

Great Egret chicks

Tricolored Heron  in breeding plumage

Tricolored Heron chick

Wood Stork and chicks

Anhinga feeding chick

Florida butterflies

Here are just some of the many butterflies we saw while on our trip.  In addition I saw a new life butterfly Hackberry Butterfly, a single Monarch, Long-tailed Skipper,Southern Dogface and others I couldn't ID.

Zebra Longwing Butterfly

 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

Common Buckeye Butterfly
Black Swallowtail Butterfly

Viceroy Butterfly

Ceraunus Blue

Great Southern White

Friday, May 29, 2015

Viera Wetlands & Click Ponds, Viera, FL ~ Take Two

Decided to take a drive back to our second favorite spot Viera Wetlands followed by the Click Ponds
American Coot

Great Blue Heron males fighting over female (just out of the picture)

Little Blue Heron going into adult plummage

Pied-billed Grebe ( First year)
and onto the Click Ponds...
Double-crested Cormorant

Green Heron

Florida Soft-shelled Turtle

Orlando Wetlands Park, FL

We enjoyed the Orlando Wetlands Park so much we decided that we would revisit on Friday hoping to see more more great sights.  We arrived early and instead of waiting for the tram tour we decided we would walk a 2.5 mile birding trail. There were lots of Red-shouldered Hawks flying around, a Limpkin, many Common Gallinule with chicks, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks up in the trees, Osprey and so many more birds along with many alligators. We came upon an alligator along the road resting and while we were deciding whether to walk in front of it, the alligator made the decision by walking across the road and down into the swamp on the other side where it started swimming after a family of ducks. It was quite a sight and we were happy we hadn't walked in front of it though we had been repeated told all week that if you leave the alligators alone they will leave you alone.

Same alligator (as above) watching this family of ducks ~ Breakfast anyone??

Red-shouldered Hawk

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Merritt Island, FL ~ Kayaking the Indian River Lagoon

Brown Pelican
Our adventure last evening was having a private kayak tour using A Day Away Kayak Company.  We met at 6PM and our guide, Brian introduced himself.  Our plans were to kayak up the Overhaul Canal to see the Manatees before kayaking over to Mullethead Island, which is in Indian River Lagoon.  There is a large rookery there so we would be able to watch the birds coming into roost at nightfall plus we would watch the sunset before the kayak trip back. It was great to see some close looks at Roseate Spoonbills, Reddish Egrets, juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons plus other species. The tricky part of the kayaking was the trip back to shore as we were fighting headwinds.  By that time my back was really bothering me so paddling  was a little difficult but I did make it under my own steam.

Black-crowned Night-Heron (front) & Roseate Spoonbill (back)

Roseate Spoonbill

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Merritt Island, FL ~ Pine Flatwoods Trail

One of our target birds was a Florida Scrub Jay which would be another lifer for both of us.  There are several trails on Merritt Island where you can see Scrub Jays.  We decided we would walk the Pine Flatwoods Trail where we were happy to see a pair of the Florida Scrub Jays.

Florida Scrub Jay

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Fox Lake Park, Titusville, FL

Sandhill Crane
After dinner this evening we decided to stop at a local park to see what birds if any were around. Coming into the park were 2 Sandhill Cranes near the lake.  Then we saw a bird flying in front and around the car.  It landed on the roadway behind us and I took a picture of it as I had no idea what type of bird it was.  Turned out that it's a life bird for both of us ~ Common Nighthawk!  Then we saw a Killdeer with 6 of her chicks who are really cute.
Common Nighthawk

Killdeer Chicks

Viera Wetlands Park & Click Ponds, Viera, FL

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks ~ Viera Wetlands
Another highly recommended birding site is the Viera Wetlands so it was our first stop today. It is water treatment plant and it allows birders to ride, bike or walk along the berms looking at all of the species of birds that call it home.  We had heard that it was a great site to see Least Bitterns which would be a life bird for both of us.  It was great even in the off season so I can imagine how wonderful it must be in winter and spring.  We were excited to see 2 Least Bittern at Viera Wetlands and then another one at the Click Ponds.  Seeing the ducks up on the dead palms was cool especially when a second duck came out of the top. There were lots of butterflies over at the Click Ponds in addition to the birds.

Cattle Egret ~ Viera Wetlands

Least Bittern ~ Viera Wetlands

Queen Butterfly

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

Monday, May 25, 2015

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, FL

Black-necked Stilt
Driving the 7 mile auto tour along Black Point Wildlife Drive on Merritt Island is a favorite spot for birdersin Florida. Even though it is not the "best" season to see the birds we had a great time.  There were Common Gallinule with chicks, Black-necked Stilts and Roseate Spoonbills among the highlights. We went back for a second drive around late afternoon. Then we took a dirt road drive around where we saw Willets with chicks, more Black-necked Stilts and Yellow Legs before turning around to come back as night was falling.

Common Gallinule Chicks

Common Gallinule Chicks

Common Gallinule

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Orlando Wetlands Park, FL


Our ADA seminar was over at noon which meant that we were now on vacation.  Doing research before coming to FL, I found that the Orlando Wetlands ranked high in the list of places that birders should visit.  When we arrived I happened to see someone to ask questions about the wetlands. Brad, a volunteer had just finished doing some bird counts for the state.  He said he had no plans the rest of the day and would be happy to give us a private tram tour. He didn't need to make the offer twice.  Orlando Wetlands is a man-made wetland designed to treat reclaimed water. It has over 20 miles of trails that you can walk and see a great variety of wildlife.  It sure seemed like Brad showed us most of them.  After the tram tour we walked back along on the paths to get some closer looks at the birds.  Highlights included lots of American Alligators, Anhinga, 2 Purple Gallinule, Whistling Ducks, Common Gallinule, egrets, and so much more including life bird ~ Mottled Duck.  It is an amazing place and worth a second visit.

Purple Gallinule

Tricolored Heron
American Alligator