We did not find a Limpkin at Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands in Viera Florida on our Sunday field trip there for the Space Coast Birding and Nature Festival, so on the way back from the the airport on Monday, I took a detour to Orlando Wetlands Park, where many people had seen them that week. I got my first, and only, Limpkin walking right along the road less than a quarter mile into the Birding Loop. Such a strange, ancient looking bird…and so specialized. They only eat snails, Apple Snails by preference (and tradition) but they are, I am told, becoming accustomed to an invasive snail introduced to Florida waters several years ago. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode. 1/400th @ ISO 100 @ f4. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.
The still waters of the canal by the restrooms on Black Point Wildlife Drive at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida almost perfectly mirror the Green Heron at the edge of the mangroves. Green Herons are on my short list of “birds I really like to see”. I suppose I am always hoping for the particular angle of light that brings up the green in the wing feathers. There is a hint of it here, but I will keep trying whenever I encounter a Green. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 100. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.
Clearly this young Alligator had been hanging out in the duckweed for some time before it climbed out on the floating Palm trunk to warm up in the filtered sun. Just barely awake. It was less than 20 feet from the road and only 10 feet from the edge of the water, so it was at least somewhat alert. Besides you never know when irresistible prey (or very stupid tourists) will happen by. Sony RX10iv at 600 and 316mm. Program mode. 1/250th @ ISO 100 @ f4. Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic.
There were a lot of immature White Ibis at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge while we were there for the Space Coast Birding and Nature Festival…far more than the numbers of adults. If you are familiar with White Ibis you know that the immature is a very different looking bird than the adult. The immature is speckled brown and white with more brown than white. It looks enough different so that you could be forgiven for thinking it is a different species, and it is dark enough so that you might think it would be the immature of the Glossy Ibis. It is neither of those things of course, and in time it does turn into a White Ibis. Interestingly (at least to me), this is the only bird I have ever seen in an intermediate plumage…having lost most of the brown of the immature, but not fully white yet. They must all go through it. Maybe I have just not been in Florida when it happens. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 100. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.
The last time Sally was with me for the Space Coast Birding and Nature Festival in Titusville Florida, was one of the rare years when the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge was host to huge numbers of Roseate Spoonbills, all in full breeding plumage, and most very close to the Black Point Wildlife Drive for excellent photo opps. This year was not one of those years. We saw very few Spoonbills, and those we saw were distant…except for two who had joined a mixed species feeding frenzy at a pool fool of freshly hatched shrimp. Both of the Spoonbills there were female, and maybe even immature, as there was no sign of breeding plumage and the “rose” was not nearly as bright as I have seen it. Still, Roseates are impressive whenever you see them. This one literally never raised its head the whole time we spent at the pool…too busy straining shrimp soup. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode. 1/800th @ f4 @ ISO 100. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.
I don’t know why, but the Black-crowned Night-Heron is among the rarest of herons along Black Point Wildlife Drive at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. There are plenty of Great Blues, Little Blues, Tricolored, and Green…but the Black-crowned Night is rare. We spotted this one tucked back into the Mangroves beside the canal along the road near the duck ponds. Maybe that is the reason: “tucked back into the Mangroves”. For all I know there could be lots of BCNHs along Black Point Drive, but if they are tucked in like this one, I am probably missing them. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode. 1/320th @ ISO 100 @ f4. Processed in Polarr.
Grackles, taken one at a time, can be very handsome birds. All black, with iridescent highlights, that bold beak, long strong metallic looking legs and feet, and, in the case of the Boat-tails Grackles of Florida, that impressive tail, they certainly deserve more admiration than they get. That is probably because they can never be taken one at a time. One Boat-tailed Grackle is almost an oxymoron. They come in gangs, and a gang of Boat-tailed Grackles, or grackles of any kind, would never inspire anyone’s admiration. In a group they are noisy, messy, aggressive, and generally obnoxious. This Boat-tailed Grackle was part of a gang that was taking part in a mixed species feeding frenzy around a pool on Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge’s Black Point Wildlife Drive after a fresh shrimp hatch. The birds, were, of course, mostly waders…Great and Snowy Egrets, Tricolored and Little Blue Herons, White and Glossy Ibis, and a few Roseate Spoonbills…but the Grackles were also taking advantage of situation…scooping up shrimp soup from the surface in what, for them, is a very unusual feeding behavior. This bird flew up and landed right in front of me and I could not resist immortalizing his handsomeness as he struck his pose. Sony RX10iv at 348mm equivalent. Program mode. 1/250th @ ISO 200 @ f4. Processed in Polarr.
The Monday after the Space Coast Birding Festival I had to drive Sally to Orlando to catch a plane…and though it had rained all morning, it looked like clearing up for the drive back. I had not yet seen a Limpkin this trip, and had only had very unsatisfying looks at a Purple Gallinule way out in the duckweed at Viera Wetlands. Orlando Wetlands is more or less on the way back to Titusville from the airport, so I pulled off the side of the Beeline and set the GPS on my phone for Christmas (where Orlando Wetlands Park is). The trails at the Wetlands were muddy from the rain…that kind of Florida clay mud that you really don’t want to walk in…but I saw my Limpkin not a quarter mile out from the Education Center, and enough semi-distant Purple Gallinules to keep me going until I finally found a couple feeding close enough to the dike road for photos, way out on Alligator Alley, half way around the Birding Loop. My impression, until I found those close birds, was that the Purple Gallinules in North Florida are not nearly as bright, as vivid, as the Gallinules in South Florida…and in the Everglades in particular…but I now think that is probably a trick of the light. All my sightings of Purples in South Florida have been in full sun, and I am pretty sure I have never seen a Purple in North Florida on anything other than a cloudy day. Certainly the birds in these photos have the potential to really pop in better light…and they are pretty vivid as it is. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode. 1/250th @ f4 @ ISO 160. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.
A week ago today, after our Sunday Point and Shoot Nature Photographer field trip to Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands in Viera Florida, my daughter Sally and I drove out to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge’s Scrub Ridge Trail where we had heard a group of eight Florida Scrub Jays were hanging out and coming in to hikers. And indeed, as soon as we entered their territory near where the loop trail turns back, eight Jays came flying in and surround us, often perching or approaching on foot to within four feet. Florida Scrub Jays do that, especially when people have been feeding them peanuts. It is, I should point out, illegal to feed the endangered Florida Scrub Jay, and the trail is well posted to that effect. I have a friend who was fined $150 a few years ago when he got caught on this very trail. People still do it though, and the Jays come to people on the off chance that they will catch one who is willing to ignore the law. I should also say that Florida Scrub Jays are curious and gregarious birds (not to mention fearless) even without the feeding, and would be quite likely to “mob” any intruder on their territory, including human beings. A close encounter with this subtly beautiful bird is always a special treat, a Sunday blessing on a day when we had already had many. Sony RX10iv at 600mm and Program Mode. Processed in Polarr.
There were more Alligators visible this year at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida than I can remember seeing in a long time. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was the unusually high water in some sections of the refuge. Maybe it was just that I happened to be on the refuge at the right times. This big old bull is often hauled up on this little patch of high ground among the mangroves. I have seen him there for many years. Such a classic Crocodile Grin…only he, of course, is not a Crocodile. 🙂 Alligator Grin. Just does not have the same ring to it, but I am not sure the gator cares. He looks pretty happy with himself. (Of course he is really warming himself since his tongue absorbs much more heat from the sun than his thick hide. 🙂 Sony RX10iv at 254mm and 600mm equivalents. Program mode. -.3EV. Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic.