Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Winter birds in Florida

I spent some time in Florida this past February which was a welcome break from dreary NYC winter, and saw over 83 species of birds. Some were birds we are used to seeing here in spring and summer (Red-Winged Blackbirds, Myrtle and Palm Warblers, Eastern Bluebirds, Laughing Gulls) but many I had never seen before.

One of the top sightings was of a rare Krider's Red-Tailed Hawk. The other, and possibly the highlight of the trip, was this male Vermilion Flycatcher.

Vermilion flycatcher

The St Mark's National Wildlife Refuge, about 25 miles south of Tallahassee, is a fantastic place to go birding and to enjoy the beautiful natural environment. On the day we visited, a major thunderstorm complete with dark skies, thunder, lightning and pouring rain made me doubt I'd get to see any interesting birds, let alone photograph any of them. However, the storm did not stop this little blazing red ball of fury from catching insects and posing for the camera. I think he looks pretty fierce with his spiky wet hairdo!

Vermilion flycatcher

On this dark day, this intensely bright bird really stood out.

Vermilion flycatcher in the rain

In the Tampa Bay area, Nanday Parakeets flew around in very vocal flocks, attracting a lot of attention with their animated chatter.

Nanday parakeet

Monk Parakeets also traveled in loud social flocks.

Monk parakeet

The Wood Stork was one bird I really wanted to see and I found one at Crescent Lake in St Petersburg.

Wood Stork

This was my first sighting of a Limpkin foraging for snails along the water's edge.

Limpkin with a snail

White Ibises were fairly ubiquitous, being present at nearly every natural area we visited. At sunset, they could be seen flying in huge flocks to their roosting places.

Ibis

Common Gallinules can be found all along the east coast, but they are a rare bird for me and I love their giant yellow feet and their gray/blue/purple coloring. 

Common Gallinule

Brown Pelicans are huge and gorgeous, and fascinating to watch as they dive into the water for fish.

Brown pelican

This is an immature pelican chilling out on a piling.

Brown pelican

Ft De Soto Park was another great place to visit wildlife. We were able to observe two Great Horned Owl chicks on their nest.  They look like they might be staying warm on a frosty winter day, but the weather was actually 78°F with 81% humidity and thick fog. My glasses steamed up while taking this photo.

Great horned owl chicks

One of the parents nearby:

Great horned owl parent

It was nesting season for Florida Ospreys, so they were present everywhere we went.

Osprey

I was hoping to see an abundance of Red-Shouldered Hawks during my visit, but I only saw two. This one was hunting in the St Mark's NWR and really blended in with its natural habitat. The other sighting was of a hawk hunting along a highway.

Red-shouldered 
hawk

We had an unexpected surprise at an urban food market one morning when an immature Bald Eagle flew low over the busy crowd.

Immature Bald Eagle

As much as I love NYC, it was good to get a change of scenery and to see so many new bird species. I was happy to put away my thermals, boots and gloves, and prance around in the warm winter sun like this Snowy Egret if only for a few days.

Snowy Egret prancing in the water

You can see more of my Florida bird photos over on Flickr.



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