Florida Birding

Florida is known for many things … the sandy beaches, beautiful weather, tropical winds, palm trees … perhaps crowds and traffic too … but also for its birds.  During the winter, there are many birds which migrate through Florida, though there are many year-round residents as well.  Such is the case of the bald eagles.dsc_9526It’s a favorite sighting for me to see the bald eagles (coincidentally the only eagles we have) soaring overhead, building their nests, courting, mating, and raising their young.  Such a symbol instilled into all Americans … representing freedom, power, and respect.dsc_9556dsc_9777Then there’s the substantially smaller American kestrel, which in my opinion, has the personal goal of flying away as soon as you see them or even just slow down the car.  🙂dsc_9754The calling out of the limpkin is loud and pretty much unmistakable.  They are beautiful birds which, like the snail kite, feed on snails, but also on frogs and insects as well.  They are year-round residents of Florida as well.dsc_9789dsc_9992The belted kingfisher is a fabulous, fast, and flighty little bird … who I generally can only capture in the hovering mode.  🙂  Generally speaking, in most of Florida, it migrates here in the winter, so it’s a treat when it’s vacationing.dsc_9820But for me, the story is usually revolving around the eagles.  Here a pair of bald eagles perch near each other and begin calling out together … also an unmistakable sound.dsc_0078dsc_0220As much as I believe that she was asking for it and I was channeling some Barry White music their way, they did not mate while I was cheering them on.  I guess maybe they didn’t want an audience.  🙂dsc_0948It’s not just the mature eagles that pass by, but rather juvenile ones as well.  They have totally a different appearance than the mature ones, most notably the lack of the telltale white head and tail feathers, which they generally don’t possess until 4-5 years old.  There’s something special about them though that intrigues me.  I love their mottled look.dsc_0536dsc_0550One bird that is generally found across the US is the great blue heron.  These birds are large, extremely patient hunters, and very beautiful in flight, courtship, and nest building.  They are year-round residents as well.dsc_0731As the sun goes down, the eagles perched on a sign with the sunset colors in the background, makes a nice photo op.We also have our share of owls.  Here is the great horned owl, which is one of the largest and powerful owls here, but we also have barred, burrowing, and barn as well.  I’m quite an owl fanatic so all owls get photographed.  Have I told you before how obsessed I am with talons?dsc_1155

As the sun begins to set in the distance, it becomes the perfect setting for a silhouette shot of the bald eagle._dsc7988Speaking of colors, this particular night was an explosion of colors … which kept changing as the sun went down.  img_2261As hard as it was to say goodnight on this fabulous shooting location, of course, it was a must eventually.  So yes, Florida is an incredible location, especially in the winter to find birds galore.  Winter is also, my favorite time in Florida.img_2255Next Up:  More Colorado touring

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

My Owl Fix

I love owls, as many of you know.

In Florida, we have many different types of owls including the burrowing, barn, barred, eastern screech, and the great horned owls.

Out west, they also have many varieties of owls and on this trip we were able to get the usual images of the great horned owl adult.  They are always quite observant to what’s going on in their surroundings, especially when they’re in the protective mode.DSC_2157Why the protective mode?  Well because they had 3 baby owlets nearby in the nest.  How absolutely adorable are they?DSC_2139As we photographed them, they were clearly on the alert themselves.DSC_2152Though we were out looking for owls, I couldn’t help but turn my head when I saw this little cutie fly by.  The western tanager is a beautiful bird and this male was flying to and from the thick brush, making it difficult to get a clear shot.  I found it interesting to know that the reddish head color actually comes from its diet … and it’s the most northern breeding tanager out there.DSC_2120Also brightly colored and flying around is the American goldfinch, which is the only member in its family to molt in the spring as well as the fall.DSC_2172Now, the main reason we were exploring this area was to find some long-eared owls.  We never found the adults on this trip, but we found something even better … 3 young long-eared owlets.  I honestly don’t think that they get much cuter.DSC_2197There were actually several families of LEOs around.  Some a bit older than the others, as shown below.DSC_2215This young owlet was perched in the tree staring at us … actually found us first, which I imagine they all did.  LOL.  The sweetest face ever … reminds me of the Gremlins from the movie.  Evidence of the area being the hunting grounds for these owls was evident by the kills sporadically strewn around the grounds.DSC_2219OK, so I got my owl fix this evening.  Or at least until the next time I’m in the area.  🙂

Next Up:  Heading into Yellowstone NP

© 2016  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Owls Here & There

A few years ago, Tom & I visited Rocky Mountain National Park, where we photographed a  great horned owl nest.  I remember it like it was yesterday … the owl was snuggly situated into the nest, which was swaying in the breeze.  I delighted in seeing it … though it pretty much remained motionless.  So when we returned to RMNP, Tom’s first comments to me were “We should go find that owls nest”, to which I thought he was crazy that we could ever remember exactly where it was.

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However, after just a few moments, he did just do that!  (How in the world do guys do that?!)

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Sure enough, the female great horned owl was situated in the nest, but this time (several weeks later than the last time we visited), she was sitting high.  I wondered if she might have some eggs or even better, some babies under there.  Trying to do everything possible to not attract a circus of on-lookers, I set up my tripod a bit out of the way from the local traffic.

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Before long, I could see that she had at least one baby owlet in the nest with her.  It was real young too, as evidenced by its fuzzy white appearance.

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It would snuggle up to her every now and then and almost seem to get up on its tippytoes to peer over the confines of the nest.  I was in heaven!

Over the course of the several days that we watched her and what turned out to be at least 2 babies, we never did see the male, though we did one night observe her leaving the nest.

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I feared for the worse … could it be that something happened to the male?  If so, how would she feed herself and her young?  Other photographers and observers in the area said that they hadn’t seen the dad either.  Yet I saw a smorgasbord of nutritious offerings  within the nest … the remnants of a northern flicker, a somewhat intact bunny rabbit – perhaps even two of them.  Something must be helping this poor mom out.

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Sensing my concern and knowing that he was going to have to deal with my distress about where the dad is, Tom went off into the woods looking for “signs” of the dad’s presence.  See, we recently had a lot of experienced tracking owls in our mango tree at home, as we were graced with a pair of eastern screech owls and their 3 young owlets (more on that in a later post).  He was gone for quite some time, but surprised me with his findings when he returned.  The first thing that he asked was whether the female had just left the nest within the last few minutes.  When I replied that it hadn’t, he assured me that he had then indeed just witnessed the male flying from a nearby tree when he approached it.  At that same site, he found numerous poops and pellets on the ground.  Of course, being the curious soul that he is, he discovered partial bones and fur from a recent meal, along with an entire intact skull of an unfortunate victim, which served as “dinner”.  Yes, all was deemed good, knowing that the owl kingdom was intact itself!  I sure was relieved.  🙂

In addition to that particular nest, we also found another one in town, but this one wasn’t nesting in a tree, but in a rocky ledge of a “natural wall” inside town.

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Now this one was much more difficult for me to photograph, especially since Tom didn’t want me setting up my tripod and camera/lens at the site, trying also not to attract a crowd.  So there I was … in our rental car, all crammed up with my camera, 500 mm lens, and teleconverter … in all sorts of positions, trying to get the shot.

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This particular one was almost impossible to determine if it had a baby owlet already or not, as the cavity was toward the wall and we were unsure of how far it went back.  We never did see any young … yet, though we did witness it dining on a local delicacy of some poor unfortunate grayish bird, as evidenced nicely in its beak.

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For those of you who know me personally … know that I absolutely adore ALL owls … barred, barn, great gray, screech, burrowing, snowy, and of course, the great horned owls as well.  So it’s safe to say that I ended my trip with a huge smile on my face.

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Future blogs will feature some of the other wonderful places that we visited on this most recent trip.  Keep your eye on the lookout for the next post.

 

© 2014  TNWA Photography