I’ve often wondered if I take living in Florida for granted. While my friends from other areas of the country are dodging snowstorms and bitter cold, I’m basking in temperatures ranging from a cold of 50’s to a warm of 80’s. It’s totally no problem for me to drive out in search of wildlife or natural landscapes in just my light pants and top … maybe a fleece for the early pre-dawn hours. I laugh because when I wear long sleeves and pants … it’s to keep the sun or mosquitoes away.
Nonetheless, in the midst of “winter”, I venture out and see sights such as the juvenile bald eagles circling around known nests, probably looking for mom/dad to give them a once willing handout. No more … they are on their own for food.
The mature eagles are too busy guarding their nests from intruders, which include past years broods. I find it strange when I visit out west and see this nesting and courtship period much later in the season … often at least spring. Makes sense, as these eagles don’t have to worry about snow or migration.Once I’m away from the hustle and bustle of coastal south Florida, eagle fly freely as they go about their day. They often call out to one another as they soar over the landscape, with a call that’s quite distinctive and always summons me to stop and look for their presence. Sometimes I get a up close fly by that would be hard to miss … sometimes I can simply detect a tiny white head in the faraway trees.
Other predators lurk nearby as well, such as our ever-prevalent red-shouldered hawk.But by far, the eagles are mst prevalent and busy with their nest building, courtship, and hunting. I’m always so fascinated by their feather patterns and love it when I get a topside view.Beside predator birds, there are also a wide variety of “little birds” migrating through. Most times I’m struggling to isolate them in the trees as they dart in and out, but this one was quite curious about me and came over for a closer look. Reward: picture taken. 🙂While bald eagles, red-shouldered hawks, and a wide variety of “little birds” can be found in other places besides Florida, the Everglades snail kite is endemic to Florida in the US. Endangered in the Florida, it feeds primarily on pond apple snails, though Florida now has some invasive snails that it will feed upon, though with some difficulty. See, the other snails are invasive and quite a bit larger, so the Everglades snail kite has to work harder with its beak to get the snail inside. They are quite fascinating hunters and always a thrill to encounter.The belted kingfisher is also a treat to see and photograph … for when it’s hunting for fish, you can capture them in their notorious hovering position … much like a hummingbird.
Limpkin, a noisy wading bird found regularly in Florida, also eats the snails, but with their long straight beaks, they effectively crack open the invasive snails and pull their snail out of its shell much more efficiently than the Everglades snail kite.Even when birds are scarce, you can almost always count on the great blue heron to be somewhere about the wetlands. The most patient hunters I’ve ever seen, they will eat just about anything!Of course, when the sun begins to set, the party really begins.Just when you think your day is over, here comes the owls … count them … 1 … 2 … 3 … great horned owls getting ready for the evening hunting ritual. Of course, though not an esthetically pleasing location, it’s always a thrill when you can find 3 together!On this evening, I had the pleasure of encountering something that I’ve never had the pleasure of witnessing before. As I was winding down my pole shots of the owls, one flew away to a location unknown. The other two remained behind until I could see one getting ready to fly as well. It flew down to a post nearby to where I was shooting from. I was photographing it, figuring that it would fly off to begin its hunting. Then before I knew it, the other remaining owl flew down. I wondered where it was going to land because unlike the burrowing owls who jockey for position on the posts nearby, there really wasn’t room for two. Was I way off! This guy was jockeying for position all right … on the backside of the female. As they say, the rest was history.I clicked away furiously trying to capture what I could of the rendezvous … dark or not … I mean it was literally right before my eyes! When he was finished, he flew off right over my head, but I was so stunned that I didn’t capture any more. I looked at Tom, who was sitting in the running car (remember I was just ready to call it a night). We were both speechless. Note: Pardon the grainy/soft images, but I just had to share the experience.
Yep you could say we had a great time that night, though maybe not as much fun as that great horned owl couple. 😉Next up: A date with a king … fisher, that is 🙂
© 2016 Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography