Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Halloween Pennant

Lower Wekiva River Preserve
Halloween Pennant
It's hard to deny the beauty of a Halloween Pennant--the beautiful colors, the banding on the wings--these things cannot be argued with. For some reason I have had a lot of luck with these guys. They're common enough here in Central Florida, but they seem to like to perch high enough for easy photos with simple backgrounds. There have been many times when they just seem to want to pose for me, and I don't complain.

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Halloween Pennant
Little Big Econ SF, Jones East Trailhead
Halloween Pennant
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Halloween Pennant

Monday, July 27, 2015

Wekiwa Springs State Park

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Brown-headed Nuthatch
Wekiwa Springs State Park
I first visited the park shortly after moving  here so our family could go swimming at the springs. At the time, I had no idea at the time that this would become one of my favorite birding locations in Orange County. Now when I visit this park, I feel like I'm seeing Central Florida as it once was, and that keeps me coming back for more.

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Wekiwa Springs State Park
Trails and Kayaking
There are over 13 miles of trails, and the western portion has some great trails for birding.  The western portion of the park has some great trails in Pine flatwoods and even some scrub habitat.  For this, I like to park at the Sand Lake parking lot and walk west and south towards the campgrounds. There are some wonderful place along these trails for some nice pine flatwood species.


The eastern portion gives you access to the Wekiva River, which is one of the two “National Wild & Scenic Rivers” in Florida.  During the summer months, kayaking this river can provide many breeding bird species otherwise difficult to find in Central Florida.  You could theoretically kayak down the Wekiva River all the way to the St. Johns, or you could also head up Rock Springs Run--the confluence is at the eastern border of the park.

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Yellow-throated Vireo
These can be heard and seen along the Wekiva River (and throughout the park)
Wildlife
The trails on the western side of the park are some my favorite places to look for Bachman's Sparrows, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Summer Tanagers, Eastern Towhees, Carolina Chickadees, Eastern Bluebirds, and Brown-headed Nuthatches. Swallow-tailed Kites and even an occasional Short-tailed Hawk may be seen here as well. And of course, you're likely to find other fun wildlife along the trails, including many White-tailed Deer, Gopher Tortoises and butterflies.

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Red-headed Woodpecker
Wekiwa Springs State Park
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Bachman's Sparrow
Wekiwa Springs State Park
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Summer Tanager
Wekiwa Springs State Park
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Eastern Towhee
Wekiwa Springs State Park
The Wekiva River area has its own wonders.  Prothonotary Warblers, Acadian Flycatchers and Night-Herons breed along the river, and it's just a beautiful place to be alone with nature, provided it's not crowded with other kayaks.

Wekiva River
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Amenities
Wekiwa Springs State Park is a fairly big tourist attraction for locals in Central Florida.  During the summer months especially, people flock here for swimming in the springs on the weekends.  If you don't get here early, the park may well fill to capacity and close.  I must admit, it's a fun place to visit for swimming, kayaking, and other recreational activities. It's a full service park with a concession stand, restrooms, and even canoe and kayak rentals.  But because of its popularity, I prefer to go during the week in the mornings (the park opens at 8:00am), so that I can have a quiet time to look at wildlife.

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Zebra Swallowtail
Wekiwa Springs State Park

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Purple Swamphen at Wakodatchee Wetlands, 7/26/2015

Wakodatchee Wetlands
Purple Swamphen
I spent the night last night in Boynton Beach, and I left for home early this morning. However, I just had to check out Wakodatchee Wetlands, so I left about an hour early to drop by the park.  My target bird was Purple Swamphen, and it did not take too long to find them.  Purple Swamphens are not native to the U.S.  They are an Eurasian bird that has become established in South Florida since some escaped into the wild back in the 1990's.  At least one has been reported in Brevard County, but most remain farther south.  These birds are now considered countable by the ABA as of 2013.

Wakodatchee Wetlands
Purple Swamphen
Aside from that, I was impressed with the wetlands.  It's truly beautiful, and I loved the boardwalk much more than a wildlife drive.  There were many herons, egrets, cormorants and anhingas breeding within the wetlands, but the highlights for me were a Cattle Egret striking a nice pose and an adult Tricolored Heron feeding a young one. Here's my eBird checklist for the morning.

Wakodatchee Wetlands
Cattle Egret
Wakodatchee Wetlands
Tricolored Heron

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Markham Rd Trailhead

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Markham Rd Trailhead
There's a little-known trail on Markham Rd.  It shares a parking area with the Cross-Seminole Trail. I've never walked that trail because it's paved.  However, there are also unpaved trails here. I've been told that this property is a part of the Wekiwa Springs State Park, but I haven't been able to verify that. It's a pretty enough park.  Honestly, if I'm going to drive to the area, I'm more likely to head a little farther to the Lower Wekiva River Preserve, so for the most part I go here for my volunteer work with the Florida Breeding Bird Atlas.

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Carolina Chickadee
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Brown-headed Nuthatch
Markham Tract, Wekiwa Springs State Park
Trails
I haven't been able to find a trail map of this location. It looks like I might need to make my own, so to speak, the next time I go. That is, I can certainly use My Tracks while walking the trails, and then show you the trails that I've walked.  I tend to walk south towards a little stretch of pine flatwoods that I find particularly pretty.


Wildlife
This is a pretty good park to look for wildflowers and other wildlife.  It's the only place in Seminole County where I've actually seen a Black Bear (though I've seen bear tracks in several other parks around here). I've only seen 38 species of birds here.

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Wild Turkey
Markham Tract, Wekiwa Springs State Park
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White-tailed Deer
Wekiva Springs SP (Markham Tract)
Tread Softly
Wekiwa Springs SP (Markham Woods Tract)
Duskywing Skipper
Amenities
There is very little here by way of amenities.  There is a restroom by the parking lot, but not much else.  More time than not, I've left the park with a tick on me.  So please check for ticks and use bug spray when you're here.

Smooth-billed Ani at Loxahatchee NWR, 7/24/2015

Loxahatchee NWR
Smooth-billed Ani
Our family drove to Boynton Beach yesterday for a wedding this morning, so I took a couple hours and went to the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. What a wonderful place! I'd been here once before 3 years ago.  My main target was a pair of Smooth-billed Ani that have been seen here for over a month.  They didn't take too long to find.  They're such a pretty bird.

Loxahatchee NWR
Snail Kite
Other highlights from the morning were my first of the year Snail Kite.  It looked like there was a family of 4 near the entrance, and my first ever Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly.  Here's my eBird checklist for the morning.

Loxahatchee NWR
Ruddy Daggerwing
Okay, I can't resist. Here are some more photos of the Smooth-billed Ani. Even though the bird was farther away with these photos, I just like the green background better.

Loxahatchee NWR
Smooth-billed Ani
Loxahatchee NWR
Smooth-billed Ani

Monday, July 20, 2015

Marl Bed Flats Video Slideshow


A couple days ago I upgraded my ProShow Gold software from Photodex. I've fallen out of use with this wonderful product, but my son needed to do a slideshow, so I upgraded my software. I figured since I spent the $45 on the upgrade, I should use it myself, right? So I put together about 40 photos from Marl Bed Flats, one of my favorite birding locations, and put together a slideshow.

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Trail to the Flats
ProShow Gold is making it easier and easier to make slideshows look really nice. I used a wizard to collect and arrange my photos and choose music (you can now use royalty free music provided by Photodex, a nice touch). Then I modified some of the themes to suit my needs and used three of them throughout the slideshow. After getting them set the way I want, it was was a very quick process. I then exported it to my smugmug site. The fact that Photodex now supports uploading to SmugMug was a big reason for me deciding to upgrade. There is a lot more that can be done with this software than what you can see in the above slideshow. For instance, you can move several images simultaneously on the screen at one time, and the like. I suspect I'll be doing a bit more work with this in the future, but I thought I'd share this little tidbit now.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, 7/18/2015

Lake Apopka (Wildlife Drive)
Bank Swallow
The Lake Apopka North Shore Restoration Area arguably boasts the best inland birding in the State of Florida.  But until recently most of the area has been closed to the general public most of the year. During the annual Christmas Bird Count, birders are granted access to the restoration area, but most of the area has been off limits for most of the year.  However, earlier this year God smiled up on the lowly birders of Central Florida and opened up a Wildlife Drive that takes you through the heart of the restoration area.  This has opened up a huge area for birders and wildlife enthusiasts to visit during the weekends (and national holidays).  The drive is 11 miles long, and I normally take about 4 hours to get through from one end to the other.

Lake Apopka (Wildlife Drive)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
So this morning my father and I arrived around 6:15 am and took our time making our way through the drive until we left around 10:30 am. We saw a Great Horned Owl on a tall post near the eastern end of Lust Rd.  The biggest highlight was seeing a Gray Kingbird.  One was seen here in early June, but it has been really hard to find after June 20th.  I tried several times in June to see it, but it successfully hid from me until today.  Unfortunately it was a little too early in the morning for photos.

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Purple Martin
The second best highlight of the drive was all the swallows.  We saw dozens of Barn Swallows, which are expected, but we also saw another dozen Bank Swallows, a juvi Northern Rough-winged Swallow, and several Purple Martins.

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Green Heron
Herons and Egrets also abound.  I'm amazed at how many Green Herons and Least Bitterns we see when we're there. At least 20 Green Herons flew by the road, and several Least Bitterns were calling. This one posed very briefly before flying out of sight.

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Least Bittern
Throughout June and July we've had the opportunity to see Shiny Cowbirds (both a male and a female) in a sod field along the drive.  Earlier in July I sorted through about  thousand of these:

Lake Apopka (Wildlife Drive)
Red-winged Blackbird
July 3, 2015
To find one of these:

Lake Apopka (Wildlife Drive)
Shiny Cowbird
July 3, 2015
Today we searched through these same fields looking for shorebirds.  We had about 100 Killdeer and at least one Least Sandpiper and one Semipalmated Sandpiper. Here's my eBird checkist for the morning.

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