Florida’s Pelicans and Spoonbills

Almost no matter where you travel the diversity of birds found can’t help but inspire a feeling of awe. For us this feeling has been heightened by the many hours spent observing bird behavior in their various habitats.

The Hillsborough River in Florida is a great place to observe birds by canoe.

To the casual observer many birds will be seen and then quickly dismissed with the thought, “another little brown bird” or if it’s something spectacular, “that’s a cool bird!” The birds in this post will get the attention of even the most casual observer. For us they are endlessly fascinating.

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In doing a little research on the Roseate Spoonbill, the only spoonbill found in Florida, we were surprised to find that it is a member of a family of spoonbills including the: Eurasian spoonbillBlack-faced spoonbillAfrican spoonbillRoyal spoonbill, and Yellow-billed Spoonbill. The spoonbills curious feeding technique involves moving it’s partially open bill from side to side in shallow water until something edible is detected and then closing the “trap”.  As can be seen from some of the shots below the appearance of males in breeding plumage can be striking.

Spoonbill and a Lesser Yellowlegs.

Spoonbill pair.

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Male in breeding plumage.

Affectionate touch, (Donna).

Spoonbill with Ibis.

Making a point!

Beautiful from any angle!

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The Brown Pelican is another bird commonly seen in Florida, most often near saltwater. It’s easy to dismiss when compared it to it’s larger cousin the White Pelican but a closer look reveals it’s unique beauty. Like a large tern, we often see them plunging into to water after prey with some impact and a large splash.

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Taking flight.

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Taking flight.

Stretch!

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In flight the White Pelican is arguably the most majestic and beautiful bird we see. Flying in formation, their large size gives the impression of a graceful slow motion aerial dance.

A size comparison between a White Pelican and a spoonbill. The spoonbill is not a small bird!

 

***, (Donna)

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White Pelicans gather in shallow water. Note the size of the one brown pelican in the picture.

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One pelican, apparently with no great effort, comes up with quite a mouthful while the others not seeming to care continue to preen. It took quite some time to get the fish properly orientated and then swallowed.

Gators and pelicans are often in close proximity.

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Unlike the beauty of the much smaller birds such as warblers, no binoculars or special equipment is required to appreciate spoonbills and pelicans. They are a gift of nature to us all.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

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Nature In Myakka River State Park

After two months in sunnier climes with limited internet access we are now back home. While still an improvement over Ohio, this winter’s trek south to Florida’s Myakka River State Park in an effort to escape the cold found us greeted by windy cool and sometimes wet weather. The wind precluded using the canoe as a means to gain access to photo opportunities away from the main park roads but we were still able to enjoy hiking even though it was often on partially flooded trails.

My wife walks under a Live Oak covered with Resurrection Ferns on one of the dryer tails.

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Every year is different. Last year the arrival of a hurricane not long before our arrival resulted in the park being completely flooded. During our stay the water receded leaving pools of stranded fish for wading birds to gorge themselves on. This occurrence offered a unique opportunity to observe and photograph various wading birds and nothing like it was in the offing this year. The consolation was that the Black Necked Stilt, a favorite bird, was more common than last year. In addition to this year’s critter pics more effort was made to capture the landscape so those shots have been made part of the mix.

The Myakka River

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As in the past Black Necked Stilts continue to charm us.

Black Necked Stilt

What ever they’re doing it’s always fascinating, (Donna).

Stilt with Lesser Yellowlegs

Walking.

Flying, (Donna).

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Flooded hammock.

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Other small wading birds were seen but American Avocets eluded us.

Least Sandpipers along the shore of Upper Myakka Lake.

Killdeer along the shore of Upper Myakka Lake.

Lesser Yellowlegs along the shore of Upper Myakka Lake, (Donna).

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The Myakka River.

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While certainly not uncommon, we always enjoy seeing the Great and Snowy Egrets. Whiter than white, a slightly overcast day seems to work best for photographing these birds.

Great Egret

Close-up.

Snowy Egret

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Standing water in low-lying areas gives rise to shadows and reflections.

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Black Crowned Night and Great Blue Herons are seen in Ohio but not the petite Tri-colored Heron.

Tri-colored Heron.

Great Blue Heron with lunch along the shore of Upper Myakka Lake.

Great Blue Heron.

Little Blue Heron hunting, (Donna).

A Black Crowned Heron peeks through the branches, (Donna).

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Upper Lake Myakka.

Flooded habitat.

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Roseate Spoonbills are right up there with Black Necked Stilts when it comes to interesting birds to observe.

Roseate Spoonbill preening.

Spoonbills.

My what a big mouth you have, (Donna).

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Florida hammock landscape.

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An Alligator Limpkin stare down.

The Alligator and Limpkin were so close together it’s hard to believe they weren’t aware of each other.

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Myakka River landscape.

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We were fortunate to see several Wood Storks.

A Wood Stork forages for food along the shore of Upper Myakka Lake.

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A canopy of branches.

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Palm Warblers were everywhere as were Black Vultures. The Barred Owl and the small Common Ground Dove were a rarer treat.

Palm Warbler.

Black Vultures were everywhere.

Scarcely a moment went by without hearing the call of a Red Shouldered Hawk.

This Barred Owl seemed so obvious once we spotted it but they’re not so easy to find.

 

Common Ground Dove.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is common in Florida but perhaps not quite as common there as in Ohio.

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Shadows betray this Live Oaks identity.

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Flowers, fungi, and air plants:

A lovely small flower is found looking something like a small wild rose

Another small but very noticeable flower.

There were fungi but not in the variety seen in Ohio, (Donna).

Other than as a location to live, air plants ask nothing of the tree they reside in.

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A fallen tree finds home in the flooded hammock

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Other creatures:

Our friend Teresa was surprised by the opportunity to get this quick shot of a Bobcat as it crossed the trail.

We are always surprised by the number of turtles given the number of gators.

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This years visit to the park was only six days but we managed to see quite a bit for such a short time. Because of the colder than normal weather there weren’t as many alligators in evidence and while birds were seen the higher than normal water levels and more places to forage meant they were disbursed. We’re planning a return visit next year so who knows what the future holds as every year offers different mix of weather and resultant water levels.

Thanks for stopping by.

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