Sunday, February 22, 2009

Owls, Woodpeckers, Hawks, Alligators and More - Playing Catch-Up

Bill and I have been busy since my last post. We visited Six-Mile Cypress Preserve, Fakahatchee Preserve and Boardwalk, the Burrowing Owl Festival and toured owl nesting sites in Cape Coral - so I have a lot of catching up to do!

This is a Pileated Woodpecker and being able to see and photograph this beautiful bird is a personal treasure. I've gotten glimpses before but on this trip to Six-mile Cypress Preserve there were two out in the open. These are large birds, about 18 inches tall, and have a powerful voice that sounds like Woody Woodpecker.

Pileated Woodpeckers can excavate large holes in trees looking for insects and, unfortunately, they can also do a great deal of damage to homes if they set their minds to it.

This is a Brown-headed Cowbird - a nasty parasitic bird. The "parasitic" refers to their practice of laying their eggs in other birds' nests. Since the young Cowbirds are so loud and demanding, the surrogate mother may feed them to the exclusion of her own babies - which can harm some already endangered species. These birds are everywhere here in Florida - especially in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

Down at the Faka-hatchee Preserve we saw this big guy sunning in a wet area by the road.

As we were driving back along Jane's Scenic Drive, I yelled for Bill to stop as I saw this gorgeous Barred Owl sitting in a tree. The last one I saw at Corkscrew was pointed out to me - but I spotted this one without help!

We took lots of pictures and he seemed to enjoy the attention.

In one of the canals, these turtles were lined-up sunning on a log. They quickly jump into the water as soon as they detect your presence, so I had to move very slowly to get their picture.

At the end of the Fakahatchee Boardwalk was an observation area overlooking a pond. This Wood Stork was sitting in a tree overlooking the pond.

This alligator was in the pond. Behind her were three very small alligator babies - but they were too far away to get a good picture.

On the boardwalk this small brown frog (or is it a toad?) almost got stepped on.

After our walk we ate outside at a great Cuban restaurant in Everglades City. This Mockingbird sang to us during our meal so I had to take his picture.

On Saturday we went to the Burrowing Owl Festival in Cape Coral. We sat in on an educational presentation on owls. This Great Horned Owl was sitting at his station waiting to meet the audience.

Suddenly there was a great commotion outside the tent. This Red-Shouldered Hawk and his mate were not pleased to have the owl near-by and voiced their disapproval loudly. Once they decided the owl was not a threat, they moved on.

This is a Screech Owl - a small owl (7 to 9 inches tall) that eats mice, insects and sometimes other birds.

This is a Barn Owl taking direction from the speaker. All of the owls he showed and talked about had been injured and could not be released back into the wild. This one had a badly injured wing.

After enjoying the festival, we decided to drive around Cape Coral and see if we could find some active burrows. I had never seen a Burrowing Owl and was determined to find one!

These cute birds were sitting and waiting for us. Burrowing Owls are the pride of Cape Coral and the city goes to great lengths to educate the public and protect them from harm. They are small owls that nest in empty burrows all over the city - empty lots, back yards, parks and along the side of the road. Volunteers rope off the nesting sites and put up signs - which make them easier to spot.

I see why photo-graphers love these birds. They don't seem to mind people as long as you don't get too close and it's easy to take some great pictures.

Have you ever seen anything so adorable?

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