Friday, October 22, 2010

Marsh-an Sunrise

No trip to Fort Myers would be complete without an early morning visit to Harns Marsh in Lehigh Acres. We arrived at sunrise.

The colors were amazing - with the early morning light dancing on the water. Limpkins are found in abundance at Harns Marsh and usually you can hear them even before you see them.

Even thought we arrived early, another photographer was already in place. Check out his equipment - I had terrible lens envy! What you can't see is the large wagon he needed to transport everything as it was too heavy to carry.

The early morning light brought out the reds and golds in the landscape.

But the reflections off the water made some shots more challenging. I used the sports setting to capture this Osprey in flight.

This Tri-colored Heron and his shadow-mate were having great luck finding small fish to eat for breakfast.

Last year the Wood Storks did not nest because the water levels were too high and the fish were not concentrated enough for the adults to hunt successfully. Each Wood Stork chick eats 450 pounds of fish before he fledges. We saw quite a few storks heading south and I hope the conditions are more favorable for breeding this year. The species can not afford another barren breeding season.

One of my favorites: a Roseate Spoonbill. We found several on the back side of the marsh. The looped trail is about 5 miles around, but we had already hiked 3 miles before we started the loop so we certainly got our exercise for the day! There was just so much to see that we kept walking, and walking and walking. It was afternoon before we got back to the car and I had aching muscles, sore feet and 2 disks full of pictures!

I like the reflection in the water.

At first we were stumped when we saw these pink growths around the marsh - but then Bill identified them as Roseate Spoonbill feces. (To quote Bill, he knows everything - and what he doesn't know, he makes up.)

Snail Kites may be endangered, but we saw a couple of dozen on our walk. Harns Marsh is one of their last major habitats with lots and lots of the apple snails that they eat.

This Snail Kite had just plucked a juicy snail out of the grass and was having a hearty breakfast of escargot.

The Snail Kites did not let me get too close.

Just when I think I can get a really decent picture, they fly away.

Sandhill Cranes are huge birds and I'm always thrilled to see one. On this trip, we saw a total of four.

They have a loud trumpeting call and this guy could be heard all over the marsh.

We saw these on the other side of the main lake just before we got back to our car, having a late lunch with a couple of friends.

Osprey are fairly common in southern Florida, but, so far we have not seen them in Ocala. Since they eat fish, they are found by water - and the lakes are not as common in the central part of the state as they are in Fort Myers.

And there he goes - on the lookout for more fish.

We saw several Little Blue Heron - but when I checked my pictures, I realized I didn't have any Great Blue Heron. Interesting!

This beautiful Limpkin was close to the trail. He had a gimp leg - but had no trouble flying.

Killdeer are the only shore birds that are routinely found inland.

Check out this beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk! He must have been trying to scare us away with his loud call.

One of my favorite action shots - a Great Egret. It's interesting to see how the different birds fly, how they hold their necks and feet and the shape of their wings; some glide, some flap. Often birds in flight show colors you can't see when they are perched. You'd never know this guy has a really long neck as he folds his head in close when he flies. I love his white wing feathers against the blue sky.

Lots and lots of Mottled Ducks call Harns Marsh home. We also saw a few Pied-billed Grebe and later in the year, we should see Coot, Teal and Moorhen.

Florida doesn't have the traditional seasons that other parts of the US have. When we arrived it was Love Bug Season and now it's Dragon Fly Season. Soon it will be Tourist Season (or just "Season" to the locals.)

This was a real thrill - and a new life bird: an American Bittern. I would never in a million years have spotted it all the way on the other side of the pond perfectly blending in with the grass and reeds - but our photographer (the one with the humongous lens) pointed it out as we came back around the trail. We have a rule in our family - you didn't see it unless you got a picture. The picture is lousy - but it's a picture! Now I want to see (and photograph) a Least Bittern. That one is a REAL challange!

I love this picture! How many different birds do you see - and can you name them all? You can click on the image for a larger view.

An interesting thing happened when I got back home with all these images. After selecting a few for this blog, I moved them from the camera disk to a DVD - then cleared the disk so I had room for more images. When I went to access the images on the DVD, it was corrupted and all the pictures from the second part of our walk were lost. Lesson learned - check first THEN delete!

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