Thursday, April 25, 2013

Florida Fox Squirrel

I never tire of seeing the Florida Fox Squirrels at our feeders. They enjoy the sunflower seeds that have dropped. This is the one with the short tail.

Another regular...

We see lots of Red-bellied Woodpeckers but not many of the smaller Downy Woodpeckers.

The red on his head indicates it is a mature male.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Short Visit to Fort Myers

Bill and I had an unexpected trip to Fort Myers after the couple renting our condo left early. Last year at this time we experienced a bird fall-out on Sanibel Island ( so even before we set our suitcase down, we hurried over the causeway to Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and Sanibel's Lighthouse Beach hoping to see some of the neo-tropical migrants flying north from South and Central America. There were none. Looking at the empty Gumbo Limbo Tree, I realized what an extraordinary experience we had last year. Even Metro Parkway was devoid of birds!

This is the only picture I took at Ding Darling - a Catbird. Yes, there was a tiny smattering of the usual shore birds - one White Pelican, the usual Osprey, a couple of Cormorants and several Willets - but that was it! Lighthouse Beach was even more disappointing. We had planned to spend the next day on the island but went to Harns Marsh instead.

We were greeted at Harns Marsh by a Sandhill Crane family. One adult flew away and the others quickly hid in the heavy foliage.

The marsh was beautiful with the early morning light playing on the water. We usually see large flocks of herons and egrets, coots and moorhens, but there were only a few this time. It didn't matter - this Great Egret, in breeding plumage is always fun to see. was this Tri-colored Heron. Look at that bright blue beak!

He was showing off his feathered headdress. I hadn't noticed this before my sister showed pictures on her blog (

His colors were wonderful!

There were several Limpkin making lots of noise.

...and the usual Red-winged Blackbirds.

A couple of Black-necked Stilts flew over the marsh.

...and the Sandhill Crane returned and posed for pictures. Our trip to Fort Myers was short. We met with our rental agent, restocked and replaced a couple of lanai chairs, visited with friends and closed the condo for the summer before heading back to Ocala.

Next week Bill and I will head back to Colorado for the summer. We plan to travel via Route 10 through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, doing some birding along the way. I hate to see the season end as I really love it here at On Top of the World - but we'll be back!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Backyard Birding

We love to sit on our lanai and watch the birds. Bill had to fill the feeders every day while the American Goldfinches were getting ready for their trip north. We watched as they got yellower and yellower, then, one day last week they all just disappeared. We haven't seen one since - and our feeders are staying full MUCH longer!

We always see lots of Eastern Bluebirds.

They don't usually eat at the feeders, but will sit on top of a tree or on the feeder pole looking for bugs.

Another frequent visitor is the Tufted Titmouse.

For the last week we've seen Blue Grosbeaks. They like to eat the sunflower seeds that have dropped from the feeders. This picture was taken through the screened lanai window. I'm trying to get a better shot but they are very nervous and fly away as soon as I appear.

There are ALWAYS Mourning Doves eating under the feeders.

The Grey Squirrels have FINALLY discovered the feeders behind the house. Up until last week they were only in the front yard - never venturing behind the house or into the open space for fear of the hawks.

We have a Gopher Tortoise that lives behind the house. Usually, he doesn't venture more than a few feet from his burrow - but last week, Bill encountered him beside the house - and in quite a hurry to get someplace. We think maybe he was looking for a friend. We encouraged him to go back and watched as he walked behind all the houses heading to the protected field at the far end of the street where other Gopher Tortoises live.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Baby Owl

I got an email from a fellow OTOW resident that there was an immature Barred Owl just down the street from our community. Bill and I grabbed our binoculars and camera and off we went. 

Sure enough we spotted the owl exactly where the email indicated it would be.

We've been back a couple of times to see if the parents were around, but we haven't seen them.

He's awfully cute and responds when Bill does his owl call.

 Interesting profile.


After checking on the baby owl, we headed to Shalom Park to check on our nest of Blue Herons.

They don't look much like babies anymore - except for the fuzzy heads.

On the way back to OTOW we stopped to check and see if the Red-headed Woodpeckers were out. We saw several - at least six - flitting from snag to snag.

Looks like a young family to me.

We are getting reports that some of the colorful neo-tropical birds are returning to Florida - so we are keeping a sharp eye out for them. Wish us luck!

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park

While we were in the area, we decided to check out Wakulla Springs, home of the largest and deepest freshwater spring in the world. Several Tarzan movies with Johnny Weissmuller were filmed there - as well as "Creature From the Black Lagoon."

The Wakulla Springs Lodge was built in 1937. I was awed by the painted ceiling. 

One of my favorite shots.

Back at the Bed and Breakfast, we discover a book about the ceiling - showing each of the pictures and as much history about each as is known.

I have to include at least one bird from the park! This is a beautiful Northern Parula hiding in the bushes. Their song filled the air - happy little birds.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Saint Marks II

Another view of the St. Marks Lighthouse.

According to what I've read online about the lighthouse, it is still being used but I saw no signs to confirm that. I understand it is open to the public once a year.

The Water Lilies were in full bloom on all of the numerous ponds. We kept looking for the frogs that we could hear croaking thinking one of them sitting on a lily pad would make a great picture - but no such luck.

The Pied-billed Grebes were well represented...

as were the Scaups. I believe this is a Greater Scaup, which we don't usually see here in Florida. You can just barely see the green sheen on the head. His bill is blueish.

We had to stop the car and wait for this Black Snake to pass. He wasn't in any hurry so I got out and took a picture. The little no-seeum bugs were biting like crazy and we had to cover ourselves with bug spray. In addition, the mosquitoes were making their spring appearance. We all have numerous bites.

I think this a Rat Snake. He has a full belly and was trying to climb up the side of the lighthouse, but was too heavy.

There were several groups of what I think are Savannah Sparrows (just a hint of yellow over the eye) along the road looking for insects. They were not eating them fast enough!

The Bald Eagle on the left is probably 3 to 4 years old as there is very little brown mixed with the white on his head and tail

The Cattle Egrets are really cute with their puffy pink heads.

In Colorado we see (and hear!) the Broad-tailed Hummingbirds. This is a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. They move quickly and when the sun catches their neck feathers - they flash bright red. It's really hard for me to get a decent picture showing the quick flash of red.

This is probably the best picture of the bunch.

Our Belted Kingfisher was once again sitting by the road...

having a bad hair day.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

St. Marks NWR

The town of St. Marks is 3 plus hours North and West of Ocala, 17 miles South of Tallahassee and home to the St. Marks National Wildlife Preserve. We stayed in an Art-Deco Bed and Breakfast "Sweet Magnolia Inn" with a "get-comfortable-and-help-yourself" relaxed style. The Inn-keepers, Andy and his wife Denise, were great hosts - making breakfast to order and visiting over wine and munchies in the evenings.

 But our destination was the huge - 68,000 acres - National Wildlife Preserve just down Route 98. The entrance is a beautiful seven-mile drive to the St. Marks lighthouse and the preserve is home to many species of migratory birds.

The Saint Marks Lighthouse

We saw Bald Eagles all three days we visited. One of the volunteers told us there are 23 nesting pairs in the park. The light was not great for pictures - but I took lots and lots anyway.

I love these Cattle Egrets with their pink blush indicating they are ready and willing to begin mating.

Boat-tailed Grackles were everywhere.

We saw many kinds of shore birds and ducks. This is a Laughing Gull sporting his mating plumage with the black head.

The Great Blue Herons are always fun to photograph. They stay still - unlike the little birds.

The Thistle were blooming along the road and I was surprised to see Ruby-throated Hummingbirds flitting from flower to flower showing off their bright red throats when the sun hit them just right. I really tried to get a great picture - showing the whole bird AND the beautiful flower AND his ruby-red throat, but it was a chore! I have a couple of so-so sucesses that I will share in future blogs.

The Red-winged Blackbirds were also everywhere - making lots of noise.

One of my favorites - a Belted Kingfisher. It may look like he has two eyes on the side - but the one closer to his spectacular beak is a white spot.

The State Bird of Florida is the Mockingbird - and they were well represented in the park.

The Wisteria was blooming - everywhere. Bill took this picture in the parking lot of the Sweet Magnolia Inn. Ocala is too far south for Wisteria, so we were thrilled when we realized our short trip to the Forgotten Coast coincided with the plant's short blooming cycle.