Category Archives: North America

2 lifers at Disney Wilderness

On June 16th we visited the Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve near Kissimmee, Florida.

First we did some leisurely birding from the car on the drive in to the parking area.

Wild Turkey
Wild Turkeys hanging out by the side of the road

Despite this lousy photo, we did have a pretty good look at this lifer Swallow-tailed Kite as we approached the parking area.

Swallow-tailed Kite
Swallow-tailed Kite

Eastern Bluebird
An Eastern Bluebird greeted us at the parking area

The Preserve, established in 1992, spans 12,000 acres and includes several different habitats including swamp, wetlands, scrubland and flatwoods. Parts of the preserve are home to the endemic Florida Scrub Jay, but this area of the park is normally off-limits to visitors.

Again it was hot so we limited ourselves to a short walk on the John C. Sawhill Interpretive Trail.

The first sign of life on the trail

Disney Wilderness Preserve

Our second lifer of the day a Brown-headed Nuthatch, which we saw along the trail shown above.

Disney Wilderness Preserve

When we left the trail we signed out of the preserve’s trail register and noticed the only other recent visitor had been on the trails the day before, for just 15 minutes. We lasted about an hour and a half in the heat.

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Lakefront Park on Independence Day

This morning we biked to Round Lake after watching the local Independence Day parade. At the lake we visited a newly dedicated (June 6) part of Lakefront Park. The little park has an interpretive path and even a small restored wetland!

Lakefront Park wetland

Lakefront Park

Part of the park is woodland. An interpretive sign showed aerial photos of the land taken in 1939, when the former forest was cleared as farmland. In another photo you could see that by 1993 the farmland was gone and the woods were returning.

Lakefront Park path

Yay for suburban parks and restored habitats! Have a great Independence Day, fellow Americans, and a great July weekend to everyone else!

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Appropriate NASA birds

While in Florida last month we spent a day at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. It was all about astronauts, rockets and space exploration that day, but we did see these Black Vultures hanging out by the family/press bleachers. They would’ve had the best seats for the launch, if it hadn’t been scrubbed.


And we saw this Laughing Gull back at the complex, standing close to a digital sign that gave updates on the launch status. Sure, you’ll be at Kennedy for the next launch window (July 11), even if we aren’t. What are you laughing at?


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SWF: Longleaf Pines at Tibet-Butler

While waiting out the time between the scrubbed STS-127 launches in mid-June, we spent a couple of days around Kissimmee, Florida. One morning we visited Tibet-Butler Preserve in Orlando, a stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail.

Before we were chased out by the man-eating mosquitoes, we followed a bit of the Pine Circle Trail, where we were dwarfed by a forest of Longleaf Pine.


We were interested to read that seedlings of this tree have a so-called “grass stage” where they are easily mistaken for clumps of grass. Is that what we saw on the path, or are these simply fallen needles from the tall trees that surrounded us?


Our lone bird on the short walk was this Red-bellied Woodpecker.


We also glimpsed the greenest lizard I’ve ever seen (my guess – Green Anole [Anolis carolinensis]).


No photos of the mosquitoes but trust me, they were there. Have a great weekend and a safe Independence Day to my fellow Americans, wherever you are. Be sure to check out the other posts submitted for Skywatch Friday this week.

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Posted in Florida, Skywatch Friday | 11 Comments

Anhinga with fish

One bird we’re always sure of seeing when we visit Florida is the Anhinga. We saw this one bringing a fish back to shore to share with another Anhinga at the Intracoastal Waterway Park on Merritt Island.

Anhinga with fish

The Anhinga is another bird that has a nickname – they are called “snake birds” because of the way they look when swimming. An Anhinga will swim with most of his or her body submerged, with only the long & lean, snakey-looking head and neck exposed. Even when swimming with prey impaled on bill, as in these images, the snake bird lives up to its name.

Anhinga with fish

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BPW: Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

This Loggerhead Shrike posed for us during our visit to the Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve near Kissimmee, Florida, earlier this month.

Loggerhead Shrike

Shrikes are sometimes called “butcher birds” because of the way they handle their prey. Yes, these small birds are actually predators but they lack strong talons to rip apart prey. Instead they use their hooked beaks to rip flesh off of prey which they first impale onto thorns or barbed wire.

Loggerhead Shrike

We saw shrikes twice during our Florida road trip and both times we scanned nearby fences and trees for possible impaled prey, but we didn’t see any. That’s probably for the best – my old Golden Field Guide has an illustration of a Northern Shrike perched next to an impaled mouse and that’s almost too much for me to take.

Loggerhead Shrike

For more photos of birds from all around the world, check out the other submissions for this week’s Bird Photography Weekly.

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Skywatch Friday: Roseate Spoonbill

One of my all-time favorite bird species is the Eurasian Spoonbill, which is a summer breeder in the Netherlands. In the spring we used to go look for them in their breeding plumage which includes long head plumes and a yellowish breast band.

Spoonbill on Texel

I was hoping to get good looks at their cousins, the Roseate Spoonbill, when we were in Florida. We only saw them once, flying high up in the sky over Viera Wetlands.

Roseate Spoonbill

They were flying so high that we couldn’t tell what they were until we got our binoculars on them. Then there was no mistaking their pink bodies and spoon-shaped bills!

Roseate Spoonbill

For more stories of the sky from around the world, check out the other submissions for this week’s Skywatch Friday.

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Posted in Florida, Skywatch Friday, Viera Wetlands | 14 Comments

Our six Viera lifers

Viera Wetlands
Typical scene at Viera Wetlands

At Viera Wetlands last week, out of the 30 species we saw, six were lifers.

The Crested Caracara seems to be a symbol of the wetlands as its image was on several of the navigational signs on the roads. Both times we visited, the Caracara was perched in the same tall tree. Both times, we had good looks in bad, bad light. This photo isn’t too hot, but I think that profile is unmistakable. What a beautiful bird!

Crested Caracara

This Least Bittern was lurking in the reeds but did pop out for some great looks and mediocre photos.

Least Bittern

We saw some groups of Mottled Ducks in a few of the ponds.

Mottled Ducks

The Summer Tanager we saw was beautiful, but the photo I got of it was not.

We saw lots of Black-belled Whistling Ducks flying overhead, but rarely saw them in the water – except for the one pictured below. It was totally posing for us! I think this was my favorite bird we saw in Florida. I love the colors on this bird – black, white, brown, taupe, and that bright orangey-red bill.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Finally, we added Loggerhead Shrike to our life list. We’ve actually seen this bird before, very badly, at the Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve in Kissimmee a couple of years ago, but it wasn’t until recently that we noticed it was not recorded on our list. We had really excellent views of a pair of shrikes flying between two trees just a few yards from the car.

Loggerhead Shrike

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Southern birds at Viera

Even though we didn’t have a lot of time to go birding while in Florida last week (and even though I’m stretching out those few hours of birding into many posts, ha ha!), it was so much fun to see birds we don’t normally get to see up here where we live. Here are some of the more southern species we saw at Viera Wetlands.

Viera Wetlands

Northern Mockingbirds range into northern Illinois and further during the summer, but we just don’t get to see them much here in Lake County. Once we got into Tennessee though, they were all over the place. They were hanging out at Viera Wetlands, too.

Northern Mockingbird

We only saw one Glossy Ibis at Viera, even though these are pretty common birds in Florida.

Glossy Ibis

We also just saw this one lovely Limpkin.


And some more of the usual Florida suspects…

Anhingas everywhere!

Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret

Tri-colored Heron
Tricolored Heron

… and lots of these guys

Coming up next… our six lifers at Viera. Stay tuned!

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