A few weeks ago, I was able to leave the cold, grey winter of Michigan and visit my sister in the relative warmth of the Tampa Bay area of Florida. The first day there was cool and windy and though Marge kept saying how cold it was, I thought it was wonderful. I was just down there for a weekend and I said I just wanted to relax and enjoy nature. We enjoyed nature to the max, and ended up doing a great deal of bird watching. I just have to be in the right frame of mind for doing the usual sightseeing and touristy stuff and I just wasn’t in the mood. Marge and husband Tom were very accommodating and we spent my first full day on Honeymoon Island.
The whole island is a state park, and includes a nature center, trails and beaches. While visiting the nature center and trying to get a better view of a Great Egret during the low tide, we heard of a bald eagle nest over by the osprey trail. We decided to investigate.
From a distance, you can tell the difference between a Great Egret and a Little Egret by the color of the beak. The Great Egret has a yellow beak, the Little Egret has a black one. The black legs are very striking with the white body. A flock of Egrets can be called a “congregation” or a “wedge” of egrets, among other names.
Marge couldn’t make the 2 mile hike so she elected to stay behind, so Tom and I headed out.
The Head of the Trail
The landscape, consisting of tall pines with palms scattered throughout and white sand for soil. What we would call a scrub woods in Michigan.
Closer to the ground I spotted a Monarch Butterfly, looking the worse for wear.
This area is the perfect environment for Osprey. There were a lot of them.
We saw nests at the top of dead trees and adults perched on nearby limbs throughout the whole hike. You can tell by their curved beaks that they are in the raptor family; birds of prey. Their only source of food is fish so they must nest near water.
The trail passed right under this nest. The osprey pair watched all the humans closely but never moved.
Getting the evil eye as we walked under the nest. A very impressive looking bird. This one was a bit scary.
Here is our goal. A Bald Eagle nest with 2 fledglings, looking as though they are almost ready to fly.
The Bald Eagle parent; this was as close as we could get. The trail was fenced so visitors wouldn’t disturb the birds. Wish I had a better zoom lens.
Some interesting facts about eagles from whatbird.com : Bald Eagles can live up to 40 years in the wild; a group of the birds can be called an “aerie”, “convocation”, “jubilee”, “soar”, and a “tower” of eagles; and they will steal fish caught by the osprey.
After hiking back to the parking area, we decided to check out the beach. It was windy and a bit chilly.
On the beach at Honeymoon Island. Look Jill, over there!
She’s got sharp eye. It’s a White-Rumped Sandpiper. At least that’s what I think it is. I never really feel that I got a good identification of the bird. I know that it is some kind of sandpiper or plover. My favorite names for a group of sandpipers is a “fling” or a “time-step” of sandpipers.
On the way home, we made a quick stop near another white beach. This one had few humans to disturb the birds. There were a lot of webbed foot prints in the sand.
It was the dance of the gulls. (Stay tuned for my next Birds of Florida posting).