Not Exactly Pretty…

Last week I found this Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) wandering around my favorite nearby oasis, Walsingham Park. The yellow bill and feathery head indicate that it was a juvenile (the bill will turn black and the feathers will disappear from the neck up as it matures).

I followed as it foraged in the shallows, watching it get muddier by the minute. It didn’t seem to have much success with its foot stirring method of hunting, but perhaps that is a skill refined with age?

Standing at 3-4′ tall it is in the same size range as the Great Egret and Blue Heron though nowhere near as lissome in appearance. With its scaly head and neck, to me, it bears a strong resemblance to a vulture. It can even ride thermals like a vulture.

The descriptions are no less kind as it is referred to as hefty with a massive bill. I will say that the black flight and tail feathers flashed with a colorful iridescence. I only wish I’d captured a photo of that!

 

Good People, Doing Good

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For the past four weeks I’ve been volunteering at the St. Petersburg Free Clinic’s drive through food bank. Since I’m out of work right now as a result of the pandemic I figured I might as help out. Plus, as you all know, I don’t sit still well so having a productive outlet for my energy is important.

A huge perk of this gig is working alongside some wonderful people. And we do quite a bit of work: last Thursday we handed out 45,000 pounds of food! No, that’s not a typo, we actually distributed 22.5 tons of comestibles.

The fun and enthusiastic demeanors of the staff and volunteers makes the time fly by. Occasionally, there’s even a bit of dancing…

Up, Down

I took these images of the drawbridge over John’s Pass back in January, when the bars and restaurants were still open. My favorite spot for happy hour was right on the water, which not only afforded me good views of the bridge action but of frolicking dolphins and the sunset as well. Plus, I could walk there on the beach from my place. It was an ideal spot!

For those of you, like myself, who are fascinated by the engineering, a couple short videos. First, a sailboat cruising through the opening:

The bridge closing (in real time):

One Chance

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Wood Ducks, Walsingham Park, Largo, Florida April 2020

This handsome but skittish Wood Duck pair (Aix sponsa) allowed me one photograph before flying off. I am relatively pleased with my single shot. I have taken better pictures of a male before but this is my first one with a female included.

Though he obviously steals the show with his vivid rainbow array of colors, she sports some nice iridescence. Maybe someday I’ll be permitted a photo session with a female. A girl can hope…

Don’t Mess With Momma!

A few weeks ago I spent a lovely, sunny afternoon strolling around John S. Taylor Park in nearby Largo. It wasn’t very birdy out but I still found creatures to interest me, namely several alligators.

I was pleasantly surprised to come across three young ones. While I can’t promise that the first photo is of mom, there were too many gators to keep track of, she was definitely that size. The opposite of a helicopter parent, mom was floating out near the center of the pond. That aloof demeanor, however, belied her fierce protective nature.

Which became apparent as soon as another gator mistakenly swam too close. A slow speed chase ensued, with the intruder wisely opting for the other side of the pond.

No wonder they have all those no swimming signs posted!

The Wailing Bird

The Limpkin (Aramus guarauna) is a really unusual bird. Though it is the only living member of its genus, it shares habits, and even resembles, a large rail but structurally it is built more like a crane. I’ve shared photos of limpkins recently, if you’d like more information about them.

While those oddities are enough to make this bird standout, its loud, piteous call is what earns it the nickname, wailing bird. The limpkin making all this noise is standing in the pickerelweed where the shade ends, though I dare say, it will be hard to find.

And here’s a challenge to my fellow birders, what bird is calling in the distance?

Flutterbies

For years I’ve been on a mission to change the name for these delicate, aerial masters from butterflies to flutterbies. I have two simple reasons: they actually flutter by when navigating from flower to flower and they are not, in fact, made of butter.

These are a few of the flitting beauties that I’ve encountered over the past few weeks, roughly in size order from largest to smallest. Left to right, top to bottom: Monarch (Danaus plexippus), Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charithonia), Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae), Dorantes Longtail Skipper (Urbanus dorantes), Tropical Checkered Skipper (Pyrgus oileus), Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis), Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius), Dainty Sulphur (Nathalis iole), Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus).

Last but not least, this brightly-colored caterpillar, and while not technically a flutterby, it does represent one life stage that all flutterbies must pass through.

White-marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar

White-marked Tussock Moth (Orgyia leucostigma) Caterpillar, Clearwater, Florida April 2020