For a nature photographer in wintry New York, March in Florida is a refreshing break from winter's meager diet of birds. Here are a few of the most successful images from my first two days.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge has often been a rich location. On arrival I saw the dark haze in the distance that marks controlled burns. Most of my favored locations were closed, but one open area gave me a nice look at some Wood Storks. I left the next morning to explore new locations.
Look at that sturdy beak on a Wood Stork. A few days later across the state near Tampa, I watched them breaking off branches for nesting material. Some of the branches were close to being limbs. The example below is a lightweight piece compared to some they return to the nest with.
On day two, I visited a new location, Circle B Reserve near Winter Haven. It's a lot of walking but definitely worth the effort. Near the parking area, I came upon Barred Owls. Directly overhead was a pair of owls, one adult and a large juvenile. The one began to preen the other, and the interchange was beautiful to witness. Lots of "Oohs" and "Ahhs" were heard from observers.
The owl on the right initiated the preening, and I suspect it was the adult. (I should have been running video.) After five minutes, the bird on the right flew to a new perch; the visibility of it was nice.
There was more at Circle B like this Red-shouldered Hawk.
Nearby was a Cattle Egret attractively perched on a dead limb. The peach color is a breeding plumage.
Along the trail, there was a grassy prairie visible through the trees, and nearby were Sandhill Cranes. The red cap is what I look for when scouting for them. It has another formidable beak.
This pair did not appear to have chicks. There was a pair alongside the highway just outside the Circle B, but the traffic was just too heavy to pull off. They had chicks, but it was still not a good idea to risk my life for a photo.
This was a good beginning to the trip. In Part Two, I will share images of colorful Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibis and a few other surprises.