Well…it’s mating season for the birds down here in Florida so we headed up to Venice to the Venice Audobon Rookery yesterday morning. It was originally scheduled for Tuesday but it was raining so we blew it off until a nicer weather day.
Set our clocks for 0500 and got out the door a bit before 0600. After a quick trip 1 mile south on US-41 on exiting the neighborhood…we went into the Circle K for gas, coffee, and a donut each as we were planning on having breakfast later. After that…we headed north on 41 and then hopped on over to I-75 where they almost intersect 8 miles or so north of Magnolia Landing and thence on up to Venice. It’s about 5 miles from the freeway to the rookery and the last quarter mile or so they’re building a bunch of something so there is construction equipment everywhere but they did leave a nice path through it to the rookery parking lot. The tractor noise and such kind of spoils the mood a bit but it apparently isn’t bothering the birds at all…they’re pretty habituated to people there.
We arrived just a couple minutes after sunrise at 0710 or so…and got the last parking space available although there were some latecomers that parked along the road. The rookery itself consists of a pond about 100 yards by 150 yards with an island in the middle but closer to the side with the parking lot…there’s about 20 yards of water between the shore and the island. And…it’s simply packed with birds nesting in all their finery…many species all mixed together. There were probably 40 people there taking photos so we jumped right in.
Here’s a shot of about 1/4 of the island to illustrate the close packed nature of the nesting sites…as you can see there’s plenty there. We counted Great Egrets, great blue herons, Anhinga, moorhens, green herons, black crowned night herons, ducks as well as red winged Blackbirds and several other songbirds. We’ve always found it strange that the species count is pretty fixed…no little blue herons or snowy egrets at all in the 3 or 4 times we’ve been up there. We did see a couple of sandhill cranes on one visit but not this time.
Before getting into the rest of the photos…a little catch up for us. We’ve decided to…mostly…stay away from the Elks for the time being as management is…well…being stupid and not enforcing any COVID precautions. We aren’t really concerned for our safety as we’ve both had it as well as the first vaccination jab…but neither of those prevents you from carrying the virus with you and spreading it…masks remain a good idea even if you’re immune to protect others. We discovered this state of affairs on the 13th when we went there for the Valentines Day shindig and discovered that nobody was wearing masks except for us. The Exalted Ruler told all of the members when we reopened in early January that precautions were required and that folks should remain masked unless sitting at a table…and the tables had been spread out for social distancing. All of that is apparently now out the window though. We left and had a pizza instead…whoopee, what a great Valentines Day dinner…and Neil sent the ER an email about the lack of precautions. His response was that he was responsible for the business of the lodge first over the health of the members…and the he wasn’t interested in playing policeman to enforce the rules. Nuts I tellya.
Not much else new…so back to our day trip. This was Connie’s first chance to use her new mirrorless Nikon Z50 with a longer lens than she used to have…she still needs some camera training on new features but all in all she was impressed with it and able to get shots she couldn’t get previously. Of particular usefulness to her was the much improved autofocus algorithm which allowed her to actually get several decent bird in flight shots…something she’s previously not been able to do both because of the short lens on her old camera as well as the inability for her to find the bird in the viewfinder and get focused quickly enough to get a shot. Neil also took his new Nikon 500PF bird lens along on his main body and took her old body back so he can carry a second one. That worked and gave him the ability to shift lens without having to change lenses…but the limited feature set on her old body kept him from using it as much as he would have liked…so he clearly needs an upgrade for his second body as well. He’s going to wait a bit and see if Nikon comes out with a more fully featured crop sensor mirrorless body before making a decision. The biggest problems are that her old body has slow autofocus with a less sensitive algorithm and the frame rate for burst shooting is simply too low for any kind of action.
Anyways…on to the photos…I’ll brag on hers as they go in.
This used to be called a moorhen…but it got broken out into it’s own species a few years back and is now known as a common Gallinule…as opposed to a purple Gallinule which is slightly different as it is purplish, hence the name.
This shot was shortly after arrival and it was only about 10 feet away. As Neil turned away to talk to Connie there was a huge splash behind him and this little fellow fled across the water 20 feet or so…obviously the gator missed breakfast as it surfaced out in the pond a few seconds later.
Connie’s first actually successful bird in flight shot that Neil can recall anyway…the Z50 grabbed onto the Great Egret in flight and ignored the Anhinga behind it. They fly relatively slowly but the algorithm takes motion into account and assumes the moving thing is the subject.
The egret above took a turn around the pond then came back to the island to land…it had some sort of disagreement with another Great Egret as you can see…and the male Anhinga in the foreground got into the discussion as well…he was probably just saying “get off my lawn”.
Great Egret with mating plumage…these feathers and their need for fancy hats back in the 1800s played a large part in the reduction in numbers of both herons and egrets…when those hats went out of fashion the fowl made a comeback. Don’t know if this is a male or female…you can’t tell them apart visually but the male does have a display where it extends it’s neck vertically and moves it up and down to entice the ladies.
Great Blue Heron with breeding plumage and a couple of chicks…er, heron-ettes I guess…there’s a close up of them that Connie got later.
Grumpy old lobster boat captain Great Egret standing on a branch…this one has a lot more plumage than the one above so that may be because it’s a different gender, or maybe an older bird, or maybe just random variation or how it appears when hanging down as opposed to the display above.
Neil spotted this squirrel and it stood up very nicely in a beam of sunlight for him.
This is a male Great Egret doing that display thing I talked about…Connie got a shot of him. As you can see…it hasn’t enticed the ladies yet.
Red winged Blackbird.
Extreme close up of head on a Great Egret with Neil’s new bird lens from about 12 feet away…as you can see the detail and focus on the eye is tack sharp and very finely detailed.
Close up of the two Great Blue Heron chicks from before…Connie really liked their punk spike hairdo…or featherdo I guess…and took way too many pictures (like 100) of the pair.
Yellow rumped warbler…although Peterson’s was not able to identify it for Neil as the picture in there doesn’t match this one at all. Fortunately…google showed him that there’s a lot of variation in this species appearance and one of the images he found was colored almost exactly like this one. Connie got this shot through the tree branches.
Another male Great Egret looking for a mate.
Another successful bird in flight for Connie…a Great Egret bringing some construction material back to the nest site.
And she also spotted this cowbird through the trees.
As well as this Red Winged Blackbird.
Neil got a slightly closer shot of the same individual when it hopped to a neighboring perch. They also got several shots of it displaying with its patches out in the search for a mate.
Displaying…so this is a male…and the females are more brownish and not black at all.
Red bellied woodpecker…although there’s really not much red on his belly but more on the back of his head. Unfortunately…the red headed woodpecker was named before this one and that one looks like his whole head was dipped into the paint can.
Downy woodpecker…the smallest woodpecker species in the US…identified by the red tuft and we like his punk hairdo as well.
Green Heron…normally a very shy and hard to find species. This one was completely habituated to people and stayed at the edge of the water within 8 or 10 feet of the crowd for 20 minutes or so. Neil liked his “what you lookin’ at?” attitude.
Female Anhinga…she has the brown neck all the time and the eyes get especially green when looking for a mate.
Biggest gator we seen in a long time…he was hanging out right near the island but wasn’t the one that went after the bird shortly after our arrival. He announced his presence with that deep rumbling noise that bull gators use to intimidate other bulls so no fights are necessary…the deeper the rumble the bigger the gator and the littler ones stay away.
Male Anhinga bringing in some construction material.
A different male Anhinga coming in for a landing.
Different view of the Green Heron…it is relatively short necked and fat bodies compared to other herons.
Common Gallinule again…they’re floaters and swim like ducks but with those long toes instead of webbing I’m surprised they can move in the water as well as they do.
Connie came over and got in on the Green Heron and Common Gallinule action as well.
This flock of Muscovy Ducks kept coming and flying around the pond but never landed.
Close up of female Anhinga.
Black Crowned Night Heron…his breeding plumage is pretty minimalistic, consisting of just the single white feather you see here.
Interesting things found on the net…just a couple as this has already been a long post at 1855 w words and over 10K characters.
We have this local community bulletin board thing named NextDoor…this is a post on it recently.
Unfortunately…Laura doesn’t seem to realize that fish don’t have lungs and are physically incapable of gulping air due to low oxygen levels in the ponds. They eat bugs off of the surface and also hang out with their heads sticking up a bit but I really don’t think they’re gasping for breath as they aren’t moving…not to mention that whole no lungs thing.
With the ongoing power issues in Texas due to the storm…and by the way the problem is not as simplistic as either side wants you to believe…it is neither the fault of the wind turbines going off line or the output from them. They can be designed to operate in cold weather but the ones in Texas were not…like all utilities their rates are regulated and just like out in the PRC they were not given sufficient rates to properly design and maintain the system or to buy the expensive extra cold weather features. There are also some management issues involved but it isn’t as simple as the talking heads on the news make it out to be. Anyway…
Again…I keep asking myself why anybody cares about things like this and why would any effort be spent on figuring them out…but there’s this thing called Diophantine equation and back in 1954 some math geek suggested this one…x³+y³+z³=k with k being all the numbers from 1 to 100. Turns out that all of the numbers had been either solved for or demonstrated that the left hand terms didn’t exist…except for Douglas Adam’s favorite number 42…but it was solved recently.
I still don’t know why anybody cares.