Double Crested Cormorants are frequently here on our ponds and lakes in the winter months here in The Villages, Florida. These birds enjoy the warm weather quite a lot and around ponds, lakes, rivers, and both fresh and salt water marsh-lands. Some of these cormorants are natives here but many are migrants from places north of us. I also have spotted Double-Crested Cormorants at marina docks on the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico at Cedar Key here in Florida.
These water birds dive for fish, frogs, baby alligators, tender soft-shelled turtles and larger aquatic insects and aquatic mollusks. At times, Double-crested Cormorants are mixed in near the White Pelicans here. The Double-Crested Cormorants are similar in looks to the slightly smaller Anhinga birds. The Anhingas have a straight bill while there is a downward hook to the tip of the bill on the Double-Crested Cormorants. Please click on the thumbnail image to see the slightly larger version of the picture. Enjoy!
Diving for a bit of food
Great and Snowy Egrets and Mallard Ducks
Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and several other kinds of wading birds and water birds were all spotted at a large freshwater marsh/rainfall retention area that is a nature preserve here in The Villages, FL community. This bird spot is located on Buena Vista Blvd. just South of the Lake Miona Recreation Center and the Bass Fishing Pond on that same street.
There were perhaps fifty egrets there with additional Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, White Ibis, and Mottled Ducks, Mallard Ducks and the ever popular Black-bellied Whistling Ducks (including many juvenile whistlers)! A truly nice gathering of birds to observe. I took these pictures yesterday morning from the grassy area off of the multi-modal path near a nicely placed bench. I of course used my long lens as the birds were quite a distance away. Please click on the thumbnail image to see the slightly smaller version of the photo. Enjoy!
Egrets and Florida Mottled Ducks
Egrets in the Preserve
At the Walmart Buffalo Ridge Pond
The Red-winged Blackbirds are here at the freshwater marshes around The Villages, FL now. I have spotted these gorgeous male Red-winged Blackbirds in many spots around the lakes and ponds. The birds often hunt for insects to eat by landing on larger lily pads, Cattail Reeds, and Willow Trees. The female is a much less vividly colored brown bird resembling a female Cowbird, Grackle, Starling or even a larger sparrow. The males have vivid, deep orange-red and yellow bars on the shoulders.
Red-winged Blackbirds dine on insects, worms, spiders, and during the Winter and early Spring, they add seeds and grains to their diet. The Red-winged Blackbirds can be noisy when there are a lot of them around. These birds are commonly spotted in many places throughout the United States. I was happy to have seen the handsome males at the Walmart “Buffalo Ridge” pond off of CR 466, and also at the Lake Deaton area Sharon Weichen Nature Preserve in The Villages, FL.
In Flight at the Walmart Pond
At the Walmart Pond
At the Sharon Weichens Nature Preserve
Canada Geese at Lake Paradise
Canada Geese, Egyptian Geese, a Snow Goose, and Chinese Geese are the United Nations of Geese here in The Villages, Florida! We have a lot of ponds and small lakes here plus numerous golf courses and parks. These three breeds of geese are predominately the geese seen in the area. There also occasionally are a few Canada Geese hybrids (likely interbreeding with Chinese Geese or possibly Greylag Geese). I have only spotted a single Snow Goose, but who knows, there could be a small flock here in other places.
The Canada Geese are numerous. There only are a few small flocks of the Egyptian Geese and the Chinese Geese. By the way, the Chinese Geese are a domestic farm breed and either were middle of the night donations, or were escapees. All of these geese enjoy grains and grass to eat. Please click on the thumbnail image to see the slightly larger version of that picture. Enjoy!
Egyptian Geese at Lake Paradise
The lone Snow Goose at Lake Paradise
Chinese Geese at Lake Mira Mar at the Veteran’s Park
I spotted an Osprey atop a huge high tension electric tower along Highway 441 near the Paynes Prairie Preserve overlook when I was there on May 3, 2015. I did not see many birds or animals but did notice a few Red-winged Blackbirds, Boat-tailed Grackles (I believe the center picture below shows a Boat-tailed Grackle in flight) and heard a few Alligators.
It was pretty breezy out so I just enjoyed the blooming purple flowers of the Pickerel Weed that seemed to be carpeting the fresh water marsh. Please click on the thumbnail image to see a slightly larger version of the picture. Enjoy!
A lot of wildlife was spotted at the lovely La Chua Trail in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park near Gainesville, FL, on March 12, 2015. I saw 14 large American Alligators just off the wide easy trail. One does have to be careful about the alligators but they were all in the water and off of the path while I was there (alligators do get close to the trail!). I photographed that Common Gallinule (below center) just a moment before one of the alligators snuck up on it and had it for dinner.
The trail is about 2 miles long and is flat with several shade areas with benches. There is a large overlook at the end but I did not get that far as it was a hot afternoon and I was pretty tired. I only did half of this beautiful trail. We paid a $4.00 parking/entry fee at the trail head parking lot. If you go, don’t forget a bottle of drinking water! Please click on the thumbnail image to see the larger picture. Enjoy!