A cute Pied-billed Grebe was spotted at the golf course pond behind the Mark Twain Library here in The Villages, FL on Sunday afternoon. The small water bird is a frequent Winter visitor to our area. This bird dives for aquatic snails, small fish, tiny frogs, tadpoles, tender small crayfish, and aquatic worms.
I rarely see flocks of these birds but generally do see one or two at a time. These are at home on ponds lakes and slower flowing rivers. The Pied-billed Grebe is named for the banded, short, chicken-like bill the bird has. Please click on the thumbnail image to see the slightly larger version of the picture. Enjoy!
Hooded Merganser Ducks at Lake Mira-mar
Great Egrets; White Pelicans; Snowy Egrets; Wood Storks; Pied-billed Grebes; Hooded Mergansers; Lesser Scaup Ducks; Mallard Ducks; Black-bellied Whistling Ducks; Great Blue Herons; Seagulls; Common Coots; Moorhens; Double-crested Cormorants; Egyptian Geese; Canada Geese; White Ibis; Florida Mottled Ducks; Little Blue Herons, Anhingas; and to a lesser extent Sandhill Cranes; Glossy Ibis; and Limpkins, all are currently to be seen here in The Villages, FL on lakes, ponds, and park-like lawns.
Of course, I am only showing just a few here on today’s post. It is such fun to see the big birds en-mass, at various times. By the way, the roost area on Morse Ave. near Rio Grande that had been abandoned for about a year, is back to being used by at least the White Ibises and a few egrets! Please click on the thumbnail image to see the slightly larger version of the picture. Enjoy!
Pied-billed Grebe at Lake Mira-mar
Snowy Egrets, Seagulls, Pelican, Wood Stork, all at Freedom Pointe Lake
The fishing must have been quite good as a couple of days ago I spotted a Tri-colored Heron, a Snowy Egret, a pair of Pied-billed Grebes, and later, some Hooded Mergansers all trying to catch their lunch in the shallows of a little park lake near here. All really love eating small fish, tadpoles, frogs, small turtles, and aquatic snails.
This particular little lake also has a few small resident alligators competing and preying so I think the wading birds are pretty careful – I know I was! This arm of the lake is behind the Veteran’s Memorial near Spanish Square and next to the famous golf cart bridge over highway 441. Please click on the thumbnail image to see a larger version of that photo. Enjoy!
American White Ibises and a resting Wood Stork
There have been a tremendous number of water birds, and wading birds here in my area in the last week. I have seen several hundred Hooded Merganser ducks, about twenty-two or more Wood Storks, ten or so Great Blue Herons, probably thirty Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets, Anhingas, Common Cormorants, White Pelicans (sorry no pictures as they left before I returned with the camera), a Tri-color Heron, hundreds of American White Ibises, a pair of Sandhill Cranes, Canada, Egyptian and Chinese Geese, Pied-billed Grebes, Common Coots, and a Limpkin!
Such fun to watch all this action on a daily basis. I took these pictures here in Sumter and Lake Counties in The Villages, Florida, in the past week. Please click on the thumbnail image to see the larger version of the picture. Enjoy!
Great Blue Heron
Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets
Every year at about this time during the Fall, the Pied-billed Grebes come back to visit the lake. They seem to stay around, except when the lake is totally frozen-over. This group of about five younger Pied-billed Grebes seemed to be unafraid and curious about the shoreline area. Previous groups or individual Grebes usually were quite shy and tended to dive under the water to avoid human presence of any kind. Our lake has had little boat traffic recently since the marina is closed for the season. It has been much quieter here on the water than in past weeks.
The Pied-billed Grebes are water birds but are not ducks. They are great divers and eat insects, fish, and small water animals. The birds get their names because the short bill has a slight banding of a darker color. This band becomes much darker during the breeding season for the males. These water birds do fly and also do most of their traveling on the lake by paddling like ducks do. I was very happy to see the group of Pied-billed Grebes! Please click on the thumbnail image to see the larger picture. Enjoy!
I took these pictures of the Western Grebes a few weeks ago before the lake froze over. I have not seen them in the last week. These larger water birds are migrant visitors. The Western Grebe, like the much smaller Pied-Billed Grebe, eat small aquatic animals and fish. They dive for their meals. The Grebes tend to paddle in pairs but sometimes will join with the Ducks and Coots. Since the American Coots already were up on my dock and in my yard, the Grebe just decided to hop up onto the dock and sit with the Coots. Boy was I ever surprised to see the Grebe out of the water and on the wooden dock! I have not seen this happen before or since. The Grebe was on the dock on 1/2/11. The smaller black-colored bird sitting next to the Grebe is an American Coot. I took the pictures from my basement window. I have also included a photo of the Western Grebe paddling in the water that I took on 1/3/11. I was quite pleased to be able to see the Western Grebe up close on that cold winter day. Please click on the thumbnail version to see the larger photo. Enjoy!
Western Grebes are migrant visitors here and I’ll bet they never expected to find their temporary winter quarters to be frozen! These Grebes are a type of water bird and are not ducks at all. They are large and eat small fish, small aquatic animals, and insects. We have about 1-2″ of ice still on our 101 acre private community lake. The lake froze over for the second time this winter. There are a huge number of Ducks, Geese, and assorted other water birds, such as American Coots, Pied-Billed Grebes and the Western Grebes, huddled in a long line just near our marina (the marina is closed for the winter). The birds are basically just standing or sitting huddled together on top of the frozen lake. This cluster line of water birds is about a third of a mile away from my home so it is very hard to show in a good photograph. I am including one shot taken with my 18mm – 200mm Nikkor lens on my Nikon D300S digital SLR camera. My long zoom lens is at the Sigma shop being repaired as that lens’ auto-focus does not work properly. So, a regular type of lens will have to do for another couple of weeks until my zoom returns home. Anyway, I took these pictures from my back deck on 12/28/10 (Ducks and Grebes) and on 12/29/10 (Coots) rather late in the afternoon. The American Coot flock had been huddled under my dock and then went for a stroll out onto the ice. A few decided that walking on ice was “For the birds” and flew the short distance to the main group of birds way out by the marina. Please click on the thumbnail version to see the larger picture. Enjoy! P.S. Please forgive the lay-out today. I sometimes have difficulty properly lining the pictures up when using the photo caption option. Thanks!
Waterfowl on the ice
American Coots starting out onto the ice
American Coots going out onto the ice
Ducks, Geese, Grebes, and Coots galore were out on our 101 acre community lake yesterday. A few migratory visitors surprised me when I took a picture of a large group of mixed birds way out on the lake. Imagine my surprise to see in one spot American Widgeons, Pied-Billed Grebes, Mallard Ducks, American Coots, Wood Ducks and of all things, Lesser Scaup Ducks! Very exciting to say the least! This is the first time I have seen Scaup ducks and they are interesting beauties with black and white coloring with a blue bill and yellow eyes. We also have our resident group of Canada Geese and that old faithful Greylag Goose is still here. Our lake is having far fewer boats out so the ducks feel safer on the water. My husband also reported seeing a Bald Eagle fly over the lake this morning. That makes a lot of sense as I have read that the Bald Eagle likes eating Coots. When the Eagles fly around here, all of the little animals and smaller waterbirds hide. I also noted that the big flock of Coots is now here. I saw about 50 Coots in all. We probably had 30 Widgeons here today. Only a handful of the Scaups and Grebes were out. Same for the Wood Ducks (I only saw 2 today). In the photo of the big mixed flock, there are American Widgeons, Grebes, Lesser Scaups, American Coots, and a Wood Duck or two. All of these pictures were taken on 10/31/10 from my back deck. Today was certainly that “Waterbird Extravaganza” type of day here! By the way, so far, this morning is a very quiet one and a big contrast to all of the exciting scenes of yesterday. Please click on the thumbnail version to see the larger picture. Enjoy!
American Coots are not ducks but are water birds that are members of the Rail family of birds. They do closely resemble diving ducks. They have dark grey to light black bodies with the same shade of black heads and a white chicken-like beak or bill. They also have really enormous feet that are somewhere between a chicken’s and a duck’s in look. Coots have a slightly white slender tip of the tail feathers. This white coloring is really quite slight. The American Coots are Fall and Winter visitors here on the lake. I have been eagerly awaiting their arrival for several weeks now. So far as of yesterday (10-15-10 when I took the pictures), I have just seen the one Coot, who may be a scout bird. If this one Coot is not a scout, it means that the main flock is indeed here but I just have not seen it because it is on the other arm of our lake. The Coots have a slight whistling call and don’t quack. They are pretty shy. They eat lake weeds primarily. They do not come up on the shore very much but prefer to paddle around in shallow areas. I saw a huge number of the Coots out on the partially frozen lake last January. The Coots usually stay around until mid to late March and then are on the way elsewhere, usually up North. I was slightly amused to see that paddling right around the Coot was a single Pied-Billed Grebe (part of that big flock visiting here in recent days). In fact, that Grebe seemed to be fairly aggressive toward the Coot! Please click on the thumbnail version to see the larger picture.
On a very personal and one time only note, today’s post is in memory of my friend and professional mentor from the City of Sacramento, CA, Madeline Craveiro, who passed away on Aug. 29, 2010 at age 87. She was my boss, friend, and inspired my own interest in birds. (I just learned of her passing yesterday). R.I.P. Maddie.
Grebe (left) Coot (right)