A Pied-billed Grebe
The Sharon Wiechens Nature Preserve in The Villages is a community treasure of a place! I really enjoy visiting this lake-side preserve here. I made a short trip there yesterday afternoon and saw quite a few different birds. I spotted two Southern Bald Eagles; a Pied Billed Grebe; a flying hen Mallard Duck; a Great Egret; a Glossy Ibis; a nesting Moorhen; and a few Boat-tailed Grackles.
I also saw a few Common Coots there at the preserve. Usually I spot something different when we visit each time. There is a fantastic boardwalk deck overlook which loops around into the lake itself over the shallow marsh. I also occasionally go up onto the wooden observation deck structure for a quick look around. I did not see any Sherman’s Fox Squirrels this trip. Please click on the thumbnail image to see the slightly larger version of the picture. Enjoy!
A Great Egret
Male Boat-tailed Grackles
A Glossy Ibis
Southern Bald Eagles (From a distance)
A Hen Mallard
Common Moorhen on its Nest
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, and Little Blue Herons are the most commonly seen herons here in The Villages, Florida. The Great Blue Heron is the most frequently seen, followed by the Little Blue Heron. I think I have only seen one Green Heron here and that was a year ago.
All of these herons are wading birds that shuffle along in the shallows of the lakes and ponds to spear fish, frogs, or turtles with their long sharp bills. They also eat larger insects, small lizards, and large aquatic insects or snails.
The herons roost up in tall trees. Many prefer the Cypress Trees here. Some also will roost in the medium-sized trees where there also are Ibis or Egrets. We used to have a large area of roosts on Morse Blvd. (I had photographed it and posted about it many months ago) but that area seems out of favor with the birds in recent months. I don’t know the reason for the big move. It could be a case of too much threat from coyotes or other predators. Please click on the thumbnail image to see the larger version of the photo.
Little Blue Heron
Male Eastern Bluebird
We went to what we thought was a Burrowing Owl Preserve here in our area a few days ago. We heard from a resident who lives next to the preserve, that due to the presence of Coyotes, the owls had left that large field preserve area a few years ago. I did spot a trio of songbirds and surprisingly, a small Black Racer Snake, which is non-poisonous.
The Eastern Bluebirds cheerfully sat on the wooden fence surrounding the large field that had been the home of the owls (supposedly now it is home to Gopher Tortoises which we did not see). After the Eastern Bluebirds left, a Northern Mockingbird took their place on the fence. I also spotted an Eastern Blue Jay in the trees next to the fence but there were too many leaves in the way of my shot to get a good picture. Please click on the thumbnail image to see the larger picture. Enjoy!
Female Eastern Bluebird
The “Surprise”! A Black Racer Snake
A Northern Mockingbird
Juvenile Little Blue Heron in White
The Little Blue Heron is a gorgeous wading bird that actually is a member of the egret family of birds! I am showing both the older juvenile in its white morph, and the adults in what probably is its breeding colors (fairly bright purple-blue).
The Little Blue Heron eats fish, frogs, young tender turtles, aquatic snails, tadpoles, crayfish, aquatic insects, eggs, ducklings, and some shoreline rodents and insects. They live around marshy areas of ponds, lakes, springs, and rivers.
I usually see the Little Blue Herons close to the shoreline. The Little Blue Herons are medium in stature and prefer to wade in shallow water. They are expert in flight, too. I see the Little Blue Heron mostly in the early morning or late afternoon. I took these pictures on January 14, 2016, and again on January 16, 2016. I snapped the pictures at the pond on Sumter County Road 466 next to the Walmart at The Villages; and at the Sharon Rose Wiechens Nature Preserve in The Villages, Florida. Please click on the thumbnail image to see the larger picture. Enjoy!
Little Blue Heron in blue breeding phase
White Phase Little Blue Heron
Blue Phase Little Blue Heron (Adult)
Adult Little Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron in Breeding Plumage
White Phase Little Blue Heron (older juvenile)
Common Moorhens and Common Coots are both members of the Rail family of birds. Both of these duck-like birds were spotted a few days ago happily paddling around the marshy shallows of a medium-sized lake in a new nature preserve, the Sharon Rose Weichens Preserve, which has opened at The Villages, Florida. This preserve is also where I photographed the Sherman Fox Squirrels.
The Moorhens and Coots mostly eat vegetation but also will eat insects, worms, and snails. They really are quite good at flying as well as walking on land (but generally only walk near the shore). These birds are often preyed-upon by eagles and hawks. Both genders of Common Coots look-alike, but the hen Common Moorhen is brown rather than the black of the drake Common Moorhen. I am always happy to see the coots and moorhens! Please click on the thumbnail image to see the slightly larger picture.