Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mead, Leu and Christmas in October

Wood Ducks
There are times when I have to stop, take a deep breath, and thank God for where I am and what I’m doing.  Yesterday was one of those days.  I spent it birding in the Orlando area at Mead Gardens, Leu Gardens, and the Orlando Wetlands Park in the little town of Christmas.  The weather was perfect, the company was great (as always, we laughed like fools), the people we met were so nice, and the birding was very good.  You can’t ask for more.

Anyway, the Big Red Van left Alachua County at 5:30 and reached Mead Gardens at 8:00 AM.  Within moments, we had a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and a Gray Catbird, and we hadn’t yet left the parking lot!  We worked our way down to the pond where we found the Wood Ducks pictured above.  I know God was playing with a box of 64 Crayolas when he created Wood Ducks and was thinking, “Let’s just get a little crazy here.”

Green Heron
We were fortunate to meet up with the local folks doing the morning Bird Walk, and they helped us find a few really good birds including a male Black-throated Blue Warbler, a Black-and-white Warbler, and an American Redstart.  One of our group chipped in with a young male Black-throated Green Warbler.  Eventually we ended the morning with an Indigo Bunting and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird giving us 33 species for Mead Gardens.

After lunch we headed into Leu Gardens.  It’s a gorgeous place, but the admission price of $7.46 per person was a bit steep – especially with Mead being free and just a mile or two away – and I read that the price is going up to $10 soon.  I’m afraid I would have to scratch it off my birding hot-spots list if I were a local.  Couldn’t afford it.  Still, the place was really beautiful and for mid-day birding we had some success.  The observation platform at the lake gave us a great look at a Green Heron (right) and a soaring Red-tailed Hawk.  Then as we were about to leave, we hit one little area near the Citrus Grove that had a Brown Thrasher, a Tennessee Warbler, and a Magnolia Warbler.  That’s not a bad way to end a walk!

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks
Next we headed east to Christmas, Florida, and the Orlando Wetlands Park.  It was late in the day when we arrived so we knew we couldn’t do the entire Birding Trail.  Instead, we walked one edge of the Cypress Marsh and a piece of the Birding Trail.  Among the species we found were the Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks pictured at left and a few Purple Gallinules (below). 

The Orlando Wetlands Park is one of my favorite places, so I’m bummed that it’s closed from November 15 through the end of January for duck hunting.  I hope the ducks avoid the human predators, and I’ll be back in February to do some duck watching. 

Purple Gallinule
Orlando Wetlands Park, Christmas, Florida

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