I’m not sure if it is just me, but I think the weather has been amazing in Florida this summer. We have only had a few days of unbearable heat, and while most days are indeed hot and humid, they aren’t like the horrendous FL summer days you are warned about. Evenings are downright pleasant, especially right before and right after a thunderstorm moves through. This evening was just another example of this. I had a very productive day off of catching up on sleep, but set off in my kayak a little after 4 pm for Half Moon Lake (It is indeed shaped like a half moon, albeit a lumpy one), a relatively low key body of water not far from my house.
In general bird activity was low, but creeping along the lake edge turned up about six Green Herons. As I rounded a corner, I noticed a bird sitting on a nest box, and as I got closer, I realized it was a Black-bellied Whistling Duck! These cavity nesting ducks are not rare in Florida, by any means, but I don’t encounter that many of them, so it was a great find! I floated towards the box along the lake edge, as the perched bird watched cautiously. A splashing gator spooked both of us, and the duck flew off, eventually coming back to perch on the box. Meanwhile, I could hear some whistles from inside the box, and a second adult poked its head out. I can’t wait to see the babies, but I think they will be taking cover in the tall grasses nearby considering how many alligators live in this lake!
Unfortunately for me, I watched this pair of ducks too long, and mismanaged my time on the lake. Before I knew it, it was sprinkling, then pouring, and I was still about a mile from the launch. Whoops! My kayak trips are typically fairly leisurely, ending in an effective paddle sprint back to the launch, but this is the first time I really got stuck out in it. Luckily the lightning wasn’t as horrendous as it was for the last few storms!
Here is my ebird checklist for the quick trip. http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S18721627
And speaking of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks….earlier this week while checking American Kestrel nest boxes, I came across a flock of 31 Black-bellied Whistling ducks in a pond! This pond is not far from where I tracked a Whooping Crane on my first field adventure to Florida back in 2007. In 2007, this pond didn’t exist; Florida was and has been in a drought for a long time. It still is, but it isn’t extreme this year, and ponds have popped up all over the place, in places that they should have been for the past 7+ years. This was the largest flock of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks noted yet on eBird for Marion County.