Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Week 34

23 Aug 2013, Lake Apopka

Before the rains came at Lake Apopka, there were only nine Swallow-tailed Kites in the vicinity.  As the skies lose these incredibly beautiful raptors for the season, my eyes remain looking skyward to start searching for early migrant Broad-winged Hawks and falcons, and prepare for the super exciting trip for the annual Florida Keys Hawkwatch.

Just what exactly is this butterfly doing?

CLICK ANY IMAGE TO ENLARGE, "X" in upper right to go back.

This torn and tattered Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly was walking around tapping its abdomen on the road.  Through my binoculars, I could swear it was dropping eggs, but on the road?  Here is a photo of "something"; it sure does not have the appearance of an egg, and if it was expelling excess water as waste, then why was it doing it over an extended period of time?  Enlarge the photo and you can see that it is a clear ball and looks like water.

The odd thing was a Spicebush Swallowtail and a skipper was very close by doing the same thing.

UPDATE:  Monica directed me to an article about "mud-puddling"; the butterflies can't get certain minerals from nectar.  Puddles usually have salt and other needed minerals for reproduction.  The butterfly sucks in the moisture with its proboscis and excretes the waste.

Meret Wilson reported seeing an incredible number of swallows late yesterday northeast of here on the coast.  Today at Lake Apopka, there were large numbers of swallows at very high altitudes.  I just read where Diane Reed is seeing big numbers of swallows also northeast of here, mostly Barn Swallows.

Many thousands of Common Green Darner dragonflies swarmed around the CR 448A access to Lake Apopka.  If the Swallow-tailed Kites had stayed just a couple days longer, they could have really gotten fat and happy.  Or, was it the dragonflies having a huge party now that the kites are gone?

22 Aug 2013, Lake Apopka

Before continuing on to the raptor watch site, I stopped at Jones Ave Stormwater Park.  There are a lot of waders there and I also wanted to check on the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck family.  Predators have reduced the chicks to seven.  If you scroll down to August 3, I have a photo of this family showing 12 ducklings.  Five have been lost to predators in the last few weeks.

Adjacent to the Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, I saw this Palamedes Swallowtail on the ground.  It is not easy trying to get members of the Swallowtail group to pose; they always seem to be in flight, but once in a while they take a breather.

After arriving at the hawkwatch site, A Red-tailed Hawk soon appeared.  It can't be the same one from the other day because this one has near perfect feathers and is not molting.  Compare the neat and orderly feathers here to the feathers on the other Red-tailed Hawk four images below taken yesterday.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” -- Wayne Gretzky

A Swallow-tailed Kite that is a hockey fan !!! This Swallow-tailed Kite has a dragonfly locked on to its radar, but like Wayne Gretzky, it looks by its eyes and head that it is homing in to where the dragonfly is going to be, not where it is now.

I was watching the thousands of Common Green Darners dart around today and when you see 90 degree turns and all the other gyrations they do, it is remarkable that the Swallow-tailed Kite, with its body mass and momentum, can catch these very light and nimble dragonflies in mid-air.  The dragonfly has perhaps the best eyesight in the animal kingdom and that makes it all the more remarkable.  If there is a weakness, they do not see behind them as well and I'm sure that is taken into account by the kites.  This is just one of the millions of things about nature that makes it more awesome the more you study it.

Kite numbers continue to dwindle as we see the last of these raptors migrating south, but a good show was still put on by a group of those still lingering in this area.

21 Aug 2013, Lake Apopka

It looks like the Swallow-tailed Kite migration is winding down.  Big numbers and large kettles of the previous days were not seen the last two days, but that did not stop close encounters with these elegant raptors today.  It was nice to have Sherry and Tom at the watch site with me.

CLICK ANY IMAGE TO ENLARGE, "X" in upper right to go back.

What we lacked in big numbers we made up for in some very close encounters.  It looked like they wanted to show off to us.  Some kites came so close that a focus could not be achieved with some passes they made.

Just before normal peak time Noon until 200, (recent peak at 130PM), the rains came, but it was a good day for some close up viewing.

This Red-tailed Hawk is molting and feathers are missing or growing in around the s4 secondaries.

A young Red-tailed Hawk (on the left) was soaring around with an adult.  If you enlarge the image, you can clearly see the large square wing patch on the juvenile with the tail color being the same pale gray as most of the underwing.  The adult's ragged look is due to feather molt.  The Red-shouldered Hawk's translucent crescent near their wing tips is smaller and more intense and in the shape of a true crescent.  The juvenile Red-tailed Hawk's wing patch is larger, square and not as translucent as the Red-shouldered's, but still clearly seen.


  1. Superb images in each article. I've seen cloudless sky for mere hours in the last couple of months.

  2. Thank you. Speaking of cloudless sky, I grew up in NE Ohio and it seemed there were nothing but clouds, a gray overcast, much of the year. We called it the "Great Silver Dome". A blue sky was a lead story news event. But, it was home and I loved it.