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The wetland habitats of the flow-way include large areas of open water, supporting a diverse array of fish. Fish are, of course, one of the main attractions of this area to many of the birds. Some of the fish-eaters I've been able to photograph are below.
Ospreys are quite common in Area 3, as the flow-way is also known, especially along its western border where it meets Lake Griffin. Ospreys are frequently seen in the trees and power poles feasting on their catch. Usually they are rather shy, but this individual allowed me to photograph him from about 50' away for several minutes while he picked at his sunfish (looked like a bluegill to me, but identifying headless centrarchids isn't my strongest skill).
Anhingas are abundant in Area 3, and there is a large rookery along the shore of Lake Griffin. I typically see around 100 or more of these "snake-birds" each day. I haven't been able to catch one with a fish in his beak (on his beak, actually, since they spear them before eating them), but seeing them perched and drying their wings is common.
Egrets and their kin are also thick in Area 3. Most days I see the following species, more or less in decreasing order of abundance - Glossy and White Ibis, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Tricolored Herons, Black-crowned Night Herons, Green Herons. American Bitterns are seen less frequently, which isn't surprising given their secretive ways. I'm eagerly anticipating the return of least bitterns, which I expect will be abundant as breeders. Below are a couple of Great Blue Herons and a Green.
Blackbirds may not typically be thought of as piscivorous, but don't tell that to the male boat-tailed grackle below. He was relishing his meal of dead bullhead (which I doubt that he caught) and zealously guarding it against intruders, male or female, by doing the head up display whenever they got too close. Interestingly, nearly every shot I took of him in this display caught him with his nictitating membrane down, giving the eye an opaque appearance. I wonder if this is a proactive defense against possible attacks from other males while displaying. These birds are also fascinating in that groups of 2-3 males will often do the head-up display together. It's possible that these groups of males are brothers, and by displaying with their kin, they increase their own fitness (termed inclusive fitness by evolutionary biologists) by increasing the chance that one of the related birds obtains a mate and reproduces. Since they all share about 50% of their genes (on average), by helping a sibling reproduce, they will increase the representation by their own genes in the next generation. Somebody's probably done the study, but I'm too lazy to look up the reference.
Here's another male boat-tailed, and a couple of shots of females. As in many passerines, the male is more showy in color, but the females are quite beautiful in a more subtle way. Subtlety seems to be a trait for the most part lacking in male birds.
I'm still working on the shot of the bald eagle carrying that 5-lb. bass. Check back later.
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