Birds and a trio of Bobcats

This morning we almost scrubbed our walk in our local wetlands birding patch. Mary Lou woke up not feeling 100% and suggested I go out without her. She knows how much I like getting out, especially during migration. Yesterday, Angel & Mariel, who track  migration radar on BADBIRDZ Reloaded noted that birds were moving down into the Florida peninsula and favorable NE winds were expected to persist overnight. Either she started recovering rapidly, or, more likely felt bad for me, as Mary Lou said she thought that the cool morning air might be good for her. Once having decided to go out, she wasted no time getting dress and had to wait for me. Usually we are out around 7:00 AM, about a half hour before sunrise, but this morning it was 7:25 AM before we left the house.  I didn’t know it, but we were in for a big surprise this morning…

The day before, I got some pretty images of a female Prairie Warbler as it foraged for insects among the ripening berries of an exotic Brazilian Pepper::

Prairie Warbler with berries 20111102

The warbler looked so small and delicate:

Prairie Warbler 20111102

I could tell from its red eyes that this Eastern Towhee had migrated in, as our locals have yellow eyes:

Eastern Towhee 20111102

A White-eyed Vireo stared out between the branches of a small shrub:

White-eyed Vireo 20111101

But back to today’s jaunt… The sun was just rising when I got this shot of a Great Egret flying overhead:

Great Egret in flight 20111103

…Within minutes we reached the intersection of the gravel road and the two-track path that runs along the SW 196th Avenue Levee. As usual, we checked to see if any Bobcats might be visible. Except for the portion of the path nearest the road, the entire top of the levee had been mowed and all the trees and shrubs on either side had been pulled and moved down the slope opposite the canal, to the west. The Water District had performed this maintenance, and it opened up the sight distance in a straight line for about a mile south to the Miami-Dade County Line. This was great for photography, as intervening vegetation had hampered our earlier attempts to photograph the Bobcats, which we had found along the trail about a half dozen times since we first saw them in December, 2008. The downside was that the lack of cover made it almost impossible to hide along the way.

We walked the 50 feet or so through high grass, almost to the open path. At first we saw nothing, but suddenly we saw the shapes of at least two mammals that looked like Bobcats. At 400 or more yards, the binocular view was barely adequate to identify them as Bobcats. They were very active, running back and forth across the trail.

At first it appeared that they may have been fighting:

Bocats two at 400 yards 20111103

Then, we made out the shape of a third Bobcat, and became apparent that two were likely youngsters. here, one cub jumped up to catch an insect, probably a dragonfly:

Bocats three at 400 yards 20111103

The two cubs engaged in playful combat:

Bocats two cubs playing 20111103

Sometimes all three disappeared into the trail-side cover, only to re-emerge into plain sight on the trail. I took advantage of this by moving out of the secluded area unto the path, where I did my best to stay far over on the side of the open swath, to help conceal my profile.

In small stages I moved nearer to the cats, getting to within about 50 yards. I took over 400 photos in the space of an hour. For a moment, two of  them seemed to be engaged in a hostile stare-down:

Bobcats tw0 20111103

A Northern Harrier, the first I’ve seen this fall, flew up from the trail in front of me and passed right over the Bobcats:

Harrier over bobcats 20111103

To my surprise, the two Bobcats starting walking towards me, an adult on the right and a nearly full-grown cub on the left:

Bobcat cub and adult 7-20111103

At this point, I had to stand perfectly still in full view, in the center of the path, holding eight pounds of camera gear up to my face. Only about 50 yards away, they stared at me, maybe trying to figure out what I was:

Bobcat cub and adult 5-20111103

The second cub appeared behind them, and the adult sat down and waited for it to join them:

Bobcat family 3-20111103

By now, my camera felt like it weighed a ton. The second cub was noticeably smaller:

Bobcat cub and adult 2-20111103

The smaller cub walked over to the left side of the trail:

Bobcat smaller cub 5-20111103

It looked into the brush that bordered the canal:

Bobcat cub 4-20111103

Click here for a slide show of a few more of my Bobcat photos

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~ by kenschneider on November 3, 2011.

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