The Rain Falls, Mainly It’s A Pain

I often joke about how being a meteorologist in Florida has to be the easiest job in the world. No matter what time of year, you just say: “Fifty-percent chance of rain.” Collect a paycheck. Repeat.

In our sub-tropical climate, much of the year produces conditions conducive to moisture. Sometimes it rains. A lot. We are currently in the “dry season”. So, naturally, as I glanced at the forecast for the day:  “Fifty-percent chance of rain.” Sigh.

The good news is I planned to only travel about ten minutes from the house, so if I get up and it’s raining, hooray! Back under the covers.

It wasn’t raining.

Lake Parker Park officially opens at 7:00. Sunrise was scheduled (?) for 7:02. Fortunately, I arrived at 6:50 to find a nice welcoming open gate. The sun remained under covers of its own for awhile. When it did peek out from the low clouds, some very nice golden light warmed the shoreline.  The birds don’t care so much about schedules, gates or even the weather. They gotta eat. So there was plenty of activity in the air, on the lake’s surface, in the shallow water, among the reeds and in the trees throughout the park.

Yours truly was thankful for no rain. My outlook on our forecasts is: “Fifty-percent chance of not that much rain.” I’ll take those odds. The morning was mild with only a gentle breeze and a hint of actual coolness to the air. Some trees showed a bit of color and a large flock of Ring-necked Ducks overhead confirmed fall and winter migration is proceeding right on time.

It’s rare that I only spend an hour-and-a-half here, but today I headed home early. When I arrived, Gini was busy threatening some fresh fruit with a very sharp knife. I put the kettle on for coffee. Once the images were processed Gini nodded her approval. We agreed that we continue to be blessed in so many ways.

Hope you enjoy the morning walk. No brolly needed.

 

Sunrise.

Lake Parker Park

 

Cypress trees turn a rusty color during the winter. (An Anhinga is perched at the extreme left.)

Lake Parker Park

 

A quartet of Double-crested Cormorants greet the day from their overnight roost.

Lake Parker Park

 

An immature Bald Eagle soars over the lake in search of a fishy breakfast.

Lake Parker Park

 

Cypress knees are vertical protrusions above the roots of cypress trees. Their function is not really understood. One theory is they help anchor trees growing in saturated soil. Trees growing in well-drained areas do not develop “knees”.

Lake Parker Park

 

I choose to believe this Wood Stork was yawning. The other option would be he was laughing at me, and I just know that couldn’t be possible.

Lake Parker Park

 

The American Coot is extremely common and is usually passed over when it comes to photo ops. I think they are quite handsome in their black plumage, white bills and red eyes.

Lake Parker Park

 

Across a narrow inlet a small cypress tree is bathed with morning sunlight on its right side and bright yellow flowers cover the ground beneath its branches.

Lake Parker Park

 

In the shallows, a Glossy Ibis probes the soft mud for insects, fish and crustaceans.

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park 

An actual autumn leaf! In Florida! Pretty sure it’s a maple species, possibly Florida Maple (Acer saccharum var. floridum) or Red Maple (Acer rubrum).

Lake Parker Park

 

If you go about willy-nilly taking pictures of creatures bathing and preening, expect to receive a nasty glare. Black-crowned Night Heron, disturbed.

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park

Rain in the forecast does not mean it won’t be a beautiful day. At worst, the rain will replenish the watershed, bring relief to dry flora and offer a drink to our thirsty wildlife. Where’s the pain in that?

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

The Green Swamp

“ALL NATURAL INGREDIENTS!”

“WON’T HARM THE ENVIRONMENT!”

“100% EFFECTIVE!”

Sigh. Okay. I’ll try it. The ingredient list does seem to contain naturally occurring stuff. It then follows, that stuff shouldn’t harm the environment. Effectiveness … it didn’t actually spell out exactly what that means, although the main part of the label did say “Mosquito Repellant”. Shame on me for assuming. It performed the exact opposite task of what I had hoped and our local mosquito population wishes to profusely thank the manufacturer.

I seldom need mosquito goop as, over the years, I have developed an effective method of keeping the biting monsters away from my delicate skin. My Gorgeous Insect and Nuisance Interface (I call her “GINI”) contains a unique combination of pheromones and sweetness which is irresistible to irritating critters small and large. Indispensible for my forays into the outdoors, GINI is also quite capable of disarming boorish creatures of the social persuasion. My overall health and well-being are better as a result.

So it was, with my GINI safely by my side providing vital defense duty, we entered the vastness of The Green Swamp. Mention “swamp” and images of dark water, green ooze, quicksand, eerie sounds and dangerous creatures are conjured in the minds of most people. And they would be correct. A swamp is so much more, though!

In the case of The Green Swamp in central Florida, we’re talking about 870 square miles of territory, second in size (swamply speaking) only to the massive Everglades, covering over 4,300 square miles in south Florida. We can be in the Green Swamp within fifteen minutes of leaving the house. Underneath this massive area is a large plateau of limestone which forms the Florida aquifer. A multitude of springs flows from the aquifer and provides a base for five of the state’s major rivers:  the Hillsborough, Kissimmee, Oklawaha, Peace and Withlacoochee.

The Withlacoochee is where we visited most recently. As it begins its journey out of the Green Swamp, it is quite unique in that it flows from south to north, one of relatively few rivers in the world to do so. After a 140 mile journey, it empties into the Gulf of Mexico at the community of Yankeetown. The many cypress trees along its banks cause the waters of this scenic river to be stained with tannin and in shallow spots it resembles tea.

There are many places to access the Green Swamp, some easy and others requiring an arduous hike. The swamp is actually many very diverse habitats interspersed throughout its range. One can find pine flatwoods, hardwood forests, prairies, sandhills and, of course, dense cypress swamps. Such a myriad of environments provides shelter for a huge range of animal and plant life. That is why we like visiting The Green Swamp.

A few of the residents of the Green Swamp we have been fortunate enough to encounter were nice enough to pose for today’s installment.

 

Barred Owl

Colt Creek State Park

 

American Alligator

Viera Wetlands

 

Pileated Woodpecker

Lake Rosalie Park

 

White-eyed Vireo

Banana Lake Park

 

Wild TurkeyRock Ridge Road

 

Feral Pig

Hardee Lakes Park

 

Black-and-White Warbler

Green Swamp - Hampton Tract

 

Carolina Chickadee

Green Swamp - Hampton Tract

 

Tufted Titmouse

CBC Lake Wales

 

Prothonotary Warbler

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

White-tailed Deer

Gator Creek Reserve

 

Bonus Feature! Today Only!

Below please find a short slide show of our most recent visit to the Withlacoochee River not too far from its source within The Green Swamp. (There is music which you may want to mute – or, if you wish, sing along!)

 

 

If you are lucky enough to have a beautiful swamp or wetland in your area, we hope you’ll pay it a visit and see what wonders may call it home. As for us, we will return again and again to The Green Swamp.

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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