I would like to call what I do walking, or hiking or anything that might give the impression I’m engaged in an actual physically demanding endeavor. That way, I could feel good about not engaging in any other actual physically demanding endeavor.
Alas, what I do if I’m carrying a camera in the outdoors is more akin to a shuffle. The dictionary defines “shuffle” as: to walk without lifting the feet or with clumsy steps and a shambling gait. Yep, that’s me. Walking without lifting my feet. Clumsy steps. Hey, you have your exercise and I have mine!
So, since I can’t call my exercise “walking”, I decided to call it going for a “lookabout”.
Early Monday morning found me at the local lake (Lake Parker, Lakeland, FL) looking about to see what sort of activity I could find.
A Great Blue Heron was perched on a small tree, standing on one leg, preening. Birds can have up to 25,000 feathers and must preen daily to keep them clean and aligned for optimal appearance and performance. I was fascinated this large heron could do anything on that small tree branch and on one leg!
Pied-billed Grebes are like little kids. If you watch one for awhile, they’re bound to do something cute. This one had been diving repeatedly for breakfast and decided to take a break and try to dry out a bit. As he shook furiously the water went everywhere and he looked a bit like a puffer fish.
The female Boat-tailed Grackle may not be the most glamorous bird in the field guide, but surrounded by the green of a Cypress tree and the blue sky, she doesn’t mind showing off.
A flash of red and yellow wing patch announces the arrival of a Red-winged Blackbird. In the winter, huge flocks of these most common blackbirds in the U.S. scour the fields for seeds and insects.
At this time of year in our area, if you see a brown leaf on the ground that seems to never stop moving, look closer, it may be a Palm Warbler. These little birds are like vacuum cleaners, sucking up insects on the ground or along a tree branch. Their tails are constantly pumping up and down and they never seem to hold still for long.
It’s difficult to imagine a lake in Florida without an Osprey hovering above the surface scanning for a fish to dive on. I counted six upon first arriving lake side but saw many during the morning, not sure how many actual individuals there were.
A Gray Squirrel was either trying to hide or just waking up. His tail curled over his head looked like a modern hair style.
A tall Cypress tree makes a good vantage point for a White Ibis to survey the lake and surrounding area. He may be looking for his friends or a potential feeding area. Or, it may just be a good spot to nap in the warm morning sun.
One of our common fall migrants is the Yellow-rumped Warbler. The yellow sides and bright yellow rump stand out in the shady woods.
Along the lake shore, a Little Blue Heron exhibits his classic hunting style. He’s a patient stalker and walks carefully in the shallow water, neck outstretched, bill pointed slightly down and always ready to strike at his prey.
Common on most area lakes are American Coots and Common Gallinules. These rails can be entertaining for hours as they walk on water, chase one another, make lots of loud, interesting sounds and are another part of Florida’s environment I tend to take for granted.
Mottled Ducks are not numerous here but we see the occasional pair. Here, the female comes in for a landing to join her mate near the shoreline. These ducks are similar in appearance to a female Mallard but are generally a little darker overall and the bills are different.
A more common sight, especially on lakes with nearby residential or commercial development, is the Mallard. The male preens before joining the Mrs. for a glide to brunch.
Apple Snails are abundant here and where there are snails, there are Limpkins. As we have already seen, preening has been the order of the morning and this Limpkin was no exception.
As I was watching him preen, a slight motion near the shoreline to the right of the Limpkin caught my attention. Further investigation revealed a young Cooper’s Hawk devouring his breakfast at the base of a Cypress Tree. His meal appeared to be a large rat. I was lucky and found a spot behind a tree which allowed me to sit propped against the trunk mostly out of the hawk’s line of vision. I didn’t want to disturb him and would have left quietly if he had become nervous. He didn’t. The next 30 minutes were fascinating as I watched his technique in getting at his prey. I do wish he had picked a spot with better lighting! But this was a rare moment (for me) and I was just happy to be there. A magnificent raptor!
I hope you enjoyed our morning “lookabout” and aren’t too tired from “walking without lifting your feet”!
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit.