Thoughts can be quite powerful. Our minds access a vast database of memories and experiences which can provoke a myriad of emotions. We tend to force ourselves to think of the more pleasant aspects of our past in order to keep our psyche on an even keel as we plod through the minefield of daily life. All of this is accomplished by our best friend, our subconscious. That way, we don’t actually have to expend any effort to have nice thoughts.
So, there I was, thinking about where to go in central Florida in the middle of July when the temperatures have been above 90 F (32 C) and the humidity 100 % at sunrise and thunderstorms roll in on schedule by noon – when my really nice subconscious kicked in and said: “Hey, you always find something of interest at the Circle B Bar Reserve.” Okay, maybe it didn’t really speak to me, but I got the idea. Although it’s not far from the house, the reserve is just far enough away from town that all you can hear out on the marsh is “nature”. No traffic noise, no emergency sirens, no human-made sounds. That sort of peace and quiet is hard to resist. My subconscious was already feeding me memories of quiet sunrises, Limpkins calling, the deep bellowing of bullfrogs, a gentle breeze causing the Spanish Moss draped from old oak trees to sway in a seductive rhythm that beckons one further down a dark path.
I parked just inside the reserve entrance as I knew at this time of year “Marsh Rabbit Run”, near the visitor center, is closed due to alligator nesting. From here, I could take “Windmill Whisper” around and connect with “Wading Bird Way” which crosses two holding ponds and is usually a good area to spot a variety of birds. The stillness of the early morning was only broken by the methodical “whack” of a Pileated Woodpecker as it chiseled into a tree limb looking for breakfast. Camera ready, pack on my back, water bottle handy, rubbed down with bug spray, boot laces tight – off we go.
As I rounded the first curve in the trail, two joggers bolted toward me and yelled out a hearty “Good Morning!”. I returned the greeting, trying to avoid the feeling that they might have disturbed any bird life along the trail in front of me. No worries. It’s a wonderful, quiet day…..what the…..?? Two pickup trucks came up behind me and pulled over to the side of the trail just ahead. Workmen scrambled into the bush and cranked up a bulldozer and a crane. Apparently, they’re working to improve water flow in this area. Sigh. So much for the quiet morning.
I was fortunate to have a couple of hours of fairly uninterrupted hiking and really enjoyed seeing old friends of the marsh again. I eventually made it to the main parking lot for a look around on other trails, however, tranquility had left for the day. Tram tours were in full swing, two busloads of school children were being organized to hit the trails, more workers were trimming trees with chain saws and visitors were staking claims on picnic shelters and grills.
It was tempting to head home, but that subconscious whispered: “Maybe it’s not so bad out on the trail.” I succumbed to the temptation, finished a bottle of cool water and marched onward. Glad I did. Found a cooperative Barred Owl, Red-bellied Woodpecker nest with young, baby turtles, young alligators and a host of other delights I would have missed had I gone home.
Hope you enjoy a few photographs of my morning in the marsh.
Butterflies appeared to be everywhere. This is Florida’s official state butterfly, the Zebra Longwing.
A very common sight is the Gulf Fritillary. Hard to miss with such a bright color!
The results of the breeding season were in ample evidence. Here, a young Great Blue Heron learns patience is needed to secure breakfast.
Anhingas don’t have the oil gland other water birds have which keeps their feathers buoyant and they must spend a lot of time drying them in the sun. As the Anhinga swims, its body is submerged and only its thin head and neck are visible. This has earned him the nickname, “Snake Bird”.
Young Tricolored Herons show quite a bit of rusty coloration in their feathers which will disappear by fall.
A very loud, excited group of egrets and herons got my attention in time to catch a Bobcat slinking back into the marsh.
Little Blue Herons are all white when young and as their adult blue plumage grows they appear quite mottled.
The eerie cries of the Limpkin were fairly constant all morning. This bird found a “two-for-one” sale at the snail store! It appears the Limpkin took advantage of mating snails for a double treat. It took him three minutes to open the snails, extract the meat and swallow the morsels. All without any garlic butter.
A Great Southern White butterfly on a blade of grass dries its wings in the morning sun.
This American Bird Grasshopper is about two inches (5.08 cm) long. I was surprised it held still long enough for a picture.
Female Boat-tailed Grackles are dull brown as opposed to the iridescent black of the male.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers are abundant in our area and this one was feeding young ones in the nesting cavity. I waited, hoping one of the kids would poke his head out but it didn’t happen.
Snowy Egrets hunt in shallow water, moving their large yellow feet through the mud to stir up any prey that might be there.
I had to include an American Alligator – I think it’s a Florida state law. The population is healthy.
An adult Florida Red-bellied Turtle can reach a length of about 15 inches (38.1 cm). The red marks on its carapace fade with age. Compare this with the young one’s bright markings.
I spotted this Barred Owl swooping down to the bank of a canal, probably for a frog, lizard or snake. He flew away before I could get a picture. About half an hour later, I found him perched on a tree branch, resting and preening.
Thanks to the amazing power of the mind, I now have more pleasant memories stored in the database, ready to be recalled when needed. Tranquility, peace, quiet – they truly are a state of mind.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!
Linking to Stewart’s “Wild Bird Wednesday”. See more birds from around the world at Paying ReadyAttention for