In Anticipation of Tranquility

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.

Zebra Longwing

Zebra Longwing

A very common sight is the Gulf Fritillary.  Hard to miss with such a bright color!

Gulf Fritillary

Gulf Fritillary

The results of the breeding season were in ample evidence.  Here, a young Great Blue Heron learns patience is needed to secure breakfast.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

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”.

Anhinga

Anhinga

Young Tricolored Herons show quite a bit of rusty coloration in their feathers which will disappear by fall.

Tricolored Heron (juvenile)

Tricolored Heron (juvenile)

A very loud, excited group of egrets and herons got my attention in time to catch a Bobcat slinking back into the marsh.

Bobcat

Bobcat

Little Blue Herons are all white when young and as their adult blue plumage grows they appear quite mottled.

Little Blue Heron (immature)

Little Blue Heron (immature)

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.

Limpkin

Limpkin

Limpkin

Limpkin

A Great Southern White butterfly on a blade of grass dries its wings in the morning sun.

Great Southern White

Great Southern White

This American Bird Grasshopper is about two inches (5.08 cm) long.  I was surprised it held still long enough for a picture.

American Bird Grasshopper

American Bird Grasshopper

Female Boat-tailed Grackles are dull brown as opposed to the iridescent black of the male.

Boat-tailed Grackle (Female)

Boat-tailed Grackle (Female)

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.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Snowy Egrets hunt in shallow water, moving their large yellow feet through the mud to stir up any prey that might be there.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

I had to include an American Alligator – I think it’s a Florida state law.  The population is healthy.

American Alligator

American Alligator

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.

Florida Red-bellied Turtle

Florida Red-bellied Turtle

Florida Red-bellied Turtle (juvenile)

Florida Red-bellied Turtle (juvenile)

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.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

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!

Additional Resources:

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

Linking to Stewart’s “Wild Bird Wednesday”.  See more birds from around the world at Paying ReadyAttention for

 

 

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 40 Comments

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40 thoughts on “In Anticipation of Tranquility

  1. I’m glad you stuck it out and found some great sightings. You’ll have to bring your garlic butter with you next time. 🙂

  2. What a great posting of so many birds…love the owl, I clicked to enlarge the photos and they are so crisp and clear….really some great photography as well as great subjects.

    • Nora! Thank you for dropping by and making such nice comments! I think I’m almost ready to trade a bit of our humidity for your wonderful northwest air!

  3. What a wonderful visit…. And that owl! How beautiful and fortuitous!

  4. lot´s of great stuff. And I love that owl. 🙂

  5. Superlative Wally. I did not realize that each state had a state butterfly! Florida’s is perfectly gorgeous. Now, I’m gonna have to go look and see what Texas has for a state butterfly.

  6. Pekná séria fotografií.
    Nice series of photos.

  7. Wow….you had me all set for a quiet trek along your favorite spot and all of a sudden….bang…noise. And the worst for me on days like this is to see bus loads of school age children who know not enough to stay quiet and enjoy the surroundings of peace and tranquility!!

    But I’m glad you decided to go on further…
    What a treasure you found.
    Thanks for linking up at the Bird D’Pot [I think…I’m not sure I spotted any link to the meme tho]

    No matter…I enjoyed it all being there with you seeing the Florida wildlife!!

  8. Your persistence paid off big time Wally. Sometimes it seems like all the world and literally his dog is out to spoil a morning’s birding but we have to learn to battle away until the birds begin to show, as they usually do. Good thing our lovely ladies can’t hear the choice language reserved for such occasions.

    • Well, I found out a long time ago that patience can overcome a lot. I just wait for the crowd to move on or I move to another location. No matter – being outside is always preferable to being indoors.

  9. Glad your were able to find so much beautiful wildlife, even with the interruptions! Your butterfly shots are stunning! I love the way the Barred Owl rests its head:)

  10. So, did you actually see anything?????

    What a great set of pictures – I want to see a Limpki, they seem like remarkabale birds.

    cheers – Stewart M – Australia

    • That’s the nice thing about Mom Nature, She just goes about her business whether anyone is watching or not! The Limpkin is one of my favorites, Stewart. The eerie calls across the marsh just before sunrise is inspiring. I think it’s neat that it’s the only member of its taxonomic family, Aramidae.

  11. Carole M.

    zebra longwing butterfly is spectacular; so too the gulf fritillary! I didn’t know that about the anhingas! Great snapshot; love the long fanned-out tail. Somewhat comical the image of the younger little blue heron; you got a great snapshot with those wonderful feet. Limpkin fabulous too. So much more in this post Wally; great value!!

  12. I’m glad you stuck around too, Wally – it certainly paid off.
    I know so well the frustrations you spoke of – happens to me all the time on Antelope Island. I always go very early to avoid the crowds and have good light but often there’s not much happening for a while and just as things start to pick up hordes of bikers show up (many of them are rude), maintenance vehicles, noisy buses etc and they always seem to come along just as I’ve pulled up on a bird. I have a special vocabulary I use at times like that (usually said only to myself and Mia)…

    • Yeah, I’ve got a bad habit of “let’s just see what’s around that next bend”, as my patient wife can attest. I’m happy to share nature with anyone, but it IS a bit frustrating when some folks scare off all the nature before they (or anyone else) can enjoy it. Thank goodness nature is patient.

  13. What a wonderful series of photos! Glad you decided to continue on your photo hike so you could share these beauties.

  14. Wow, awesome collection of photos. I love the butterflies and all the gorgeous birds. Great sightings.

  15. Great shots so the morning wasn;t a total waste. Glad you got so many nice shots.

  16. jimbey

    …. Ya know, my fellow hikers hate me for this, but summer is my favorite time to hit the trails. Mosquitoes do not bite me, and the heat and humidity pose no problems to this ole lizard. Glad you got some great shots. Getting that owl in the middle of the day is worthy of a celebration!

  17. I love all your photos (even if almost all the time I say nothing)!
    Glad I found your blog.

    • Cornel, thank you for your visit and such nice comments! You have a very beautiful blog, yourself! Lovely photography.

  18. From your great shots, you always know there’s something to see out there. I love that bobcat sighting. I keep saying I need to head over there since I’m going into Circle B withdrawals but I keep heading over to the beach.

    • And the beach might still be a better choice – at least there you’ve got a chance for a breeze and a lot less mosquito activity! 🙂

  19. Fantastic photos.

  20. even with all the hub-bub, you got a wonderful selection of wildlife! loved the rusty heron youngster!

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