A Big Day

A long time ago, in a land far, far away, I was introduced to “bird watching”.  We were living in the kingdom of west Texas and had made friends with a couple with whom we shared many similar interests.  One day, they suggested we all go on a camping trip.  We secured the necessary supplies and headed east to the pine forest.  It was our first camping trip with our fairly new son and it was great fun.  During our first day, I discovered my friend standing with his head thrown back and gazing toward the top of a tall pine tree.  Upon inquiring as to his behavior, he shouted excitedly:  “There are Pine Warblers all over the place!”.  Ummm…okay.  Later that day, he bolted from his car shouting:  “Red-headed Woodpecker!”.  It was a two-day trip.  I didn’t have a chance.  Addicted.

On Sunday, my addiction was provided a major boost.  I joined some really expert birders for an all day, all out effort in nearby DeSoto County.  This area doesn’t receive much attention from birders as it has no major parks, no major bodies of water, no coastline and no road access to much of the county.

Our day began in darkness as we listened for night birds along a deserted road adjacent to pine woods and a damp field.  Not a whisper.  But I did see two shooting stars!  Cool.  We proceeded to a favorite night-time locale for birders – a cemetery.  Seriously.  Not a lot of traffic here!  It was still very dark and a few short whistles were soon answered by an Eastern Whip-poor-will!  This is a migratory species here and not very common.  The day was off to a great start!

By the time we headed home at sundown, our tally was over 80 species!  We had seen 12 warbler species, including some surprises:  Bay-breasted, Blackburnian, Magnolia and Tennessee.  A wet field produced over 140 Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, many of which were immature and juveniles.  I spotted a migratory Scissor-tailed Flycatcher perched on a low fence wire.  The hit of the day was a  Say’s Phoebe, a western North American flycatcher who is a casual visitor to the eastern part of the country in the fall.

It was a great day and I continue to learn from these very patient birders.  My addiction is satisfied.  Until tomorrow……

There were not many opportunities for photos on this trip as much of the time we were in deep woods with only a partial view of birds or using spotting scopes for very distant birds.  Here are a few images from the day.

When Ponce de Leon arrived in the New World in 1513, he evidently spotted a few flowers and declared the place should be called “La Florida”, possibly in honor of Spain’s “feast of the flowers” (“Pasqua florida”), an Easter tradition.  There are still flowers here.

Morning Glory

Morning Glory

Common Primrose Willow (Ludwigia peruviana)

Common Primrose Willow (Ludwigia peruviana)

We found a Green Heron on a utility wire – not exactly a natural perch for this water bird.  Apparently, he was a trend-setter.  As we looked around, we found five more Green Herons – all perched on utility wires!

Green Heron

Green Heron

This colorful bug is a Delta Flower Scarab Beetle.

Delta Flower Scarab Beetle (Trigonopeltastes delta)

Delta Flower Scarab Beetle (Trigonopeltastes delta)

Wood Storks are in trouble in much of their range so it’s always good to see a number of them together.

Wood Stork, Great Egret

Wood Stork, Great Egret

I think this is an immature male Eastern Pondhawk.  The young and females are bright green and the males eventually turn blue.  This one appears to be in transition.

Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) - (Immature Male)

Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) – (Immature Male)

Upon spotting the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, I snapped a “record” photo through the windshield.  It’s the only chance I got as the bird took off and we didn’t see it again.  I apologize for the poor image quality, but even I can’t diminish the beauty of this gorgeous bird.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Yes, there was a fungus among us.



The Bald-faced Hornet builds a very substantial nest.  This structure was about 30 feet up in the tree and they can be as large as 14 inches (35 cm) in diameter and 23 inches (60 cm) in length.  Many people like to collect these nests for decoration.  Many people discover how painful these hornet stings are!

Hornet Nest

Hornet Nest

A curious Ovenbird must wonder about strange creatures on the ground always looking up and making funny noises and pointing and shuffling noisily through the dry leaves.



Another dragonfly, another identification challenge.  My guess is a Band-winged Dragonlet.  Any other suggestions?

Band-winged Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax umbrata) - (Female)

Band-winged Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax umbrata) – (Female)

The ducks.  Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were not common in Florida just a few years ago.  Now, it’s hard to walk out of your house without stepping on one.  (Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration.)  They are handsome birds, though!

Black-bellied Whistling-duck

Black-bellied Whistling-duck

Black-bellied Whistling-duck

Black-bellied Whistling-duck

Black-bellied Whistling-duck

Black-bellied Whistling-duck

Black-bellied Whistling-duck

Black-bellied Whistling-duck

If you, too, are an addict, you understand what a “fix” this kind of day can provide.  If you haven’t been hooked yet – oops, too late!

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


See more birds at:   Paying Ready Attention   (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)

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

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40 thoughts on “A Big Day

  1. Looks like a lovely, fruitful day for birding.

  2. Wow, 80 species! What a great day! Love the photos, they are all beautiful!

  3. Oh my gosh what an amazing day!!!! I am in awe.

  4. Carole M.

    an interesting read Wally – your intro’ to bird-watching is so vivid after many years still. I loved the pond-hawk which I would just call a dragonfly (know little of the species etc. of these wonderful insects), and the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher is spectacular – even through the windscreen; glad you got the shot.

  5. Interesting to hear about your being hooked Wally. It happens to lots of people like that. How many have you hooked yourself since – quite a few I would guess? The Green Heron shot is quite brilliant – not often you get to see a heron completely out in the open like that, especially that species. The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was a good find I’ll bet, especially since there was only one in the locality.

    • Enthusiasm can be contagious, so I’m probably guilty of getting a few folks to at least look at birds in a different way. It was a surprise to find not just one but a half dozen Green Herons grasping utility lines! The flycatcher was special.

  6. WooHoo…I got to your blog this way. Thanks for the directions. I love birds and know minimal. What I would give for a day like you experienced. These are fabulous pictures and am assuming you were shooting with a finer lens than I would have. That hornets nest is unbelievable. It reminds me of the termite nests we saw in Costa Rica. HUGE! AVOID AT ALL COSTS!!! Nice to meet another Floridian. I was born in Coral Gables and lived in Palm Beach until I married and moved away, Lots of wonderful bird watching, Happy Weekend,

    • Hi, Genie! Welcome home! Glad you were successful in reaching us and we look forward to providing you a bit of Florida whenever you might need it. We’re a couple of natives with sand between our toes and love sharing the state’s wonderful nature. See you soon!

  7. I cant ever remember I time when I did not watch birds – even if it was while doing other things! Well and truly hooked!
    Great set of pictures.
    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

  8. Thanks so much for your comments on my blog..I love your Whistling Duck and the Oven Bird. That is a lot of birding and photos…and there was a Green Heron too…lucky you!!!

  9. Your photos are always wonderful to see. Super fine capture of the wire sitting heron! I’m looking how tight those claws are gripping the wire.
    I’ve only seen these ducks on Theresa’s blog. Great flight shot!
    Very enjoyable post Wally!

    • Carletta, thanks so much! It was a bit unusual to see that heron on the power line, along with 5 others within sight of him! Love the ducks, but they’re about to take over around here.

  10. This one had me smiling all the way and wishing I’d been along for the adventure . . . . even hanging out in the cemetery pre-dawn. And people say bird watchers are eccentric. The flycatcher is so pretty. We have one that’s taken up a post on top of the pool ladder for the last three early evenings, then swooping over the pool and returning a few minutes later. I read somewhere that sometimes they use dragon-fly wings to line their nests. Do you suppose that’s what she’s up to?

    • Wish you had been there, too! Your flycatcher is probably just eating all she catches right now. In the spring, they will use the wings to line the nest and, depending on what kind of flycatcher, maybe even snake skins!

      Lovin’ the cooler weather!

  11. Great post Wally, you write an interesting story. Over 80 species in one day – wow, amazing. Great photos too! The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher looks gorgeous!

  12. So many great captures, Wally! The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher is gorgeous!!! Great find! I would agree with female Banded-wing dragonlet.

    • Thanks very much, Tammy! Hope to have another chance at the flycatcher to get a better photo. Appreciate the help with the dragonfly!

  13. Again an incredible post!
    You have been witness to quite a migration!
    You pictures are very interesting, the beetle is magnificent, and I admire this Green heron, we don’t have those here!
    The dragonflies are superb, I enjoy discovering species foreign to Europe!
    Thanks for sharing, Wally!

  14. Wonderful photos! The beetle is very beautiful.

  15. It sounds like a very good day and the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher is beautiful – even at a distance. I am very grateful to more knowledgeable birders who took me out and introduced me to the wonderful world of shorebirds. What a lot I would have missed it it weren’t for their patience in teaching me!

  16. Florice3

    The scissor tails are beautiful. I have never seen one. The hornet’s nest is frightening. I wouldn’t want to try and rescue it for decoration. Do the whistling ducks make a whistling noise? Just love all the birds and flowers and insects. Envy you and Gini.

    • Hello, Sister! We sure would like to see y’all!

      The whistling ducks do actually make a whistling sound. It’s pretty neat to be in the marsh before the sun is up and have a couple hundred of them literally whistle by your head!

      Wish you could be here with us and I’ll “reintroduce” you to a thing we call “humidity”! 🙂

  17. You had a wonderfully productive day. I like that scarab beetle.

  18. So many great shots! Looks like you had a great day! I need to head inland this winter. Great sighting of the scissor tail. I haven’t seen one of these yet.

  19. you know i adore the bbwds. 🙂 and glad you got to see a scissor-tail! we have them here every summer. the green heron’s feet are so cool, wrapped around the wire. 🙂

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