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.
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!
This colorful bug is a Delta Flower Scarab Beetle.
Wood Storks are in trouble in much of their range so it’s always good to see a number of them together.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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!
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.)