Human beings like to be entertained. Cave men whiled away the time between hunting and gathering by covering the walls of their homes with drawings. Plays were staged to take our minds off the troubles of the day. “Moving pictures” transformed entire societies and new industries were developed to satiate our ever-increasing desire for diversion. If you question whether we are addicted to being entertained, try unplugging the televisions and computers in all our homes for a few hours and see how quickly rioting in the streets will begin.
Fortunately, I married wisely. Gini is as easily entertained by the song of an Eastern Meadowlark as she would be by attending an orchestral performance of Mozart’s greatest hits. We seem to find so much in Nature at which to marvel, it just doesn’t matter if we’re missing a favorite television show. Besides, that’s why recording was invented!
Well, we lollygagged all morning on Peavine Trail (see our previous post “Happiness Is A Dirt Road”) and it was already time for lunch. We drove to Overstreet Landing on the eastern shore of Lake Kissimmee which is always a treat because to get there you have to travel Overstreet Road. This gives us the opportunity to view vast pastures, grasslands and sod farms. The open area is richly populated with Sandhill Cranes, Eastern Meadowlarks, American Kestrels, Bald Eagles, Wild Turkeys, Northern Bobwhites, White and Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret and soaring Vultures. With the fall migration, we also saw Savannah Sparrows, Palm Warblers and a Northern Harrier.
When we arrived at the shore of the lake, we parked under the welcoming branches of an oak tree, opened all the windows and doors of the truck so we could enjoy the breeze coming off the lake and prepared to enjoy our sandwiches with an unparalleled view of premier lake, prairie and grassland habitat. We were soon joined by a Turkey Vulture who brought his own lunch of a decaying catfish carcass and settled on a fence post not far from us. All present enjoyed a fine meal, peace and quiet.
After lunch, we spotted a Snail Kite in the distance hovering over the grass in the lake looking for the Apple Snail which makes up its diet almost exclusively. A large flock of Cattle Egret flew in front of us, a Little Blue Heron hunted stealthily in the shallows and a group of four Wilson’s Snipe sprang into the air, startled by an incoming boat.
We drove a short distance to the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area and poked slowly along the rough dirt roads through scrub woods, long-leaf pines, palmetto, cypress domes* (see “Additional Resources”) and a long stretch of dry grass prairie. Along the way, we tallied 40 species of birds and even found a few fall warblers: Palm, Pine, Prairie, Yellow-throated and Yellow-rumped. A creek crossing produced a pair of Wood Ducks, Snowy and Great Egrets, Tricolored and Great Blue Herons and a Limpkin. We found several American Kestrels and Eastern Phoebes taking advantage of millions of insects. A lone pine tree in the prairie contained a large nest used by Bald Eagles last year to raise a family. It seemed empty, but may be taken over soon by a Great Horned Owl. We’ll check next month.
As the sun began to cast long shadows, we turned onto the paved road and spotted a group of Wild Turkeys, the strong light showing off the iridescence of their plumage. The evening sky displayed colors no artist could duplicate. As the curtain of night began to lower on our day, hundreds of Glossy Ibis headed to their roost. We did the same.
We didn’t get a lot of useable photographs due to the time of day and position of the sun but here are a few images which may give you a flavor of our afternoon.
Our lunch guest. The portion of the brain which detects smell is relatively large in the Turkey Vulture and they can detect carrion below a forest canopy. And they’re so cute. Besides who can argue with such an elegant scientific name? Cathartes aura – roughly translated as “Golden Purifier”!
The lakeside venue for our picnic included a panorama of lake, marsh, grassland, cattle egrets in flight – oh, yes – and a contented vulture.
A stealthy approach will yield results for this very patient Little Blue Heron.
These pretty white blossoms are called Short Leaf Rose Gentian. Stars scattered along our path.
Very small but very attractive is the Southern Fleabane. (Please let me know if this is a different species.)
Our matinee was in living technicolor. A Cloudless Sulphur extracting sweet nectar from Britton’s Wild Petunia. Unfortunately, this is a very prolific invasive plant which has been vigorously marketed by nurseries as a “Mexican Petunia” and is driving out native plants throughout the region.
A lone pine tree in the prairie made a fine place for Bald Eagles to nest last year.
My camera lens will get dirty from time to time, but in this case, all the specks are flying insects. Which is precisely why this happy Eastern Phoebe is perched in this location!
Limpkins always remind me of something almost prehistoric, especially their calls to each other at dawn and dusk. (Hear their call: http://www.xeno-canto.org/102268.) These birds have especially designed bills for opening Apple Snails and extracting the meat.
An example of the type of dry grass prairie which once stretched across a large part of Florida.
Cypress domes dot this area and provide refuge for an amazing variety of wildlife. *(See Additional Resources.)
A Northern Mockingbird bid us farewell as we prepared to head home.
Wild Turkeys are highlighted in the strong light of the setting sun.
Nature provides the ultimate in “wide-screen” entertainment!
Glossy Ibis heading to a roost just after sunset.
We enjoy entertainment just as much as anyone. It’s just that all the best stuff seems to be beyond the reach of an extension cord. And when the power goes off, we won’t be all that upset.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!
(NOTE: If you visit the Three Lakes WMA, check their website listed above for hunting dates. If you venture afield during scheduled hunting times, be careful and wear an orange vest! Be safe!)
*Cypress domes are stands of trees growing in a low place which usually stays wet year round. The depression is lowest near the center of the dome and those trees grow more vigorously than the surrounding ones, thus creating the “dome” shape.
See more birds at: Paying Ready Attention (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)