Making A List, Checking It Twice

At this time of year, many of us have a full plate of activities on the tables of our lives.  For us, everything revolves around family.  Although our children now have children of their own, we worry about how they’re doing and experience more than our fair share of angst over not being with them all at this wonderful time of year.  (Okay, we have angst about that all year long!)  There is baking, shopping, wrapping, mailing, decorating and a myriad of other chores which must be done.  Accordingly, when I received a call to visit a newly opened conservation area to check out the birding potential, I responded maturely and appropriately.  “What time?”

The new area is just southeast of Orlando near the town of Kissimmee.  It’s called Twin Oaks Conservation Area and is located on Macy Island Road on the northeast side of Lake Tohopekaliga.  It’s a very pretty area with picnic pavilions, fishing pier, separate observation pier, hiking trail, equestrian trail and modern restrooms.  Its position on the lake is a spot known as Goblet’s Cove which provides a fairly large protected area inviting to waterfowl.  The park consists of just under 400 acres and offers a large grassland area, lake and lakefront, wetlands and a stand of hardwood trees.

We spent a couple of hours here and without too much effort tallied 50 species of birds.  On the lake were Blue-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Pied-billed Grebe and an estimated 3500 American Coot.  Sandhill Cranes were trumpeting almost non-stop from before sunrise until we left almost three hours later.  Savannah Sparrows were abundant in the tall grass where we also found Swamp Sparrows, House Wrens, Sedge Wrens and Eastern Meadowlarks.  With all the open water and grassland, raptors were prevalent and included two endangered Snail Kites, four Bald Eagles, two migratory Northern Harriers, American Kestrels, a Red-shouldered Hawk and a Cooper’s Hawk.  Limpkins were active along the shoreline trying to get to the large Apple Snails before the Snail Kites found them.  In the oak trees we found warblers and vireos.  It was a pleasant place and we’ll be returning soon.

On the way home, we stopped briefly at several small parks and found interesting birds and wildlife at each place.  I’ve added a link to some of the spots we visited below under “Additional Information“.

The following images will give you a small idea of our exploration.

 

Sunrises are always special and this one was no exception.  A light fog hugged the ground as Sandhill Cranes began moving from their nightly roosts to the grasslands to feed, trumpeting loudly along the way.

Sunrise

Sunrise

 

Goblet’s Cove and the fishing pier, complete with fishermen!  All of that grass was full of sparrows.

Goblet's Cove

Goblet’s Cove

 

I’ve been working on getting decent images of sparrows but have not yet been successful.  In the meantime, this Swamp Sparrow shows his distinctive dark back streaks before disappearing into the thick grass.

Swamp Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

 

A trio of Sandhill Cranes head to where the bugs are, “talking” to each other during the commute.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

 

These Savannah Sparrows posed briefly before doing that disappearing trick thing.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

 

I apologize for such a poor image, but this Blue-headed Vireo was a life bird for me.  Yes, it’s also on my list of “get a good picture” birds.

Blue-headed Vireo

Blue-headed Vireo

 

Indian Blanket, Firewheel, Gaillardia.  Call them anything you like.  They’re simply beautiful.

Indian Blanket or Firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella)

Indian Blanket or Firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella)

 

Bumble Bees sounded like small airplanes as they buzzed among the flowers of the grassland.

Bumble Bee (Bombus sp.)

Bumble Bee (Bombus sp.)

 

Although common in our area, the Red-bellied Woodpecker is a handsome bird and very efficient at gathering insects.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

 

Two spiders of the orb weaver family which specialize in entangling unsuspecting hikers in sticky webs.  They love to string their artful creations across paths and are very successful at trapping a large number of insects during the night.  The Golden Silk spider is the larger member of this family but the Arrowshaped Orbweaver, although much smaller, is no slouch when it comes to coloration.

Golden Silk Spider (Nephila clavipes)

Golden Silk Spider (Nephila clavipes)

Arrowshaped Orbweaver (Micrathena sagittata)

Arrowshaped Orbweaver (Micrathena sagittata)

 

The invasive Eurasian Collared-Dove is as beautiful as it is prolific.  This species was introduced in the Bahamas in the 1970’s when a few birds escaped a pet shop during a burglary.  A few other birds were released on the island of Guadeloupe due to an impending volcanic eruption.  Some of the above birds made it to Florida in the 1980’s and the species has now colonized in most of North America.

Eurasian Collared Dove

Eurasian Collared Dove

 

Stink bugs thrive in most parts of the world.  I think this one is a Rough Stink Bug but would appreciate a correct identification.

Rough Stink Bug (Brochymena sp.) - ?

Rough Stink Bug (Brochymena sp.) – ?

 

A Black-and-White Warbler enjoys a bug of his own.

Black and White Warbler

Black and White Warbler

 

This lime-green larva is that of a Pine Sawfly (not certain of the exact species).  Although it resembles a caterpillar, it’s actually a member of the same order to which ants, bees and wasps belong (Hymenoptera).  The adult resembles a wasp but doesn’t have the narrow abdomen.  These insects can do a lot of damage to pine trees.

Pine Sawfly (Neodiprion) - (?)

Pine Sawfly (Neodiprion) – (?)

 

Yes, yet another photograph of an alligator.  (YOU try saying no to one!)

American Alligator

American Alligator

 

This five-foot beauty is a Florida Banded Water Snake.  They are not venomous but can give you pause when you step over a log and one scoots between your boots.

Florida Banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris)

Florida Banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris)

 

Orchids are among the most showy of flowers on the planet.  Most orchids, that is.  This subtly colored species is a Florida native and is found on the floor of pine forests.  They produce an odor at night which is very attractive to moths, thus increasing the odds of successful pollination.

Toothpetal False Rein Orchid (Habenaria floribunda)

Toothpetal False Rein Orchid (Habenaria floribunda)

 

A Poem –

It can be nice to wander and roam,

It’s nicer still, to be back home.

I have my list of chores and I’m checking it twice;

If all was done it sure would be nice.

When the holiday pressure starts to get you down,

Grab your bird book and get out of town!

 

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

 

Additional Information

Twin Oaks Conservation Area

Lakefront and Brinson Parks (This link is for fishing enthusiasts but provides good information and a map.  Birding can be very good all along this area and is sometimes a good place from which to observe endangered Snail Kites feeding.)

Osceola County Schools Environmental Study Center

Reedy Creek Management Area

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Wildflowers, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

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28 thoughts on “Making A List, Checking It Twice

  1. I’ve never about Twin Oaks Conservation Area and this great post and photos has me itching for a visit. I loved the holiday poem and those macro photos are wonderful. Great job and many thanks Wally.

    • Thank you, Rick. This small county park only opened in late October 2013. It’s just south of the town of Kissimmee and makes a wonderful interlude while visiting other spots in the area.

  2. Hi Wally,
    Looks like another great place to explore! Always delightful to see the wide variety of fascinating creatures you come across. Your sunrise photo is outstanding:) I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday!

    • Thank you, Tammy! It’s a fairy small area and looks like a nice place to drop in, maybe have a picnic, walk around and see a nice variety of birds and then take a nap!

      We wish you and your family a terrific holiday as well!

  3. Ahhhhh.

    I feel much better now that I have had a Florida fix from your images Wally. I have been way too busy for too long and I have missed your posts on an area I love very much.

    • Drop by any time, Mia! It will soon be fresh strawberry season and our Christmas Bird Count is Saturday, we could use your help! Bring your jacket, though, it may be below 70 at sunrise…. 🙂

  4. You make even stinkbugs attractive — and the birds are even better. Thanks for the links — a couple there to definitely add to our ever-growing “must-go” list.

    And we will go outside and play for our holiday treat. And yes, even though our grandkids have kids (well, one out of six does anyway), it is a bit difficult to be away at the Holidays — I sort of miss us being in charge of the festivities! But those days are l past, it is our kids’ turn to shine.

    • Sallie, I understand about the kids’ turn. Just relax and try to enjoy the attention! 🙂
      Thank you so much for your very kind comments.

  5. I love the poem and all the beautiful photos in this post. Congratulations on another life bird.

  6. Looks like a wonderful spot! I wish you could send some of those sparrows my way. Still waiting for the Savannahs and the Swampies have been very hard to find– except when I’m not looking for them, when they pop in and disappear just as quickly.

  7. Ha, I have “life birds” and “get better photo” birds, too! I saw a couple of different warblers yesterday that I hadn’t seen before, but the images are sorely lacking. They move so fast and my big lens isn’t fast enough. You really got some wonderful images here, especially the trio of cranes flying.

  8. So you found another fabulous place to go exploring? And 50 species in three hours is some going, even in tropical Florida I guess. A great list of species you got Wally and i’m wondering if your summary of a “pleasant place” is something of your usual understated enthusiasm? With that list and tally I’d be itching to back next day but might be in a bit of trouble if i did.

    Congrats on the vireo, there nothing quite like finding your own lifers rather than following the crowds.

    Looks like some of your spiders and bugs are as colourful as the birds – good pics Wally.

    Not so sure about the success of Collared Dove, in some parts of Europe it is almost too successful. Does it coexist with your Mourning Dove?

    I’m taking your poem to heart and planning to grab my bins and book for The Great Escape sometime around 25/26 December.

    • Phil, hope you’re having a good lead-up to the holidays! Yes, I was ready to go back the next day! Unfortunately, The Collared Dove are displacing Mourning as well as White-Winged Dove in some areas. Best of luck on your Great Escape!

  9. I can’t comment on each photo Wally, but some are truly exquisite like the Golden spider and the pecker, but all are very interesting!
    I’d love to meet the snake, this fellow is magnificent!!
    Cheers and take care!

  10. Andrea

    Your photos are breathtaking! Makes me want to go visit 🙂

  11. Ron Dudley

    Hey, Wally. You find the most amazing places. And this time a new one at that. You have so much variety compared to what’s around here – in interesting and unique natural place, in varieties of birds and other wildlife and in flora. This time I especially enjoyed your spider and insect photos, and your narrative of course. You always make me chuckle, at least once….

    • Thanks, Ron! We’re really blessed to have such a bounty to explore around here. And as long as you continue to chuckle with me and not at me, all will be well! 🙂

  12. Carole M.

    fantastic series Wally!! I enjoyed every photo (not to single them out now) … but also your sweet poem at the end; very fitting in this chaotic world we’re partaking; best wishes

  13. Gorgeous scenery, flowers and beautiful birds. Your photos are always a treat to see. I love the cute poem! Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

  14. laughed at the poem. 🙂 neat that you still have wildflowers in bloom. loved the cranes in flight.

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