Mellow In The Marsh

Toward the end of the calendar year, holidays seem to bunch up like Hummingbirds at a freshly filled feeder.  Shopping must be completed!  Menus must be planned!  Parties must be attended!  What’s left of bank accounts must be balanced!

One must approach this potential mayhem by being organized, remaining calm and sensibly prioritizing all that must be accomplished in order to survive this festive season.  As a couple of pragmatic veterans of many, many, many joyous annual celebrations, we instinctively know what we have to do.

Get out of town.

Florida’s “Nature Coast” is an area from Pasco County, just north of the Tampa area to Wakulla County, where the “bend” of Florida’s panhandle begins to head west.  This is not an area (yet) of cartoon-rodent influenced carnival rides, five-star hotels or glistening white-sand beaches bordered by glistening white-painted condominiums.  Instead, one can find vast hardwood swamps, clear rivers fed by underground springs, salt marshes teeming with wildlife, small eateries serving fresh seafood and actual native Floridians (an endangered species) going about their lives secretly hoping the highways will become overgrown with weeds and cut them off from any further invasion of “civilized” society.

That’s where we spent a glorious day recently instead of going to the mall.  Yes, we do feel guilty.  Extremely.

We arrived in the Bayport area just as the rising sun touched the expansive salt marsh along the drive to Pine Island.  The grass took on the golden glow of the winter dawn and we just sat still and took it all in.  The grass seemed to come alive as wading birds began to call and crabs scurried across the mud hoping the tide would soon return to help them hide.  Bald Eagles, Ospreys and Northern Harriers soared overhead in their patient search for the first meal of the day.    From the fishing pier at Bayport, we watched squadrons of Brown Pelicans splash down in the shallow water, scooping up gallons of small fish.  Terns and Gulls wheeled noisily above us and a pair of Horned Grebes floated and dived in the deeper waters of the boat channel.  A Green Heron stood motionless in the reeds waiting for a blue crab to become careless.  In the picnic area is a stand of hardwood trees which makes a fine place to find songbirds.  In just a few minutes, we saw a Red-shouldered Hawk, Palm Warblers, Pine Warblers, Black and White Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, White-eyed Vireo, Tufted Titmice, Northern Cardinals, Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers and Eastern Phoebes.  Our early lunch sandwiches were enjoyed under palm trees with an unobstructed view into the seemingly infinite blue water of the Gulf of Mexico.  It was Winter and warm and the soft sand begged us to go barefoot.  Butterflies gathered nectar from bright, blooming flowers all around us, birds filled the air with joyful noise and we were utterly alone in our mutually shared universe of happiness.  THIS is our holiday.  THIS is our realization of how blessed we are.

Here are a few images of our day.  We hope your holiday season is full of peace and joy!  See you next year!

 

The salt marsh takes on a special glow at sunrise.

Salt Marsh

Salt Marsh

 

Wood Storks are known locally as “Flinthead” due to the gray coloration of the skin on their heads.

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

 

We were fortunate to find a Clapper Rail at the edge of some reeds.  These birds are much more likely to be heard than seen.

Clapper Rail

Clapper Rail

 

A Greater Yellowlegs found a tidal pool and ran around like crazy trying to corral small fish.

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

 

Bright orange Gulf Fritillaries added a splash of color to the marsh.

Gulf Fritillary

Gulf Fritillary

 

Bayport Park has a very nice new picnic area and boardwalk.  Here we found a half-dozen Red-bellied Woodpeckers.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Female)

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Female)

 

Yellow-rumped Warblers liked the picnic area, too.  This one was curious about what I was doing there in the middle of winter.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

 

Even the visiting Monarch butterflies enjoy a day at the beach!

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

 

This purple beauty is the Glade Lobelia and was quite prolific in the ditches along a back road.

Glade Lobelia (Lobelia glandulosa)

Glade Lobelia (Lobelia glandulosa)

 

Non-breeding plumage of the Sanderling helps it to blend in with the light-colored beach sand.

Sanderling

Sanderling

 

Dozing Dunlin duo.

Dunlin

Dunlin

 

One of my favorite Florida natives enjoys fresh fish almost as much as I do.  This Osprey just caught a mullet and found a handy buffet table in the form of a dead tree branch.  He stared at me for a bit just to let me know he would NOT be offering me any of his lunch!

Osprey

Osprey

 

This has been a spectacular year in our lives and we feel enriched to a large degree by all the kind friends we have made through this amazing medium of “blogging”.  Thank you all so very much for your positive response to our humble efforts.

 

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

Gini and Wally

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

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28 thoughts on “Mellow In The Marsh

  1. Yes, I was wondering where you were to see no new posts and thought maybe you had to take a lie down in all that Florida heat and sunshine. No need for heated seats where you are.

    My turn next week with a trip to Lanzarote, winter sunshine and maybe a bird or two.

    Take care Wally and take that girl of your out birding soon.

    • Hello, Phil! Yep, took an unscheduled blogging break but am back to it, now! Hope your trip will yield great birds and a bit of warmer weather!

  2. I love this place! I hope it doesn’t go the way of the rest of nation along waterways. Enjoyed seeing the multiple varieties of birds, as always. And a multitude of Monarchs! I guess everyone likes Florida. I’d have felt guilty for visiting this instead of the mall–NOT! And I don’t suppose you did, either. Happy New Year!

    • Patti, I’m sorry for the late response – was out birding! 🙂 (Okay, no excuse, I’m just lazy…..)
      It was a neat place to visit and it really has a lot of potential. Quite a varied habitat for such a small area.

  3. After having to step away from blogging for a few months I’ve just had the chance to return to OurFloridaJournal and continue to be so impressed with the quality of your images, eye for capturing your subjects and ability to describe a place or experience in fascinating ways. You just keep on getting better and better Wally. Keep it up!

    • And you are still WAY too kind, Rick! But I appreciate it very much!

      –For anyone who hasn’t found Rick Braveheart’s fabulous art, please visit his website and become inspired: . —

  4. We were out looking at nature too and stayed away from the malls completely! And didn’t feel guilty at all about it. My only regret is that my pictures aren’t as good as yours, but I have learned to live with that! This sounds like an area that needs to be added to my ‘must be visited list’. Happy New Year to both of you and thank you for your beautiful posts and for teaching me so much about our adopted state.

    • Well, Sallie, we’re natives and are STILL learning about our state! But that’s the fun part! We wish you and your family the best year ever!

  5. Hi Wally. I guess that days out don’t come much better than that – beautiful birds and butteflies, and superb images to remember them by!

    My best wishes to you and yours, and may all your plans and wishes for 2014 come to fruition.

    Richard

  6. Hello Wally,
    Indeed it has been a great photographic and observation year for you to my pleasure of discovering what surrounds you!
    All those species you showed are different or non-existent here in France and it is always a delight to discover what you publish!
    I sincerely hope 2014 is as good to you and even better!
    Keep well!

    • It has been inspiring to visit your web pages and learn what great photography looks like! Thank you for your very kind comments and we wish you and your family a Happy New Year!

  7. I was certain your Wood Stork photo was in my Wally hall of fame top of the list until I saw that yellow-green-eyed Osprey with the mullet. Now they’re tied. “Spectacular” may describe your year — it also describes the sharing you’ve done with all of us in words, photographs and your good heart. Thank you — I look forward to the many gifts I know 2014 will bring. Love you.

    • Thank you, Little Sister! It’s been fun discovering new places and trying new things. Hope to continue the process.
      We love you tons!

  8. Great photos and it looks like a perfect place to get away from all the crowds and “whatnot” that goes with this season of the year. Unfortunately, our area is marketed as a perfect holiday destination! We “locals” simply retreat inside our own fences! You can’t compete with the 3000 plus campers along the Inskip Peninsular! If the tides and the weather cooperate this week I shall try to find out if the the shorebirds have found quiet roosting places! Meanwhile – enjoy your own quiet places.

  9. Wonderful post and a perfect retreat from the mall chaos. Malls have a way of sucking out my soul. Awesome shots, especially the osprey with his meal and the rail. Neat neat! Yep, this is my kinda place. Thank you again for help on that warbler last week. 🙂 Wishing you a wonderful 2014!

  10. As always I enjoyed your narration as much as your photos, Wally and that’s saying something. As I read your first two paragraphs I wondered what the “kicker” would be and loved it when I found it in the following sentence. Knowing how secretive they are I especially enjoyed the rail image. Nicely done, my friend.

  11. First thing is Wally – don’t feel gulty. I suspect many people would like to escape from The Season of Goodwill but don’t necessarily have the wherewithall to do so.

    Those native Floridians must dread weekends and holiday times to be invaded by fun seekers rather than quiet and appreciative birders. Brilliant birdy shots – the pecker, the rail and the “legs” and hey, you even showed me a Dunlin and a Sanderling to make me feel at home even though its raing, cold and windy here.

    Nice finish with the Osprey – a fishy meal makes a change from all that Turkey and Christmas Pud.

    Have a great year Wally.

  12. I’m like TexWisGirl…I too would much prefer to do what you do other than go to the mall…in fact I’d do this any o’ time instead of trying to balance a check book too!!

    Love the eyes of the osprey!! Mesmerizing. And I learned something about what the nickname of the wood stork is…didn’t know that.

    Happy New Year Wally.

  13. Wonderful post and photos, sounds like an awesome outing. The Monarchs are beautiful, I did not see many this past summer. Happy Weekend and Happy New Years to you and yours!

  14. i like your kind of outing FAR better than any mall. 🙂 the monarchs are so pretty. great water birds, too.

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