A Dearth Of Ducks

Small puffs of fog formed in front of our faces each time we exhaled and by the light of the full moon we must have appeared to unseen observers as a small train making our way through the early morning darkness.  The nice thing about cold temperature is it seems to make the air clearer and one is almost forced to move at a faster tempo than normal.  The bad thing about cold temperature is that it’s – well – cold!

Cups of hot chocolate and coffee helped fortify us for the task ahead:  locate large quantities of ducks (preferably including rare species) and produce superior quality photographs of same, suitable for gracing the covers of internationally respected magazines and journals.

We arrived at our destination, Hardee Lakes County Park, before sunrise and scanned the first of four lakes for our quarry.  Our confidence factor was high as the level of migrating waterfowl throughout the area was near its peak.  Additionally, this park contains four lakes in a locale that has little open water available.  Historically, our own records show that near this time last year at this location we saw over 100 Ring-necked Duck, 50 Blue-winged Teal, 200 Double-crested Cormorants and over 90 American White Pelican.  We couldn’t fail!

A lone Double-crested Cormorant squawked at us as it ran across the lake surface, eventually lifting off and disappearing over the trees.  Not to worry!  Three more lakes to go!

Four hours later, we surrendered and pulled onto a berm with a nice view of one of the lakes (devoid of avian life) to sulk over sandwiches.  Gini’s food has magical properties and my attitude improved greatly after a delicious meal in the company of the planet’s most beautiful woman.  Onward!

We found a few colorful birds, dangerous insects and a near-endangered species.  Who needs ducks?

The day was gray and overcast most of the time which did not result in terrific light for taking pictures.  But I’ve never let a little thing like quality stand in my way, so here are a few snapshots of the “other stuff” we found.


My word for the day describes the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher:  “ubiquitous“.  It seemed like the little bug vacuums were infesting every tree.  Fun to watch them work!

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher


A young White-eyed Vireo was very curious about the funny-looking creature with the one great big eye.  Nothing like a splash of yellow to brighten up a gloomy day.

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo


The Sherman’s Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger shermani) is listed by Florida as a “species of special concern”.  This large squirrel has declined in numbers due primarily to habitat loss and conversion of pine forests to commercial pine farms.  They prefer open woods of long-leaf pine, oak or sandy hardwood forest.  Although uncommon, they can be found pretty much throughout peninsular Florida and into central Georgia.

Sherman's Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger shermani)

Sherman’s Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger shermani)


This male Belted Kingfisher seemed to relish his resting spot on a fishing pier as it was out of the stiff wind.

Belted Kingfisher (Male)

Belted Kingfisher (Male)


It’s almost comical to see an Anhinga using his large webbed feet to perch in a tree, but it’s a common practice.  This one objected to the paparazzi.




Using the restroom can be hazardous to your health.  These paper wasps built their nest under the eaves of the ladies’ room.  Fortunately, they were too busy sealing the new larvae into the nest cells to be bothered with finding someone to sting.

Paper Wasp (Polistes  spp.)

Paper Wasp (Polistes spp.)


More color for the gray day!  A Pine Warbler shows off his sun-colored plumage.

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler


Even at rest, a Sandhill Crane exudes elegance.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane


There isn’t much mystery as to how the Cattle Egret qualified for its name.

Cattle Egret and Friend

Cattle Egret and Friend



We went home duckless.  Along the way, we discovered color, danger, a rare animal and, most importantly, enjoyed that most precious of treasures – time together.

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, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

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28 thoughts on “A Dearth Of Ducks

  1. I doubt I’ll ever get used to seeing web-footed feet standing on a limb. It looks like it works for them, though. Haha-the paparazzi–just can’t trust folks with a camera! The Sherman’s Fox Squirrel is new to me. How distinctive their patterning.

  2. This post had slipped by me. So glad I found it — that Sherman’s Fox Squirrel is incredible. Buck has told me about fox squirrels before, and it seems like our woods would be “their” kind of habitat, but I’ve never seen one (yet). I now know the little guy that hangs out by the pool in fair weather or foul is a blue-gray gnatcatcher, and the millions (well, a lot anyway) of “tweets” that swarm the bird feeders are pine warblers. That Sandhill Crane would not look silly wearing a tiara.

    • These squirrels look huge compared to a Gray Squirrel! They are not very common and definitely make an impression!

      Love you, Sister!

  3. I know cold, fog and bad birding luck well, Wally – especially during winter. I especially enjoyed the crane, Pine Warbler and Sherman’s Fox Squirrel shots and it was fun seeing the tiny larvae inside the wasp nest. I wish you better luck on your next duck quest!

  4. tingsgrove

    What great shares and even though we lived in Florida twice, some of these interesting creatures, I never saw, or heard of. Beautiful birds~

  5. Hi Wally, you certainly made the most of your duckless day! The Fox Squirrel is a very interesting looking fella; I wish my yard could be full of them instead of the dull grey ones:) Love the Cattle Egret & its ride; superb capture!

    • Tammy, I only saw one of the Sherman’s Fox Squirrels last year and have seen four in the last two weeks. There is hope for your yard!

  6. Beautiful photos! I love the crane and the egret.

  7. Anonymous

    I’d have been more than happy for your day’s experience! Such wonderful shots. I especially like the ‘portrait’ of the landfill crane. The egret shot made me smile. What a perfect capture.
    I have to thank you for your comment about readers liking my startling photos. I had to laugh. 🙂
    Enjoyable post Wally!

  8. It’s all relative..that would be a good birding day for me. Did not know about the squirrel…thank you for that…and for all I learn here!

  9. You had a successful day anyway! Happens to me a lot that I go out looking for a particular subject and get a totally different cast of characters. That’s part of the fun of nature photography: there’s always something to shoot. 🙂 The white-eyed vireo is particularly stunning–that eye! What a cool find on the fox squirrel. Never heard of them, but would love to see one in person. Really great set of images, Wally.

    • Thank you so much, Gail! Yeah, it’s pretty egotistical to think we can dictate to Nature what we want to happen! We’ve learned to be very happy with what’s available.

  10. Awesome photos as always Wally. Even without the ducks you had a super day! My favorite photo would have to be your perfect look at the resting Sandhill Crane. What an incredible bird!

    • Hi, Larry! The cranes are always amazing. Beautiful to admire and wonderful to hear their early morning trumpeting. We have a sub-species that breeds and lives year around in Florida and in the winter we play host to tens of thousands of migrants. Right now, all the fields are full!

  11. Love the Sherman’s Fox Squirrel. Just had to google it. Its fairly localised by the looks of it, your specimen is certainly a colourful fella.

  12. Hi Wally,
    I feel like commenting each one of your pics, they are so interesting to one living in Europe!
    It is the first time I see the Sherman’s Fox Squirrel and I am very impressed! It is gorgeous! I hope you will soon be able to show us close-ups of it!!
    The Sandhill crane is a superb photograph and so is the Pine warbler, congratulations!
    The anhinga we don’t have here and it is a pleasure to see this one standing proudly on its branch!
    The “Cattle Egret and Friend” pic is superbly composed and fun to look at!
    Great series!

    • Merci beaucoup, Noushka! We really appreciate your very nice remarks. Now that I know where that squirrel lives, perhaps I can obtain some close-ups!

  13. laughing at the cow and cattle egret! LOVE the sandhill crane portrait! beautiful! that sherman’s squirrel is AMAZING! how cool is he?!

  14. Sounds like a lovely outing. Sorry, the ducks were MIA. Great birds and beautiful photos.

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