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!
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.
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.
This male Belted Kingfisher seemed to relish his resting spot on a fishing pier as it was out of the stiff wind.
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.
More color for the gray day! A Pine Warbler shows off his sun-colored plumage.
Even at rest, a Sandhill Crane exudes elegance.
There isn’t much mystery as to how the Cattle Egret qualified for its name.
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.)