Just Around The Corner

Is there a correlation between the quality of an experience and distance traveled?  As a kid, the back yard held all the adventure I could handle.  Heavy construction with a small metal bulldozer, wild animals (neighborhood cats), invading pirates from the ship “Jolly Roger’s Imagination”, chasing fireflies at night and that perennial favorite “hide and seek”.  Becoming more worldly as I matured, it was apparent that there were more exciting pursuits awaiting beyond the boundary of the fenced-in yard.  Thus began a lifetime of exploration that would take me thousands of miles from that boyhood world.

Birding has been one of those adventures I have enjoyed more than most.  It’s fun to plan a trip to a spot we’ve never visited and contemplate what exotic species we might be able to spot.  One must pay attention to the logistics required for a longer trip in order to avoid unexpected emergencies such as running out of gas, becoming lost, having no food or drink handy, forgetting the binoculars, not checking the insect repellant supply, etc.  Adequate planning equals a successful journey!

Or….you could just visit the local park less than ten minutes from the front door.

Lake Parker Park consists of about 100 acres on the northwest shore of Lake Parker in Lakeland, Florida.  The lake has 2,272 acres, three boat ramps, two fishing docks and a good population of game fish.  The park is operated by the city and offers picnic facilities, ball fields, tennis courts, hiking paths, rest rooms, a boat ramp and a varied habitat attractive to a fairly wide variety of bird species.

It was a bit foggy and cool (43 F/6 C) for our area but there was no wind and the fog was expected to dissipate quickly.  It did.  The park had just opened for the day and since it was the middle of the week there weren’t too many guests.  In about two hours I tallied 53 species.  The highlights for me were:  a large number of migrating warblers (mostly Palm and Yellow-rumped), a banded Wood Stork, a trio of Roseate Spoonbills, hundreds of Tree Swallows skimming the lake’s surface, a friendly Blue-headed Vireo and a busy Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

By 9:00 a.m., I was sipping freshly brewed coffee in the easy chair in my own living room.  I could become accustomed to this!

Come on, I’ll show you a few of the park’s visitors.


Just at sunrise, with the heavy fog, Cattle Egrets hit the snooze alarm and snuggled up on the branches of these Cypress trees.  Fifteen minutes later, the trees were bare.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret


A Purple Gallinule shuffled along the shoreline looking for just the right weed to eat for breakfast.

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule


Ring-billed Gulls are the most prominent gull species at the lake.  The one on the dock poses with a smaller Forster’s Tern.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

Forster's Tern, Ring-billed Gull

Forster’s Tern, Ring-billed Gull


A group of White Ibises share a bath before heading to the office.

Ibises At The Bath

Ibises At The Bath


There’s no getting around it.  Pied-billed Grebes are just cute.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe


Palm Warblers are gathering in large flocks and gorging on insects to provide them sufficient protein for their return migration to the north.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler


Although we have an influx of warblers during spring and fall migrations, we also have a resident population of a few warbler species which remain here all year.  The Pine Warbler is one of those species, but there’s no way to tell if this is a resident or a visitor.  Pretty bird, no matter which!

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler


The bright Yellow-throated Warbler also breeds in Florida.

Yellow-throated Warbler

Yellow-throated Warbler


Blue-gray Gnatcatchers sometimes appear to be everywhere!  Wherever they are, they are little perpetual-motion bug-vacuuming machines.  This one stopped briefly out of curiosity and then flitted away to examine a branch.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher


The Wood Stork has been maligned as not being “pretty”.  I reckon it depends on your definition of pretty.  I happen to think they are beautiful creatures.  This one apparently has read some of the unkind descriptions and is sporting jewelry on each leg.  I’ve submitted the numbers but haven’t received a response yet.

Wood Stork

Wood Stork


We don’t normally see Roseate Spoonbills here as they typically prefer a more marshy environment and shallower water.  This morning three of them paid a visit.  Their unique bill allows them to filter a lot of nutrients out of the water as they swing the “spoon” back and forth.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill


The colorful pink guests attracted “groupies” who scurried around to be sure they were included in the photos being snapped by the paparazzi (or, in my case, the “grandpapa-razzi”).  A Great Egret and a White Ibis offer contrasting colors and bill designs.

Great Egret, Roseate Spoonbill

Great Egret, Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis

Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis


A Little Blue Heron was disturbed by something and flew by squawking loudly.

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron


One of our winter visitors, a Blue-headed Vireo, seemed to follow me around for awhile, flying from tree to tree keeping up with me.

Blue-headed Vireo

Blue-headed Vireo


Another winter guest, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, didn’t let me interrupt its hunt for juicy insects to fuel the upcoming flight north.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker


This Downy Woodpecker is likely a park resident as I’ve seen him in this same location in past years.  I thought he might be considering that cavity for a nest but I think he was just searching the area thoroughly for a snack.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker


Yes, great excitement and adventure can be had by properly planning for a long trip to distant and exotic locales.  However, once in awhile, it can be nice to forgo the intricate plans, hop in the car and visit the park just around the corner.

(This post was inspired in part by a recent blog from Mia McPherson.  If you haven’t enjoyed her photographic art yet, pay her a visit at:  On The Wing Photography.  Prepare to be impressed!)

We hope you 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 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

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38 thoughts on “Just Around The Corner

  1. Wally, once again I’m blown away by your variety of birds! We just spent 4 1/2 days in southern Utah on a bird photography trip and I photographed about a half dozen species the entire time I was there. I worked hard at it too. Very nice images and as always I enjoyed your narrative.

    • Ron, we’re definitely blessed in the variety department! Sounds like you guys had a great camping trip. I was totally jealous viewing your “private” campsite! Hope you have a great week!

  2. Great set of pictures! And I have actually seen a couple of these birds!

    I think there is a correlation between the distance travelled and the intensity of mind splitting jet lag if recent experience is anything to go by! It took me about a week to recover!!

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

  3. I know I’ve been here before, but on re-reading (re-gazing at the pictures) I just realized that this Park is in Lakeland. What a bird Paradise that city/area is. I am putting Lake Parker Park on my ‘to be visited’ list.

  4. This is an outstanding post, Wally!
    The Roseate Spoonbills are just magnificent!
    What a wonderful area you live in!
    Yes OK, I am a bit jealous!!! 😉
    Your banner is exquisite!
    Keep well and enjoy spring!

  5. I am looking forward to this trip:) In a few days, I head there and discover what there is to discover! I cannot sleep at night. I hope the Roseate Spoonbills are waiting there:) Your Blue–Gray Gnatcatcher shot is awesome!

    • I understand your anticipation, Chris! Sure hope your trip is memorable. Thanks so much for the comments. Not sure where you will be visiting, but let us know if we can help in any way.

  6. Beautiful birds. I love the woodpeckers.

  7. I’m the type to risk long trips without planning. As long as I’ve got a spare tire, a credit card, and a cell phone I’m good.

    Great photos. My favorite are the warblers.

  8. You are very fortunate to have a park like that and so many birds so close to home. Beautiful photos of all the birds and I like the way so many of your photos have also caught the morning light in reflections.

    • Thanks, Mick! The birder in me usually forgets about the little things that make photographs better! So I depend on my secret weapon a lot: “luck”.

      All the best!

  9. How awesome that this place is just around the corner. I am just realizing how cute the pied-billed grebes are, but getting a decent photo has been difficult for me. Not for you, apparently. 🙂 Love your warbler collection and the vireo. Well, I love them all!

    • So many places to visit, so little time! It’s easy to overlook the familiar. Thank you, Gail, for your really kind remarks!

  10. That is tough work living right next door to a birding Paradise. But I suppose someone has to do it. Fabulous bird pictures as always.

  11. Wow, so much to see just around the corner! So many great captures too, Wally! What a great close up of the adorable gnatcatcher and the spoonbill shots with the reflections are stunning! Love the cypress trees filled with sleeping cattle egrets; looks so peaceful!

    • I keep driving by the place on the way to some distant birding spot and then when I take the time to drop by I’m always amazed by the variety! Silly me! Coulda saved a bunch of gas.

  12. How very true that the places around the corner can fulfill. I rather enjoyed my visit. A good eye for finding interesting poses and such. The size comparison shot of the gull and tern is very nice.

    • Thanks, Grampy! I can’t take much credit for the poses, we just have birds who love the camera — (yeah, I wish!).

  13. Beautiful shots. Love the trees full of Cattle Egrets.

  14. More really wonderful images in this post, Wally! The Spoonbill images, particularly those with other birds, or the reflected bird, are my favourites. How lucky you are to have such a rich variety of birds close to home.

  15. Seems to me you don’t need to travel far Wally. Everytime i visit your blog you’re in yet another Florida birding spot. And there was me thinking it was all beaches and palatial houses for moneyed gentry on sprawling gated communities. Anyway, enough of my moaning and more of your birding.

    Those egrets are lazy stay-in-beds. Here our Little Egrets are out of bed and looking for food even as it’s almost dark – wonder if that’s the relative warmth/cold of Florida/Lancashire and availablity of food?

    Love those comparison shots – this time Ring-billed Gull dwarfing a poor little Forster’s.
    Lovely colourful warbler shots of course and I remember banding the little gnatcatcher, a gem of a bird as you portray.

    Blue and pink birds! Whatever next?

    • People, birds….we all sleep late and don’t work here in Paradise!!

      I can’t believe a Gnatcatcher would allow himself to be caught for ringing! They seem so elusive.

      Leave it to Nature to provide a full array of colors for us to enjoy.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Phil! A new week is beginning and we certainly hope yours will be filled with birds!

      All the best.

  16. I know I’m incredibly fortunate to live plop in the middle of a pine forest, but to have an area like Lake Parker Park within walking distance really would be something. I, too, remember those fun days when as kids we would go exploring, swinging from “Tarzan” vines, doodling for doodle bugs, and stretching our imaginations.

    Great photos, all. The Little Blue Heron’s sapphire color took my breath away. Wow. (I think the Wood Storks are magnificent, too.)

    • Ahh, the good ‘ole days! Hey, wait a minute….you mean we spent a lifetime of searching and working just to return to where we started??

      Love you, Sis!

  17. Awesome post and bird sightings.. I would love to have these birds around the corner from me.. The Spoonbill shots are lovely and I agree the Grebe are so cute! I am looking forward to see some of these beautiful warblers soon. Fantastic photos, have a great day.

  18. The Spoonbill casts a pretty reflection. We had an azalea full of Gnatcatchers one year, haven’t seen them since. I love those spunky warblers, too. Lots of great shots–and in two hours time. Nice.

  19. your sapsucker portrait is the best i’ve seen. wow. love the reflection of the ibis and spoonbill together! the little blue is so pretty. and i agree, pied-billed grebes are the cutest darn things!

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