Babies, Birds, Bugs

Our central Florida summer has provided flashes of childhood memories. Hot with regularly scheduled thunderstorms every day. As a kid, handling the heat was an easy task. Simply run around in the rain to keep cool. A drainage ditch full of water was even better! If there was a day with no rain, simply turn on the garden hose and make your own rain. Life was so much simpler when we had to manufacture our own entertainment.

Thank goodness I have matured. With daily temperatures reaching the high 90 degree (F) mark and thunder, lightning and heavy rain occurring by noon every day, I do what any sensible nature-loving adult would do. I take a plastic bag to keep my binoculars and camera dry!

I’ve been trying to become more like a “real” birder is supposed to be and have discovered I am apparently obligated to declare a local birding venue as “My Patch”. Research indicates I’m not actually supposed to go out and purchase “My Patch”, which therefore means it isn’t really my “My Patch”. Instead, “My Patch” is a place I go regularly to scratch that interminable itch caused from being infected with the “birding” virus.

The place nearest the front door to which we travel with some sort of regularity is the municipal park at Lake Parker. The city of Lakeland, Florida does a good job of maintaining this area and it provides a decent oasis for resident as well as migratory birds. Visiting on a weekend or holiday can be hazardous to one’s health due to the overwhelming crowds, but an early weekday morning can be very pleasant. As it was recently.

Many birds are very busy raising new families and, just like the rest of us, are discovering the joy of incessantly screaming babies demanding to be fed. As the adult wanders off to find food, junior discovers his feet can be used to go places, which is how the game “Hide-and-Seek” was invented. When Mama returns with food and finds the baby gone much hysteria ensues. There follows long lectures about the many evils lurking in the big bad world. Parenting is fun.

Herewith are a few images from a morning at “My Patch”.

 

Camouflage is not the strong suit of the Roseate Spoonbill. They are sort of pretty, though. The unusual shape of that bill helps filter nutrients as the bird swings it back and forth through the water.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

 

A Halloween Pennant is hard to miss with its bright orange color and striped wings.

Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina)

Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina)

 

This dragonfly was intent on following me along the lake shore. He would fly a few feet toward the lake, circle back and position himself right in front of my face. The Prince Baskettail is very aggressive about protecting “His Patch”!

Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps)

Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps)

 

One of those babies mentioned earlier has discovered those huge feet will take him all sorts of places! Hopefully, the young Common Gallinule will soon discover how handy those wings can be in the event of alligators, snakes and hawks. Mother will be along soon to explain it all.

Common Gallinule (Juvenile)

Common Gallinule (Juvenile)

 

Speaking of Mother. This Limpkin is hunting for an Apple Snail breakfast. Once secured, she patiently shows her youngster how to remove the operculum with that handy scissor-like bill which will allow the tasty meat to be extracted. As with kids everywhere, most of the instruction is forgotten once the morsel of escargot appears. “Do it again, Mom!”

Limpkin

Limpkin

Limpkin

Limpkin

 

More Mothers. The adult Purple Gallinule strains to see where Junior has gotten to. Ah, there he is, under a lily snatching bugs. Good for him! He’s learning!

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule (Juvenile)

Purple Gallinule (Juvenile)

 

The female Four-spotted Pennant has very subtle “spots” on her wings as opposed to the male which is a very dark dragonfly with distinct wing markings.

Four-spotted Pennant - Female/Immature (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant – Female/Immature (Brachymesia gravida)

 

This immature male Eastern Pondhawk started his adult life a bright green just like an adult female. Gradually, the green gives way to the powdery blue signifying a male.

Eastern Pondhawk - Male (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Eastern Pondhawk – Male (Erythemis simplicicollis)

 

Characteristic wing bars and shiny dark face identify this large dragonfly as a Bar-winged Skimmer.

Bar-winged Skimmer (Libellula axilena)

Bar-winged Skimmer (Libellula axilena)

 

Patience is a virtue. Just ask this Great Egret. After waiting and waiting and waiting…..he suddenly struck the water so fast one couldn’t follow the movement. His reward was a nice juicy tadpole.

Great Egret

Great Egret

Great Egret With Tadpole

Great Egret With Tadpole

 

Many of Florida’s water birds are similar in appearance. This all white bird is actually an immature Little Blue Heron. They remain white until their first spring and then begin to show some of the slate blue colors of an adult. A bill that appears to be two-toned, all yellowish legs and dusky wingtips help to distinguish this species from the Snowy Egret. All of the above plus size separate it from the larger all white Great Egret, also pictured below.

Little Blue Heron (Immature)

Little Blue Heron (Immature)

Great Egret

Great Egret

 

The Tricolored Heron is usually no problem to identify. It has gray-blue plumage overall above, a sort of purplish chest, a white stripe under its long neck and white underparts. It is the only dark heron in North America with light underparts.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

 

There were very few mammals active during this visit and the reason why was discovered when I spotted this Gray Squirrel on a coffee break.

Gray Squirrel

Gray Squirrel

 

 

It’s hot, it’s humid, it’s rainy. What else could you possibly be doing? Go find “Your Patch” and see how many birds, babies and bugs are waiting for you!

 

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

 

Additional Resources

Lake Parker Park

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

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28 thoughts on “Babies, Birds, Bugs

  1. The Tri-colored Heron is a real beauty. Fun to see the mamas and their young.

  2. The birds in your patch are wonderful — (I always wondered exactly what bloggers meant when they used that term…thank you very much). But the first part of the post describing the weather esp. the part about daily thundershowers, is reason enough to decide quickly on a trip .. (I’m reading backwards as I’m catching up since we’re also traveling)

  3. Gale Comin

    I love getting your posts. Good tip about the “My Patch” thing. I’ll have to find mine.

  4. Great narative and fabulous images, as usual from you Wally! I’m not sure about the Roseate
    Spoonbill being pretty – take the head in isolation and its about as pretty as a vulture to my eyes!

    Your dragons are wonderful, and your flight images are excellent. However, my favourites are the ones of Purple Gallinule (the juvenile looks so ungainly – it reminds me of a cartoon character and makes me smile) and the Last Tricolored Heron image.

    How about swapping local patches? ;-}

    • Ahh, but Richard, beauty is in the eye of the birder! I happen to think the Vulture rather attractive. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’d be happy to SHARE patches!

      • Sharing patches sounds very attractive, Wally. If you’re ever in UK it would be my great pleasure to introduce you to mine!

      • Careful what you wish for, Richard! If I were to glimpse your Little Owls, you would never be rid of me!

  5. Shooting dragonflies is so much fun. You’ve got some great ones here. Every once in a while I get one that seems to enjoy having his picture taken. Marvelous shots of the birds and babies, too.

  6. Wonderful images. We found some spoonfuls here just 2 hours south of Dallas at a water mgmt area….they are a long way from home!

    • Fortunately for y’all, the Spoonbill wanders north of the coast pretty often in the Lone Star state. Aren’t they pretty in pink?

  7. I agree, everyone must have a patch Wally. Some lucky birders have more than one patch though.

    As you rightly observed and captured on camera, the Roseate Spoonbill is a very striking pink – almost unreal, as are the long legs of the gallinule.

    You found ever more brilliant โ€œdragonโ€ pictures for us too.

    The heron shots are great. It takes a fast lens and a keen eye (without a patch) to capture them in flight and before they swallow. Fortunately we have only one small egret, the Little, so donโ€™t have to worry about IDing too much.

    Iโ€™m taking your advice now and heading off birding to a place I know. Enjoy your week Wally.

    • Thank you so much, Phil! I guess my problem is I think everywhere should be my patch and I’m continually frustrated I can’t visit them all!

  8. My-my!
    Not my “My patch”, but I would certainly love to spend some time there with you as guide!
    What a fabulous post, you got the birds and dragons so close!
    You had a ball but me too admiring in detail each picture!
    That Epitheca princeps watching you and trying to determine if you represent a danger is fantastic!
    The Halloween pennant is really a must, I have to see it one day with my own eyes!!
    Well done Wally, you can throw in some more!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I really appreciate your very kind comments, Noushka! (For those who wish to see exquisite nature photographs, especially more dragonflies, visit Noushka’s blog!)

  9. Stalked by a dragonfly! That’s a new one! Great mug shot of him.

  10. Oh all of these photos are just so outstanding! Is there anything more exquisite than that tri-colored heron in flight? I think not!
    I’ve only lived here (Vero Beach) 5 yrs and it seems this summer is the rainiest yet? I also don’t recall the rains starting as early each day as they have this summer. You are dead-on with saying “noon-time”….is this a bit of an unusual season?

    • Thank you very much! This year is a bit wetter than the last few. It definitely goes in cycles (in spite of what some “scientists” would like you think).

  11. The adult and juvenile Limpkin are fantastic. I also really like the Roseate Spoonbill – the ones out here are just white with either a black head and bill or a yellow bill. It sounds as though your summer heat is even more extreme than what I have here – but my solution is making “my patch” a shoreline one – and I never resist getting into the water as part of the birding ritual!

    • Hi, Mick! Yes, beach birding in the summer has definite advantages! Thanks for dropping by. Hope you’re having a good weekend.

  12. HI Wally I just love when you post. I usually am in stitches. I love your sense of humour. Now you photographs are superb. Love the insects and seeing the young ones and then their parents arriving back looking for them!. Great flight shots. You certainly have a great “patch” on your doorstep. Have a great weekend.

  13. enjoyed all your water birds, again! just beautiful shots. the dragons, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

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