Old Man Winter Blinks

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.

“So it is.”

And freezing.”

“Is it?”

“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”

(The House At Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne)

 

“What’s that?”, Gini asked. “Where?”, I replied. “Over there, along the banks of the stream.” My eyes followed the direction of her outstretched finger. It was March and we were in western Pennsylvania. Our small station wagon was straining to contain all our worldly possessions and we had been married less than a week. The journey north began in our native Florida, land of sunshine, sand and salt and we were bound for Syracuse, New York, to attend university and begin a life together. Now, we were taking a lunch break in the springtime woods with trees unknown to us sprouting leaves and flower buds. It was cold. Venturing forth to investigate my bride’s query of curiosity, I marveled at the clarity of the swiftly moving water and the rippled design of the sandy stream bed. The sky appeared as though dirty white pillow cases had been rumpled up and discarded about carelessly. The object of my search looked like soap suds such as one would see from a washing machine drain line or perhaps sea foam from a pounding surf along the wrack line at the beach. As I put my fingers into the white concoction and closed my hand around the iciness I realized I had just made a snowball. Hurrying back before it could all melt into nothingness, I breathlessly exclaimed “It’s snow!!”. My Lady was duly impressed and implored that we linger here, in the woods, in the Spring of our lives, admiring Our First Snow.

We soon discovered that moderation in many things in Life may be the key to happiness. I found this to be especially true regarding snow. This epiphany came to me during my sixth consecutive day of chipping ice from the car door and shoveling that lovely, wet, heavy white stuff from the driveway just for the privilege of driving slippery-slidy on a road full of cars performing the same circus-like act. Those glorious days were to be followed by equally glorious years in which we were blessed to have lived in many different locations. The lush forests and lakes of upstate New York with blazing autumns and deep snows provided everlasting fond memories. Living in the near-desert environment of west Texas was totally surprising. The astounding diversity of wildlife, amazingly adaptive flora, the genuine honesty and welcoming nature of the residents – still one of our favorite experiences. Several years in Europe taught us that people are much the same the world over. Kind, warm, accepting. A recurring theme we were happy to discover everywhere we traveled. Germany reminded us how beautiful a fresh snow in a deep forest can be and how much fun it is to shovel the stuff from one’s driveway every day for months on end (there’s that moderation thing again).

Each experience taught us a bit about specific locations, the world in general and, most importantly, about ourselves. One thing we eventually realized – we missed Home. Although, thanks to Gini’s resilience and cheerful optimism, we truly felt at “home” wherever we lived. We settled back into the Florida lifestyle without too much effort. The warmth of the sun on our faces almost all year, damp beach sand between our toes, plucking an orange from the tree and squeezing its contents down our throats, the tug of a speckled trout on the line, the taste of that trout cooked over a wood fire, the sound of hundreds of Spring “peeper” frogs in the marsh at night and the ability to go birding and spot dozens of species just about any day of the year.

All of this is not meant to “rub it in” for any of you not equally blessed. Rather, it’s just a reminder that we all live in a truly wonderful spot full of potential. If you are currently experiencing more than your fair share of cold or wet or unpleasantness of any sort, take heart! Spring is not too far away and soon your woods, streams, mountains, birding and attitudes shall be renewed.

In the meantime, please enjoy a small bit of winter birding from our local patch. As the population changes with the seasons, Lake Parker Park can be quite productive due to its lake frontage, small marshy areas, wooded tracts and open grassy expanses. A recent trip produced 58 species, my personal high for this location. Highlights included wintering warblers, terns, gulls, a hunting night heron, surprising a raptor and a fisherman demonstrating his technique.

Don’t let Old Man Winter get you down He has blinked and will soon be asleep.

 

We enjoy large numbers of Palm Warblers during our winter season. A few arrive still in breeding plumage and we see both eastern (a bit brighter yellow overall) and western (browner versions) species. They’re fun to watch with their constant tail pumping and habit of foraging on the ground sucking bugs from every blade of grass.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

 

Royal Terns are typically found near salt water but for some reason Lake Parker is home to a few who seem to like it here. Almost as large as the Caspian, North America’s largest tern, Royals are identified by their large orange-colored bills and clean white foreheads. The forehead will turn black during the breeding season (March-July). The second image shows an adult and immature tern, the youngster showing dark wing bars, a faint bit of striping on the head and a small bit of yellow still on the feet (younger birds have yellow legs/feet).

Royal Tern

Royal Tern

Royal Tern

Royal Tern

 

The big Caspian Tern has a redder bill than the Royal and the forehead usually shows some black all year. Some first year birds may have a white forehead. Also, Caspians will show some dark under primaries while a Royal will be mostly white.

Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern

 

Ring-billed Gulls are fairly common at the lake and are about the same size as a Caspian Tern. The immature gull shown here has a pinkish bill and legs, a lot of brown in the plumage, dark wing bars and a dark band on the tail (seen when flying). The adult is almost all light gray with dark wingtips and yellow bill.

Ring-billed Gull - Immature

Ring-billed Gull – Immature

 

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

 

The Osprey in central Florida is so commonplace it’s easy to pay no attention to them. I tend to watch them for long periods because, well, they’re just so good-looking.

Osprey

Osprey

 

I was fortunate to find a Black-crowned Night Heron foraging in a small marshy area covered in a lush growth of duckweed. He stabbed into the green stuff several times but I never saw any prey. A friendly fellow walking his very noisy small yappy dog stopped to ask what I was photographing. I pointed to the pretty gray and black bird quietly flapping deeper into the woods and wished him a pleasant day. No, really, I did.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

 

It’s amazing how such a starkly patterned bird like the Black-and-White Warbler can become almost invisible against a tree trunk. The first image is the female with a paler head pattern and white throat. The male is more intensely streaked.

Black and White Warbler - Female

Black and White Warbler – Female

Black and White Warbler - Male

Black and White Warbler – Male

 

Winter brings an influx of Pied-billed Grebes to our area and it’s a rule that one must be included in any collection of photographs due to their “adorable” factor.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

 

One of our year-round residents is also one of the most attractive. Common Yellowthroats are quick to investigate anything intruding into their territory, are usually very vocal and as this male demonstrates, aren’t too bad to look at, either.

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

 

Typically foraging in the higher reaches of the tree canopy and constantly on the move, a Pine Warbler is beautiful when you actually get a glimpse of one.

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

 

Speaking of beautiful, even with his mouth full, this Yellow-throated Warbler really brightens up the park.

Yellow-throated Warbler

Yellow-throated Warbler

 

The most effective fisherman at the lake by far is the Great Blue Heron. Here, he shows the correct method for swallowing a whole fish. (Do not try this at home.)

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

 

There I was, scanning a small pond for birds and coming up empty. As I turned and started down the path, I discovered I was being watched as well. A young Red-shouldered Hawk was less than 20 feet from me and let me take exactly one photograph before relocating to a less busy location.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

 

Probably the most numerous species to be found during any walk in the woods here is the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. During winter it’s not unusual to find 20-30 of these little vacuum cleaners amongst the tree branches. This one took a break from his insect collecting to do a bit of preening.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

 

 

It was another wonderful day of birding in our local patch. Less than ten minutes from the house. On a winter’s day full of sunshine and warmth and birds. I should be careful and remember my own admonition about moderation. But, honestly, how can I get TOO much of this?? Hopefully, Old Man Winter is blinking wherever you may be. (As for those of you south of the equator, please read all of this again in June.)

 

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

 

Additional Information

Lake Parker Park

 

See more birds at:   Paying Ready Attention   (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Post navigation

36 thoughts on “Old Man Winter Blinks

  1. Another lovely post stuffed with bird feathers and entertaining commentary. 🙂 The Great Blue Herons are amazing to watch, one of my favorite birds to stalk. Nice hawk shot. Osprey are striking birds.

  2. Oh I loved your essay and memories (and the reminder that when you are open to new people and new experiences, the new people and experiences will be wonderful and open back!)….

    And your pictures as always are so amazing; I see many of those birds around here (Ft Myers area) but getting pictures is another story; thank you for sharing your talents!

  3. Lovely post! I love the warbler photos, especially that Black-and-white-Warbler. Fantastic!

  4. Loved your beautiful bird shots…the great blue heron in mid-swallow is wonderful! But, I have to say, the highlight for me this morning was your delightful narrative about winter. I loved reading about the joy of your first snow encounter, and the way you embraced each place you lived (my hubby and I too have a varied experience). I loved your thoughts on moderation, and the A.A. Milne quote was truly priceless. I sometimes don’t take the time to really read and savor every word of a narrative that is more than a few lines (I think most bloggers are somewhat guilty of this) but I try to read most of what is there…. but this morning I am so glad I just soaked in every lovely word. Enjoy being home again.

    • What truly marvelous and thoughtful comments! Thank you so much! We really are enjoying being home but most of all we continue to enjoy each other. I usually feel that I write too much and include too many pictures for this to be a real “blog”, but I don’t know what else to call it. Your remarks make it all worth while. Thank you for taking the time to make our day better!

  5. Anonymous

    A beautiful post in every sense of the word. Loved your gull identification points, the eeyore quote, the memories of early married life as you and your true love adapted to life away from home, thoughts on the “blinking” of a season, that Blue Heron shot (!), and all of the colourful close-ups. A treat to visit here.. many thanks!

  6. What an array of gorgeous birds!

  7. You have some amazing photos of your birds here. Your info under each pic helps a lot of birders who want to explore your area. Great warbler shots as well!!! They are tricky buggers. Have a good rest of your week.

    • Nice to hear from you, Chris! Each time we visit your website we get the urge to visit the southwest again. You provide great motivation!
      Hope your weekend is a good one!

  8. A wonderful post, Wally!! I can fully understand why, after your global wanderings, you gravitated back to Florida. Its climate, flora and fauna seem to have so much to offer, and I get the impression that it’s (by and large) in good hands!

    Your account of your visit to Lake Parker Park is fascinating, and beautifully illustrated.

    Thank you for your encouragement concerning Old Man Winter. Currently, here, he now seems to be having the odd cat-nap. Just when you think he’s nodding off, he’s suddenly wide awake again.

    Best wishes to you and Gini – – – – Richard

    • Good afternoon, Richard! Yes, we’re quite spoiled with our weather and we fully realize we take it all for granted. It’s a dirty job but someone must do it!

      We hope your winter weather abates soon and Spring will burst forth with a cornucopia of birds to chase!

      Have a wonderful weekend, Richard!

  9. Wally, your opening words today are truly resounding. Thank you for sharing part of yours and Gini’s life history. You are truly a man of compassion, insight and love for the world at large. It is a pity then that many of the human race appear not to share such qualities.

    My commiserations for your commonplace Ospreys but if you package one or two and send them via UPS I will do my best to accommodate them in Pilling. But I am mystified as to why the heron is looking for food in a bowl of broccoli soup? Does it know there may be alligators or worse Floridian dangers lurking below?

    I too am rather wary of “adorable” birds but if pushed I could include a few of the warblers you picture in their Spring colours, while even the Ring-billed Gull emits a certain aura of supremacy.

    I hope the snow remains but a distant memory and does not trouble you again.

    • You sure say nice things, Phil! It’s greatly appreciated, too! Hopefully, we have found sufficient refuge from any further snow issues. That night heron is probably aware of the alligators but the bills of herons and egrets have resulted in many ‘gators now being referred to as “old one-eye”. Gators think coots taste just fine, thank you.

      Rain let up today and Gini and I had a wonderful time trying to count ducks on lakes. Fun!

  10. tingsgrove

    Oh you got some awesome images and of course you know my fav was the juvie Red-Shouldered Hawk. I leave for FL tomorrow. It got postponed again, but if nothing fails me now, I will have 5 days there~

    • We hope your visit to our Sunshine State will be the best – trip – ever! Remember, the Florida (especially south Florida) Red-shouldered Hawks can appear quite pale compared to what you may be used to.

  11. A lovely piece of retrospective and a great series of birds. I lived in places with snow in the winter for about 10 years and am very happy to now have a nice warm climate all year round! I especially liked the photos of the terns. We have Caspians out here but not Royals. Especially beautiful in-flight photos.

  12. I just found my first Palm Warbler here a few weeks ago! Your bird photos are always perfection and excellent. It is always very exciting to see what you will put in. Your bird species are quite different from mine. That Night Heron photo is shockingly beautiful and incredible, all the colors in it. It looks so easy for you to get these shots sometimes.

    • Good morning, Nora! We have so many Palm Warblers here during winter migration it’s easy to take them for granted. Three were just at my back door scooping up bugs from under the edges of the door mat. Hope you are feeling well today. And you’re right, it’s quite easy for me to these shots. I just walk out and the birds all strike a pose ……. 🙂

  13. Any post that starts with a quote from Eeyore is always going to be a winner in my books!
    Bird picts are pretty good too!!!

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

    • G’day, Stewart! When Eeyore sounds optimistic you know it’s a good day! Thanks for stopping in! Hope your week is going well. I’m still dreaming about a picnic on your rocks with that fabulous view.

  14. Hello Wally,
    Another fine post with beautiful photos and incredible close-ups!
    The heron swallowing a large fish is fabulous, and that Little grebe is magnificent, a great shot.
    Yes, I agree, what ever happens always see the bright side of it. OK, easy to say but for many people round the world, life can become terrible with harsh weather conditions.
    We are quite privileged 🙂
    We had a spell of snow lasting a couple of days and I was really lucky and happy with great opportunities such as a Goshawk attacking a pheasant, a Green pecker foraging for ants in the snow and more!…..
    Keep well and happy birding 🙂

    • I look forward to seeing more of your images taken during your snow! The ones I’ve seed so far are superb!
      Thank you for your visit and for your usual very kind comments!

  15. I am so insanely jealous of the Common Yellowthroat image! I saw that bird for the first time last year and only got a side view. All the warbler photos are awesome, really. You have such a variety of wildlife where you live, and I’m amazed at all you are able to capture and do it so well!

    For some reason your images do not show up on my ipad. Would’ve stopped by earlier, but I can only view your posts on my desk computer. FYI

    • Thank you, Gail! I think if its name wasn’t “Common” Yellowthroat, it would get more attention!
      Not sure why the images aren’t displaying on your iPad. Perhaps other readers know the answer?

  16. Florice

    Every time I think, “This is his very best blog, but each blog just gets better.” This one was so special. I haven’t seen most of those birds. All are beautiful, but the Great Blue Heron was great. So are you and Gini!

    • Stop, it, Sister, you’re making me blush! It was so good to talk to you. Wish you were here so we could remind you what a beach looks like!

      Love you!

  17. HI Wally Once again a great read which make me smile before you showed us the wonderul adn beautiful birds you found on your day’s birding. That is some huge fish for the heron to take down whole and a great capture. I really like the B & W Warblers but s all these birds are new to me, I love seeing them and tying to remember them. We have no snow here at present but today, although sunny was cold and very windy. I have some small daffodils blooming so spring cannot be too far away now.. Have a great week and happy birding.

    • If my words brought a smile to your face today, I must be doing something right!

      Margaret, thank you again for your very kind reaction to our efforts. We really appreciate it!

  18. LOVE the gulper! (and your disclaimer). you get such great variety of warblers! love the b&w! the pied-bills stole my heart several years back when we had one or two winter here for a few years in a row. not recently – i guess the whistlers are overwhelming, to say the least.

    we have snow and sleet in texas today. 🙂

    • Thank you so much for continuing to visit and provide such encouraging comments! Your images of Texas mean a lot to us. But you can keep that snow and sleet stuff!

We value your Comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: