Grandma Jones was an evil woman. Standing barely five feet tall she looked quite harmless, especially when standing alongside Grandpa who was well over six feet in height. Together, they resembled Grant Wood’s painting, “American Gothic”, only she was much smaller than her female counterpart. Of course, I don’t believe she had an actual mean bone within her diminutive frame, but when I was a kid, I would have sworn otherwise. My Dad worked as a carpenter in Miami when he and Mother started a family. He was raised on a farm north of Pensacola in Florida’s panhandle where, along with nine brothers and sisters, he learned the value of hard work. We always looked forward to visiting our grandparents’ farm because we knew there would be adventure galore.
City kids. We were ripe for learning many lessons.
Banty chickens (Bantam) roosted in various spots around the farm. Grandpa had built them a nice shelter which they never set claw into. They preferred to roost in trees and lay eggs on the porch, by the old syrup press, on feed sacks or in the seat of Grandpa’s tractor. “Go gather as many eggs as you can find”, Grandma said, giving hints on where to search. Oh, boy! An egg hunt! What fun! If you are not familiar with the breed, let’s just say Banty chickens can be, uhhh, “aggressive”. The roosters have wicked spurs on their legs and I carried a wicked scar on my ankle for years after gathering eggs for Grandma. “Take this sandwich to Grandpa”, Grandma said, directing me to the watermelon field and advising the best route was through the pasture just outside the kitchen door. Oh, boy! Fresh watermelon was sure to be my reward! A very large, very fast red bull taught me the key to winning future track contests was pure speed. Another scar was added to my early collection of wounds. This time on my back as I dove through the barbed wire fence to reach safety. “Let’s go to the okra patch”, said the little woman in the witch’s hat riding a straw broom. I was on to her game. “I think I hear Mother calling me”, I quickly responded. “I’ll go help you pick a basket full for supper”. The witch morphed back into the small woman in a gingham apron with a kindly face. We carried a basket and she showed me how to use a sharp knife to cut the pods from the stalks and how to pick the best looking okra. I was so proud to be able to contribute to the night’s meal. My wonderful Grandmother even praised my okra picking skill at the supper table for all to hear. Maybe I had been wrong about her. It’s the little details we sometimes don’t notice until too late. For instance, I never noticed my sweet Grandma was wearing a long-sleeved shirt and cotton gloves as we gathered okra. If you’ve never picked okra, you may not be aware the plants are covered with hairy stems which can cause a little irritation when it contacts human skin. My inflamed red arms burned and itched for days despite frequent applications of calamine lotion. Suspicion confirmed. That little woman was to be avoided at all costs! On the other hand, she did keep me supplied with warm biscuits stuffed with fresh pear preserves ….
Speaking of okra patches, I visited my birding patch recently in the hope of discovering hundreds of exotic migratory species stopping to rest on their journey northward. Once again, I didn’t find what I was looking for but was totally satisfied with what I did find. One definition of patch: “a small piece, part, or section, especially that which differs from or contrasts with the whole.”
That pretty well sums up Lake Parker Park, a fairly typical urban park on the shore of a lake and with lots of picnic shelters, jogging paths, tennis courts, soccer fields, a boat ramp and (“that which differs”) – a whole bunch of birds. I take it for granted (again) that I’ll see 40 or 50 species every time I visit and have yet to be disappointed. On this day, nothing really unusual was sighted but it was a day full of color. From the orange of the sky at sunrise, to the whites, yellows, pinks, grays, browns and reds of the birds, it was a totally enjoyable and relaxing morning. Wish you had been there.
Some images of the day are on the way.
Rising above the surface of the lake, a Forster’s Tern and the Sun greet me when I first arrive.
Reflections of the sunrise bounce off the water to light the underside of a Royal Tern.
The pale eye of a Ring-billed Gull may not quite be ready for the intensity of the morning sun.
Fish. It’s what’s for breakfast. For Ospreys.
One migrant enjoyed the insect bounty of the park. A Prairie Warbler all dressed in his bright yellow suit was hard to miss.
Commuter traffic was heavy along the canal as a White Ibis passes a Roseate Spoonbill gathering his breakfast in the fast food wade-thru lane.
Breeding plumage for a Roseate Spoonbill is a wonderful blend of subtle and outrageous colors.
A little preening is in order before this Mourning Dove is completely ready to face her day.
It’s not too early for mister Northern Cardinal to greet the day with song!
Pine Warblers breed in Florida, but we also see many during migration. I don’t know if this one is a resident or a visitor. I also don’t know if he was picking out seeds or bugs from this pod.
Tanning buddies. For now. Once the alligator is a bit older, he may recognize that sliders can be tasty. There are many who might encourage this behavior as Red-eared Sliders are not native to Florida but have multiplied in the wild due to the pet industry.
An immature Bald Eagle cruises over the lake hoping to spot a fish near the surface for an easy brunch.
Well, I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for but was extremely satisfied with what I did find. If you visit your own patch, we wish you success but try to be happy with whatever you’re offered. And if you happen to be visiting an okra patch – wear long sleeves and gloves!
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.)