Report From The Patch

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.

Forster's Tern

Forster’s Tern


Reflections of the sunrise bounce off the water to light the underside of a Royal Tern.

Royal Tern

Royal Tern


The pale eye of a Ring-billed Gull may not quite be ready for the intensity of the morning sun.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull


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.

Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler


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.

Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis

Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis


Breeding plumage for a Roseate Spoonbill is a wonderful blend of subtle and outrageous colors.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill


A little preening is in order before this Mourning Dove is completely ready to face her day.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove


It’s not too early for mister Northern Cardinal to greet the day with song!

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal


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.

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler


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.

American Alligator, Red-eared Slider

American Alligator, Red-eared Slider


An immature Bald Eagle cruises over the lake hoping to spot a fish near the surface for an easy brunch.

Bald Eagle - Immature

Bald Eagle – Immature


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.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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22 thoughts on “Report From The Patch

  1. Wally I have just reread my comment to you and found so many mistakes in it ( my age! ). So I hope you will be able to understand it. All the best.

    • No worries, Margaret. I have an automatic translator on the blog that renders all mistakes completely intelligible! — 🙂

  2. I just wrote a long post to you and it was lost! So here goes again. This post certainly evoked memories of my granny as she had hens and I loved putting my hands in the boxes to collect the hens and even when some gens were. still sitting the the box, it was so nice and warm them. Of course her hens were better behaved than your granny’s because they knew to use the boxes. ( mostly!). she sound the access when people came to the front door but she also had 2 very large greenhouses were she grow tomatoes and I used to love to go in there and just sit and absorb the wonderful tomato smell. Of course I helped pick them and was allowed ti set the small sweet ones. People also bought these at the front door. Mt Granda had a milk business and I loved to help with that from getting the milk, washing the bottle, bottling the milk, putting on the cardboard tops and ten getting up vet yes rely in the morning to deliver it. Wonderful days spent with my grandparents. Thanks Wally for evoking these memories for me and it was lovely to hear about your own memories. Now, as I see it, plans it seems are meant to be broken and it is ones attitude how one handles the change that is the important thing. Often a change means a much more exciting adventure. All. Your photographs are fantastic but I particularly love the Prairie and Pine Warblers shots. The second Spoonbill shot with that reflection is stunning and of course who would not like that wonderful red Cardinal. I thought the turtle and gator shot hilarious consist earring later on, they would OT be friends. Innocents for now! Once again for making my day when I read and see your lovely post.

  3. You had me at the Foster’s Tern. Wow! The Pine Warbler is sensational also. I’d love to shadow you on a photography outing one day.

    • I move so slow, Gail, you’d fall asleep waiting for me to move on down the path! Been lovin’ your adventures in macro-land!

  4. I’d guess pear preserves and kind words would make up for all Grandmas evil ways ;)). Loved hearing your memories. We should all be so lucky! All the birds as always are wonderful. I love the pine warbler with that seed pod… You have the best eye and somehow the secret of not scaring the songbirds. Every time I point my camera at one it takes off. And another great birding spot. I will have to live to be 200 to hit all the good ones

  5. Great pictures and words – I wonder how any of us got though the first few years!

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

    • Stewart, there is an old saying about that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger! I think whoever said that had kids in mind!

      Enjoy the upcoming week!

  6. A wonderful post – thank you Wally. I’ve not only enjoyed your narrative and beautiful images, but you’ve set me reflecting on my own childhood and grandparents. On my mother’s side, they lived in Malaya, and I’m tempted to say that they had little influence on me. However they did come home to UK occasionally, bringing exotic foods with them (but not okra!!). They also came with other exotic items which I’ve since become a bit dubious about – an Atlas Moth with an 11 inch wingspan that they’d killed by putting it in a biscuit tin together with a gin-soaked wad of cotton-wool, and (very unacceptable these days) a stuffed baby crocodile. Both these items earned me kudos at school! My paternal grandparents were more of an influence and were from the ‘other end of the social scale’, living in a ‘two up, two down’ with outhouse facilities in the east end of London . My grandfather was a foreman on the railway, and a very stern man. My grandmother was a darling, but a terrible cook. My brother and I used to enjoy staying with them as we could watch the steam trains at the far end of the back yard. The railway interest stuck with me until my retirement from work.

    Thank you again, and best wishes – – – Richard

    • Richard, Gini wanted me to pass along her thanks for your wonderful reflection on your grandparents. She (as well as I) really enjoyed hearing about your past. Coincidentally, I worked on trains briefly when I was young. I learned that I wasn’t cut out for manual labor! — 🙂

      A new week is already here! Cheers, my Friend!

  7. These are great finds!!! I love all your warbler shots…..especially the Prairie Warbler. And I also had a similar experience with okra. I’ll never forget that experience again:)

  8. An extraordinary entry, Wally!
    Oh yes, grand-parents living in the countryside is definitively quite an adventure for city kids!
    Mine lived on a 500 Ha wooded property, I won’t tell you the thrills when I found young animals in need of care like passerine chicks, squirrels, wild rabbits, foxes and so on I have saved and raised there!!
    The warbler pecking at Plane tree fruit is quite something.
    But to managed to shoot a photo while an alligator is trying to seize a prey is just awesome!
    I doubt he will manage to swallow it whole but the poor thing, even if is considered as feral in Florida, might have lost a leg…
    Beautiful cardinal and the sunrise colours on the birds make those images quite special 🙂
    Keep weel, enjoy the coming weekend…. Geeeee, how quickly time goes!!

    • Merci, Noushka! It sounds as if you had a wonderful childhood which prepared you well for being an advocate for wild creatures. That little alligator was happy to just rest alongside the turtle, no predatory moves on that day. Next month may be a different story!

      We are having a wonderful, quiet weekend and enjoyed a great birding day yesterday. Take care!

  9. I had a chuckle at your description of a “city boy” visiting the country! We had a ‘banty’ rooster when I was young that caused all sorts of trouble – but what a long time ago it seems 😦 The birds are beautiful and the morning light that you have captured is very beautiful. The colors on the Roseate Spoonbill are magnificent – and to capture the reflection as well – WOW!

    • Good Morning, Mick! Yes, it WAS long ago! I appreciate your nice comments. As you have experienced in your beautiful mangroves, it’s hard to beat that early morning experience.

      All the best.

  10. Sounds like a wonderful adventurous childhood. Your photos are fantastic.

    • It’s a miracle I survived to become an adult — huh? What? Oh.

      Gini says the jury is still out on that adult thing.

      Thank you so much for your nice remarks!

  11. laughing at your evil grandmother. 🙂 too cute! loved all the birds and critters.

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