A Sidewalk On The Wild Side

In some humans, there is a perception that greater efforts will yield greater rewards. Many of us teach our children that to attain “success” requires hard work. When I was attending a management school, we were advised to seek out employees who were ambitious, full of energy and always volunteering for projects and to assign these vigorous souls our most important tasks in order to assure completion of organizational objectives. Okay. I tried that. I soon realized this was effective in identifying future bureaucrats, but was not very good at getting things done. Instead, I gave the most vital jobs to the laziest individuals I could find. I discovered their main interest was to invent shortcuts so they could return to being lazy as soon as possible. My unit’s production consistently ranked high in the area of timely goal fulfillment.

As the alarm sounded, I felt guilty about sleeping in so late. Official sunrise would occur in an hour and the eastern sky was just beginning to become “less dark”. I ate some fruit, checked my camera settings, looked out the window one more time and as the dawn was 15 minutes away from breaking, I jumped in the truck, scrambled down the road and finally reached my destination – five minutes later.

My usual “patch”, Lake Parker Park, is only two miles from the house and that’s where I parked this morning. However, today I would follow a different plan. From the park entrance, there is a convenient sidewalk along the shore of the lake which ends about 1.5 mile (2.4 km) to the south. This southern terminus is an intersection with a very busy highway in a highly developed commercial business district. At the northern end, where I began my walk, is the entrance to the city park. As one travels south along the lake, the adjacent road is usually full of traffic. There is a city fire department training facility here, complete with a tower that is occasionally set afire for very brave folks to practice dealing with flames and smoke. The view across the tranquil lake’s surface is abruptly disturbed by two massive coal-fired electric plants belching dark smoke toward the heavens. Continuing southward, the neighborhood gradually changes from a nursing home, to some quite nice fairly new residences, to older bungalow style houses which have been renovated, to some older bungalow style houses which have not been renovated, to a large former motel now used as public assistance housing and ending in the aforementioned business district. Not your typical “Wow! I want to go birding THERE!” sort of spot.

At least there was no fire department training today. As I followed the concrete path along the lake, there was a strange mix of birds, blooming water plants, discarded beer cans, plastic bags, cars, dog-walkers, joggers, alligators – it was quite surreal. Also, I found 48 species of birds, including a small rookery full of herons and egrets building nests and incubating eggs, fishing Bald Eagles, a house full of breeding Purple Martins and a host of colorful feathered urban residents. And I still feel guilty about not working hard for such a huge personal reward. Well, not that guilty.

Come on! Look at what I found!

An old boat lift wheel makes a nice morning perch for an Anhinga to greet the day.



I counted eleven Limpkins along the shore this morning but couldn’t manage a decent photo of even one! The shore was littered with empty shells of Apple Snails which explains the high number of Limpkins. A Double-crested Cormorant and a Boat-tailed Grackle have discovered why the Limpkins enjoy escargot.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

Boat-tailed Grackle

Boat-tailed Grackle

The unique calls of White-winged Dove filled the air and this one remained on her perch long enough for a portrait. (White-winged Dove Call)

White-winged Dove

White-winged Dove

Purple Gallinules are extremely colorful and along this stretch of urban shore are extremely aggressive. They have learned to associate humans with a handout. Sad on several levels. I found one who seems to have not yet had his morning coffee and another who agreed to pose but when I asked her to powder her nose, she left a feather from the puff on her nose.

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

This Pied-billed Grebe contorted itself into a question mark as if to say “You lookin’ at ME?”.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

It was just a little too early for this Ring-billed Gull to begin its day of fishing. I know that feeling.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

The residential nature of much of the area contains many old, large hardwood trees as well as tall palms. Perfect for a Pileated Woodpecker to make a home. This one flew along the street for a moment before diving into an oak in a nearby yard.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

When the sunlight is at just the correct angle, it appears to be shining through a prism onto the feathers of a Glossy Ibis.

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis

One of our most common birds is the Cattle Egret. So common, they are routinely ignored by birders and photographers. During breeding season, they are much harder to ignore as their heads display some pretty intense colors. During nest construction, one bird (presumed male) kept offering a stick to another (presumed female), a typical courtship ritual with many egrets and herons.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

Speaking of hard to ignore. A Snowy Egret displays the reason this species was almost wiped out by hunters seeking the breeding plumes (aigrettes) for ladies’ hats in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Purple Martins have raised little ones in this condo for at least the past four years. It was fascinating to watch the adults arrive with a bug as the noise level and wing fluttering increased enormously from the kids inside.

Purple Martin - Female

Purple Martin – Female

Purple Martin

Purple Martin

Purple Martin

Purple Martin

The domestic Mallard. The root cause of many of duckdom’s problems. Indiscriminate. Prolific. Superior genes. And yet, still not bad to look at. Who doesn’t think ducklings are downright adorable?

Mallard - Male

Mallard – Male

Mallard - Female

Mallard – Female

Mallard - Juvenile

Mallard – Juvenile

Mallard - Juvenile

Mallard – Juvenile

Continue to work hard toward your own goals. Continue to feel good about crawling out of a warm bed three hours before sunrise, driving two hours, trekking through ankle-deep muck, swatting insects, avoiding the path with the alligator guarding it. I’ll continue to do that, too. But I won’t feel guilty about the occasional lazy morning stroll along a wild sidewalk either.

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

See more birds from around the world at Paying ReadyAttention for

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

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30 thoughts on “A Sidewalk On The Wild Side

  1. This is actually our kind of place — except for the 4 am part)). Wonderful birds , I have never ever seen a purple gallinule with wings spread .. That is beautiful. As all your pictures.

  2. Very nice post! Amazed at the number of species you saw!! 48! Holy moly. Daybreak is apparently a great time for catching birds in action. If I could only get up and get going in the mornings. Ugh. Enjoyed the snails that many of the birds caught. Impressive set, Wally. Again!

    • Gail, thank you very much! Getting up early is just a matter of forming the habit. It’s easy once you do it a few days in a row.

      —– Okay, I’m obviously lying as you very well know! It ain’t “easy” anytime! But once you’re actually out of the house, it can be rewarding. —–

  3. Rohrerbot

    Birding is the perfect balance. Frustration released once in the great outdoors. Beautiful pics and especially love the snail eating grackle. All nicely captured.

  4. You are so lucky to have such a variety of beauties to shoot! Well done!

  5. Fantastic captures.

  6. I was very interested to read about your revolutionary management style Wally. It’s one I’d not heard of before, but then I’ve never read management journals because they don’t have pictures of birds included.

    I agree, sometimes we do tend to go birding in less than salubrious surroundings but sometimes, needs must. Mind you, I could quite handle a Pileated flying down the street even though in the context of where you are it’s a little weird but highly also highly satisfying.

    I must say I’ve never eaten snails (and definitely never fancied visiting France) but clearly your local birds find the huge molluscs good eating. I’ll bet they bite Floridians anyway, most of your creatures do. That Purple Gallinule seems rather threatening to your camera lens too and ready to take a bite.

    I’m a fan of egrets and herons of any type – Just so photogenic, colourful and often obliging.

    I’m working on taking your advice about early starts but here in the Northern (cold) Hemisphere it’s now 4am starts which I often manage but not every day.

    Enjoy your weekend lie-ins my friend, but please excuse me now as I need to get to bed early. .

    • I am all for those 4 a.m. starts, it’s the cold I have a problem with. And I also have never enjoyed escargot but am quite content to photograph the creatures who do. (Not those within fancy dining establishments – the marsh critters!) Birding continues to be fun no matter the environment so I reckon I’ll keep at it awhile.

      The week is off to a great start as we’re planning a road trip. More on that soon.

      Go forth and bird!

  7. The Anhinga on the old boat wheel — fantastic shot in a place full of character and possibly full of characters (not all sunny). As always, a great read and photos. Love you, big brother.

    • Good Morning, Young Sister! Yep, some of the (human) residents probably thought I was one of those less than “sunny” characters! Just happy they didn’t call law enforcement! (“Yes sir, bird watching. No, really. Uhh, you can stop laughing now, officer.”)

      Love y’all!

  8. Inspiring post, and amazing photos! Wow! Loved seeing them all.

  9. So many great shots! Is that the Lake Parker in Lakeland? I need to get over there one of these days. I heard people feed the purple gallinules and they get really close.

    • Hi, Dina! Yep, little ole Lakeland. If you go, the city park can be a good place to bird, especially fall through spring. If you take the sidewalk along the shoreline south of the park, please have someone with you. It’s very urban in nature and could provide unpleasant surprises for the unwary.

  10. Wonderful photos. What a great place to live so close to. Love the first photo and the egret.

    • Thank you very much for visiting and making such nice remarks! It’s a fun place to hang around and go to for a quick birding fix.

  11. I had a chuckle at your first paragraph. I have known several of the “lazy” kinds who are now hugely successful in grown-up life! (I was a teacher for a number of years!)
    All the birds are beautiful but I especially like the ones where you have also captured the early morning light – especially the anhinga. The birds are wonderful how they adapt to living beside even a busy urban neighborhood.

    • The resilience of our natural world is really amazing, Mick! We sure do take it for granted, though. A teacher! No wonder your blog posts are so scholarly!

  12. Local Patches don’t get much better than that, Wally!

    I agree – there’s little that’s as cute as a duckling. However, I found some contenders for the stake in Scotland in the form of Red Grouse chicks that were colorful and not much bigger than the size of a golf ball!

    Best wishes – – – Richard

    • Happy you had a good vacation, Richard. Would love to see a Red Grouse!
      Can’t wait to hear your tales.

      Hope you two are able to relax for the rest of the week.

  13. What a wonderful little birding hot spot you have – I’d be tempted to play hooky and visit every day if it was only 5 minutes from my house!

    • It’s not playing hooky – it’s … umm … scientific research … citizen science … or something very official sounding! — 🙂

  14. Hi Wally I always wonder where you get yourself to when you go birding and that was an early start but certainly worth getting up for. I was not sure just how far away you were from the park as youi said it was 2 miles to the lake but you were driving for 2 hours!!! Anyway, as usual I love the way you filled us in with what was around the area and I loved the Anhinga perched on that wheel in your first shot. Those Purple Martins must have been great fun to watch and photograph. They have a lovely sheen to their feathers. Yes I always love to see ducklings even Mallard ones. Now I think the Snowy Egret steals the show and these Egrets andHerons must be wonderful to see in their breeding plumage. Once again a great post that I thoroughly enjoyed.

    • Top o’ the mornin’, Margaret! You missed the little part where I mentioned the trip was only 5 minutes. Usually, I’ll make a 2 hour or longer drive! Thank you so much for the wonderful comments!

  15. beautiful portraits. i like the quirky almost-two-headed egret photo. 🙂 glad you could find a non-training day to bird. 🙂

    • The activity in the rookery is fun to watch and results in some comical poses. Thank you so much for continuing to visit!

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