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.
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)
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.
This Pied-billed Grebe contorted itself into a question mark as if to say “You lookin’ at ME?”.
It was just a little too early for this Ring-billed Gull to begin its day of fishing. I know that feeling.
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.
When the sunlight is at just the correct angle, it appears to be shining through a prism onto the feathers of a 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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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