Naive. I think that’s the best word to describe us. When we were young, of course. Now that Gini and I are all grown up, we are quite sophisticated, worldly and wise. Well, Gini is wise. I’m just along for the ride. After a whirlwind wedding squeezed in between military assignments, these two Florida native kids pointed a fully loaded station wagon north and our continuing trip has been glorious!
Growing up in central Florida, we enjoyed the changing of the seasons to the fullest. The green of Spring, the green of Summer, the green of Autumn and the mostly brown of Winter. Ahh, Nature’s infinite variety. Thus, in the Spring of our marriage traveling from Florida to Syracuse, New York, we were quite perplexed during a roadside picnic in western Pennsylvania. The setting was gorgeous. Forest on all sides and a fast-running stream of clear water by our table. Gini gazed upstream and asked about all that white foam along the shoreline? At that time, I still had nimble legs and an intrepid (read: “not necessarily the sharpest tool in the shed”) nature. I scrambled down a bank of wet, slippery leaves, scampered across boulders, investigated thoroughly and reported back to my new commander-in-chief (yes, she still makes me call her that). “It’s snow.” Our first encounter with the white stuff of northern legends. We looked at each other and blinked. “In March?” Of course, back home, waaaaay to the south, it was still 90+ degrees (F) and 100% humidity. Since then, we’ve experienced changing seasons in several parts of the planet and marveled at Nature’s beauty.
Fast forward a whole bunch of years. We really love all the places we have lived and each has its own beauty. I think the most pleasant surprise for us was discovering the kindness of the human race. It still fuels our hope for this world. Once settled back in our central Florida landscape, we again became accustomed to the local “changing” of the seasons. Usually, the calendar is the only way we know what time of year it is as Mother Nature doesn’t give us a lot of hints here in the Sunshine State.
One little hint she does provide – our bird watching changes. That’s happening now and it makes routine birding forays a bit more exciting. There is an expectant feeling that today you might see a flash of color belonging to a seldom seen warbler or a flock of brown shorebirds hunched over feeding in a sod field or a raft of ducks floating on a usually barren lake surface. Hooray! Fall is here!
Our local park at Lake Parker didn’t provide a plethora of passing migrants, but we found a few visitors enjoying the tree-top buffet. In our listing of 54 species were migratory Yellow Warblers, Northern Parula, Yellow-throated Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and a Spotted Sandpiper. The coming weeks will be fun!
Here are a few images of regulars, visitors, non-avian fauna and one red flower to begin the day.
The bright Scarletcreeper is a native vine which certainly adds some nice color to the landscape.
This Eastern Gray Squirrel had just visited the local home supply store for his living room remodeling project. He didn’t have time to stop and talk.
A fairly common butterfly locally, Horace’s Duskywing looks pretty drab at first glance but upon closer inspection has a lot of design detail to see.
Another “drab” butterfly which is more attractive than initial impression is Dorantes Longtail, one of the spread-wing skippers.
One of Lake Parker’s residents, the Great Egret is quite regal looking on its perch by the shore.
We are at the southern limit of the Northern Paula’s breeding range so this may be a year-round resident or a visiting migrant. No matter. It’s a pretty bird.
As with the Northern Parula, the Yellow-throated Warbler may breed in our area. Today I found four of them and at least one or two may be likely migrants.
The bright Yellow Warbler is one of our earliest fall migrants and a half dozen were in the park this morning.
Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are year-round residents but are always striking with their contrasting plumage. These big tree ducks were virtually unknown in our area 25 years ago but now are quite numerous.
Shorebirds often migrate in large flocks and remain together even once they reach their winter destinations. The Spotted Sandpiper may fly in small groups for safety but prefers his own company when feeding. Distinctive black spots on the undersides usually disappear during the winter. They feed with a distinctive nodding and teetering action.
Although autumn is approaching, our semi-tropical weather permits late season breeding and this Mourning Dove is fortifying an existing nest. I found the nest and a second bird appeared to be brooding eggs.
This young Red-bellied Woodpecker is fully fledged and even though he can feed himself he still shouts for Mom to bring him something to eat. Kids are the same everywhere.
A pair of young Limpkins were nothing more than small lumps of feathers a couple of months ago. Now they have no problem locating their own Apple Snails among the cattails and making quick work of extracting the meat.
Just as a reminder of how damp our summer has been, a small sampling of fungi encountered during the morning walk.
We may not have the extensive change of tree foliage or freshly fallen snow to soften our footfall in the woods, but our seasons here bring excitement just the same. If you’re having that dream – go ahead and “fall” into a great birding trip!
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!