No Particular Place To Go

During our first 20 years of married life, we had the good fortune of moving to a new location about every three years. We had a chance to see several parts of the United States and Europe. Each move brought with it wonderful experiences, different environments, diverse cultures and spectacular adventures! When we settled in at a new spot, we ventured forth to explore. Sure, we sometimes sampled the tourist “hot spots”, but more often we just started driving or walking or taking the local bus or train. Wandering around aimlessly brought us into contact with a lot of wonderful people and we found some fantastic places not highlighted on any tourist map. Our relatives always asked whether we ever got lost? As one of America’s early explorers, Daniel Boone, responded to a similar question: “I have never been lost, but I will admit to be confused for several weeks.”

 That’s pretty much our approach to traveling in general and to birding, specifically. Sure, we love to visit the birding “hot spots”, but we really like taking roads less traveled and if there’s no road, so much the better. A recent trip to our south did include one small park at a large lake, but otherwise consisted of driving back roads and stopping at areas of interesting habitat. We were in Highlands County which consists of large areas of agriculture and pasture land. The Kissimmee River flows south along the county’s eastern boundary which provides another interesting element of diverse ecology. We discovered that a lot of birds like it out here even though it’s not a designated “reserve” or “management area”. It seems birds are bright enough to locate their own food and places to roost! Who knew?

The highlight of our morning was seeing baby Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks with their yellow-striped heads and staying close to Mom. The pastures held hundreds of Cattle Egrets and White Ibises along with a smattering of Little Blue Herons and Wood Storks. Raptors seemed to be everywhere – Red-shouldered Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, American Kestrels and Crested Caracara. Each field seemed to be alive with low-flying Barn Swallows along with a few smaller Bank Swallows assaulting the insect populations. Eastern Meadowlarks were in large groups and many were singing their beautiful, clear song. Perhaps they were happy to be finished molting. On the way home, we stopped alongside a commercial sod field and spotted several hundred shorebirds busily probing the soft mud. Most were Least Sandpipers with a few Pectoral Sandpipers, Semi-palmated Plovers and Killdeer at the buffet. At the edge of a canal, a Wood Stork and Roseate Spoonbill prepared to roost for the evening. A thunderstorm was building and moved with us northward as we scurried to the house.

We enjoyed the day wandering around with no map, no agenda and no worries.

Some images follow.


A few decades ago, the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck was a rarity in Florida. Not anymore!

Scrubpens Road

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Scrubpens Road

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck


Scrubpens Road

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Little Blue Heron

Scrubpens Road

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck


An interloper. This stranger tried to join a Whistling-Duck family but the adults repeatedly attacked it. After about 15 minutes from when we first spotted them, the odd duck was able to tag along without suffering any more beatings. I don’t know domestic breeds very well, but this looks to be a hybrid Pekin/Black (or Blue?) Swedish.


Black-bellied Whistling-Duck and Hybrid


At Lake Istokpoga, a nice boardwalk takes one through a wetland area which can provide a great variety of fall and spring migrants.

Lake Istokpoga Park



A curious Blue-gray Gnatcatcher wondered what I was up to.

Lake Istokpoga Park

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher


After a bit of preening, a Roseate Spoonbill settles down for the night.

Avon Park Cut-Off Road

Roseate Spoonbill

20150927_Highlands County_00072.jpg 


This Wood Stork searches for a last-minute snack before bedtime.

Avon Park Cut-Off Road

Wood Stork


Gini suggested that standing in an open field with my face pressed against a metal pole (scope tripod) during an approaching thunderstorm might not be my best idea of the day. She is real smart like that.

Avon Park Cut-Off Road




Great scenery, great birding, great company – and we didn’t see a single birder or tourist the whole day. If you find yourself riding around with your binoculars some day with no particular place to go, you’re on the right road.

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: , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on “No Particular Place To Go

  1. Sorry for taking so long to reply and now I am running out of time again as tomorrow i fly to Malawi. I am in full agreement with you, exploring the back roads and out of the way places is so much fun and there is always a surprise around the corner. I am not goingto simgle out one photograph as ALL are marvellous and wonderful for me to see. I have a bit of bad news Wally and hope you and Gini wil remember this situation in your prayer and thought. All my fmaily (dagghter etc) in Malawi have had a head on car crash, all are injured but all are alive and improving. Daniel my grand son has 2 fractures in his face so I think it willbe a ver different Christmas for us but I thanks the Lord that thye are alive and this planned trip has come at the right time. Have a wish you adn Gini a wonderful Christmas adn that 2016 will continue to bring joy ad surprises as you go birding.

    • Oh, Margaret, Gini and I will have you and your family in our thoughts and prayers! Take care of them and know that all of your “blogging family” will be wishing you all the best.

  2. tingsgrove

    Oh My, I was intrigued enough by the magnificent birds and then whoa, the thunder cloud, is awesome too!

    • Thank you! I love being able to observe developing weather. I just have to remember to get out of harm’s way once it arrives!

  3. Those ducks are great – I really want to see some!
    One of the things that was strange on Lord Howe we getting used to the idea that in some places the white birds flying around the cliffs were not gulls, but Tropicbirds! Gulls of any sort on the island would cause a lot of excitement!!

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

    • Thanks, Stewart! Your trip to Lord Howe really looks to have been special. I can’t imagine that many Tropicbirds (but I would be willing to try!). We would send you some of these ducks but Australia would soon be over-run with them!

      We hope your week is going well and that the holiday season brings peace for you and your loved ones.

  4. Hi Wally. Once again I find myself in agreement. The unscheduled and out of the limelight birding places are often the most productive, usually because there are less birders and photographers there. There’s a little bit of an English joke said here that on one famous RSPB bird reserve you can put your bins back in their case between the hides as there are no birds to be seen there. The birds only occur in front of the hides – nowhere else.

    I’ve seen those whistling ducks on other blogs and it is rather curious how they appear to remain so regimented in their behaviour. Your shot of the spoonbill really captured the width of that spoon – more like a spade I’d say?

    Gini’s right about the dangers of a thunderstorm and it looks like you may have experienced that strange Florida phenomenon called rain? If so my heartfelt commiserations, especially since we are in the middle of our sixth week of the darned stuff.

    Enjoy the sun and stay safe.

    • Happy middle of the week, Phil! Once again, I’m horribly late in getting anything done but certainly appreciate you continuing to visit and provide a balanced commentary to my ravings. Yes, we had two or three days of clouds and about ten minutes of rain but that terrible memory is now behind us and once again the sky is blue, the birds land on our outstretched hands and life is good.

      Gini and I hope you’re having a reasonably pleasant pre-holiday respite and may you have more sun than clouds for the rest of the year.

  5. Love the birds, especially the Whistling Ducks!
    Fantastic photo of the approaching storm!

  6. Loved your photo, especially the thunderstorm and the boardwalk that takes you on down the path.

  7. I like your idea for an unplanned and unstructured day out. It certainly paid dividends this time with all the birds you saw and the great photos. I think the “cutest” one is that little Gnatcatcher. That thundery sky looks like something I frequently see around here. Storms are particularly bad right now – and they are happening in different places every afternoon.

    • Thanks, Mick! I hope you’ve been able to get out and paddle between those storms. Yes, we usually find some really lonely roads, but we also run across a lot of wildlife and scenery we would otherwise miss.

      Hope your week is going well!

  8. Wow, another great outing. I always enjoy your birds, photos and post. Have a happy day!

  9. It’s hard to imagine a more delightful excursion than the one you’ve described and illustrated, Wally!

    I’m totally with you on the preference for backroads. I possibly do it slightly differently to you. The first thing I do when visiting somewhere new is get hold of a highly detailed map of the area, and then plan where I can go with the least traffic and most wildlife potential. Sometimes (but not often!) we find a no-go area and have to turn back, but this sort of exploration is something that Lindsay and I both enjoy, even though she’s not a bird watcher. We often find stunning places and wonderful wildlife doing this – and one gets a more enhanced sense of achievement too!

    My very best wishes to you both – – – Richard

    • I’m afraid I have been dragged from my Luddite chair into the technical age, Richard, kicking and screaming all the way. Not only do I often use your method of poring over maps, nowadays I “virtually drive” an area to “see” what it looks like. Pretty soon, we won’t have to leave the house at all! Just fire up our birding drones and click the onboard cameras. Excuse me whilst I go build a fire in the back yard and ponder about the good old days…….

      Gini and I hope you and Lindsay find some new beautiful places to enjoy together!

  10. i love the bbwds and their stripey-headed big-billed kids. 🙂 love the prehistoric wood storks, too.

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