Over The River, Through The Woods, Under Construction


It can’t be time to get up already. We just went to bed. Ever the gentleman, I offered to let my bride sleep in an extra hour – or two. “No, let’s get going.” I’m pretty sure she was smiling. She tends to wake up happy. Now I felt guilty for wanting to sleep in – uhh, for being considerate and wanting HER to get some extra rest. Up and at ’em.

Our target today was about an hour’s drive south on the eastern edge of the community of Fort Meade in southern Polk County. The Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area is about 125 acres of hardwood forest along the banks of the Peace River. Visitors to the park will find a canoe launch, plenty of picnic tables, grills, large pavilions, rest rooms and a fair view of adjacent ponds and wetlands. We wanted to see if work had been completed on a trail which was planned from the park to the southwest for 2.5 miles through a wetlands and ending at another canoe launch point on the Peace River.


The lullaby of dump trucks backing up as they delivered loads of dirt suggested that construction was still ongoing. Oh, well. Maybe we should find another spot to explore this morning. Wait, what’s that? Hey, a small flock of Cedar Waxwings! The first we have seen this year. Most waxwings migrate further south but a few remain through the winter as long as the weather is mild. Look! A Northern Parula. And a Black-and-white Warbler, no, two, no, three! Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Yellow-rumped Warblers seemed to be everywhere. A pair of Osprey were tending a nest. A Northern Harrier tilted low over the wetlands and a pair of Ring-necked Ducks splashed into a nearby spot of open water. We thoroughly enjoyed the next couple of hours as there seemed to be birds in every tree. Gini spotted a huge hornet’s nest, probably made last year by Bald-faced Hornets. They build new nests each spring and this one was empty, but impressive.

Heavy equipment was moving in and out of the park at a steady pace but it didn’t seem to bother the birds at all. We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast on the bank of the river while being entertained by curious Tufted Titmice, various water birds including a Belted Kingfisher, three species of woodpeckers and warblers and vireos sucking up bugs from the leaves.

To think, we almost went elsewhere. Sometimes under construction should be taken under consideration.


Cedar Waxwings were very happily devouring berries and didn’t seem to mind me snapping a few candid photos.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Cedar Waxwing

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Cedar Waxwing

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Cedar Waxwing


The Black-and-white Warbler is distinctive not only in plumage but also in behavior. Thinking he must be related to a nuthatch, he scampers DOWN a tree trunk probing for insects along the way.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Black-and-white Warbler


This “peek-a-boo” image of a Tufted Titmouse was all I could manage. They were abundant and loud all morning but just would not give me a chance to get an unobstructed picture.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Tufted Titmouse


A utility pole made a good perch for a Red-bellied Woodpecker to announce her presence to the world. The back side of the pole had three old cavities which may have been used by this bird in the past.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Red-bellied Woodpecker


Although not a very good photograph, this is one of the few times I’ve actually seen the “yellow belly” of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker


Seeming to have a nice pair of spectacles, a Blue-headed Vireo remained above our heads for quite awhile and was curious as to why we were on the ground and not on a tree branch like a sensible animal should be.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Blue-headed Vireo


Gini’s hornet’s nest. Yes, she wanted me to retrieve it. No, I did not climb up a tree 50 feet to get it for her. Not this time.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Hornet’s Nest


The male American Kestrel is one of my favorite birds. A combination of good looks, athletic ability and pure attitude. Reminds me of someone – where is that mirror?

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

American Kestrel


Ignore the sound of that alarm! Pay no attention to the sound of construction! Get up! Get out! Go birding!

Right now!


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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on “Over The River, Through The Woods, Under Construction

  1. HI Wally I am trying to get caught up sinccebeing away so much. Yes sometimes when my alrm goes off, I wish i had not gor to get up but usually surcome like you adn Gini! This is a lovly collction os bird shots and I especially loved seeing the Waxwing adn Woodpecker. I don’t seeanything wrong with the colour of your shots either Wally. Lovethe angle that the Kestrel is looking at you. Off to find the next post.

    • We’ve been following your travels and are quite jealous of the places you visit! Thank you for your wonderful comments!

  2. I really enjoyed the waxwings and kestrel, but envy your nice closeup of the Blue-headed Vireo. So far it has been elusive, always hiding behind the branches or flying away just as I click the shutter. They will be headed north soon, so not many more chances expected this season.

  3. Its been a while since I saw any waxwings.

    I always try to get up quickly if I am getting up early – but I think that the half asleep thrashing that results may be more disturbing to Sal than the alarm!

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

    • When the alarm goes off, Gini is the one thrashing as she pounds my head repeatedly. She says she mistakes it for the snooze button. I am not so sure ….
      We only see the waxwings during migration and typically in high-flying flocks. It was nice to see them almost at eye level for a change!

  4. I especially enjoy that first waxwing image, Wally. And good for you for ignoring the “beep-beep” of the trucks. That’s something I could never do because I hate them so, which means I’d have missed your shots and experiences.

    • Thanks, Ron! If we hadn’t spotted the waxwings about the same time we heard those trucks, I assure you, we’d have been in another part of the county pretty quick! Mother Nature guides us if only we’ll listen – not one of my best skills.

  5. Hi Wally. I agree it can be difficult to leave the comfort of a nice warm bed to head off birding at some ungodly hour. Especially when the temperature is in the minus range huh?

    That first picture of the Cedar Waxwing is just spot-on. Great bokeh and nice neutral background. I often have problems (mostly abroad) when the sun is strong and the sky is very blue and find I have to adjust the exposure of the subject (over expose). I can see what Richard means about the blue cast in a few of your images.

    You showed my all-time favourite NA warbler – the Black and White. When I first saw them in the hand in Canada I was just blown away.

    Have a great week my friend and remember to set the alarm nice and early.

    • Thank you, Phil, for the technical feedback. Have been struggling to think what I may have done differently to cause some of these images to be bluish. I’ve shot under similar circumstances often and don’t believe I made any significant changes to in-camera or post processing settings. Oh, well. I’ll check future images and will rely on the viewers to let me know if things don’t look right.

      I really enjoy watching those Black-and-White Warblers at work! Those beaks seem so large for a small bird but they certainly put them to good use. No piece of bark is left un-probed!

      No worries about alarm clocks. Gini won’t let me sleep in – too much.

  6. Cedar waxwings are such a wonderful bird; how I love them. Someone told me once that they are one of the rare birds that take different migratory paths each time. Is that true? I’ve never been able to see them twice in the same place, but that could be because I’ve never been in the same place twice at the same time.

    • Hi, Sallie! I have not heard about waxwings taking a different migratory route. That would be interesting to confirm. It’s a treat to see them anytime!

  7. Oh dear!
    You got the the Cedar waxbills! WOW, they are something else!
    I don’t see them where I am but I know that a few have been seen along the French Atlantic coastline now and then.
    The kestrel is gorgeous!
    A wonderful series, Wally, but if I may say so, I also find your photos quite “bluish”…??
    At first I thought it was my computer screen but I read Richard’s comment.
    Anyhow, your pics are great.
    Keep well and enjoy the week!

    • Thank you so much, Noushka! I’ve made some adjustments to the images and hope they appear more normal. I really appreciate you and Richard providing feedback.

  8. And to think that you nearly moved on! I guess, if work has been going on in one place for long enough, the birds get used to it. Delighted to see the result of you sticking it out paid off so well!

    Great images, Wally, but I hope you don’t mind me mentioning that all your images in this post seem to have a blue cast to them. Was this intentional, a trick of the light, settings on the camera, working with different calibration settings settings on your editng screen, or just a figment of my imagination?

    Best wishes to you both – – – Richard

    • It turned out to be a good decision to stay there awhile!

      I don’t see any “unnatural” color effect in these images, Richard. Admittedly, the day was extremely clear and bright and many of the subjects had a bit of blue coloration. I don’t usually adjust saturation much during post processing but in a case like this I might consider de-saturating a bit to reduce the intensity of the colors or might bump up the color temperature a little. Something I’ll try to pay attention to in the future! Thank you for the alert. Perhaps others will chime in if they notice a distinct effect …

  9. Your photo series is amazing, I really love the waxwing shots.

    • Thank you, Charlie! The Waxwings are usually in the tops of the tallest trees where even big lenses don’t help. These guys came down a bit in altitude to reach the ripe berries.

  10. Ooooh.
    So many birds I have never seen, will probably never see – brought straight to me this morning.
    Thank you. So much.

    • Well, we enjoyed them so the least we can do is share. Hope your week is off to a great start! Our grandson is surfing somewhere near Brisbane this week so at the moment we can say we have family in Australia!

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