Downtown

“You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares –

So go downtown” (Tony Hatch, sung by Petula Clark)

 

In America, we enjoy two types of migration each year. Birds travel thousands of miles south to escape severe winters which they could not survive. Here in Florida, we have an opportunity to observe birds we would not otherwise be able to see without traveling to their breeding areas. Most migrants fly to Central and South America for the winter but a few remain in our area all winter.

The second type of migration involves what have become endearingly known as “snow birds”. Although they do not sport feathers and may not face actual extinction if they remained in their northerly abodes, we welcome them each year just as warmly as we do our avian guests. Some have even evolved over time and adapted to our summer heat and humidity and have not returned to their ancestral breeding territory. I have not been able to locate a decent field guide for identifying individual snow birds and must rely on attempting to catch them in their traveling apparatuses which are conveniently marked with their geographic origin.

Winter visitors as well as year ’round residents enjoy our downtown area. It offers unique architecture, diverse dining, an open market, art venues, parks and lakes. The officials of our fair city, in their infinite wisdom and never-ending search for methods to lure folks to local businesses, have purchased exotic waterfowl over the years to populate a couple of downtown lakes. Because Florida doesn’t have enough attractive native waterfowl of its own for folks to enjoy dont’cha know. Sigh.

Most bodies of water will encourage a variety of wildlife to visit, even if the lake is located in a bustling city’s downtown business district. And once the critters discover the two-legged animals are quick and generous with tossing them stale bread and bits of hamburger bun, well, that’s a hard thing to keep secret in the animal world! As a result, our downtown lakes are usually very active with waterfowl of all types. In the winter, several hundred ducks enjoy the shallow water, warm weather, the company of other birds and the aforementioned abundance of free food. It also doesn’t hurt that the city keeps the lakes cleared of alligators and other would-be predators.

This past winter, we had a couple of visitors which, although not rare, are not seen every year. The diminutive Bufflehead can look quite small next to a resident Mute Swan, but three females evidently felt secure all winter. The much larger Redhead quickly learned successful panhandling techniques and also remained with us all season. The usual large numbers of Ring-necked and Ruddy Ducks were represented and most have now departed northward to make more ducks.

Our snow bird population has also diminished but we know they, too, will return come fall. Snow to shovel and ice to scrape – or a bit of sun and moisturizing humidity? No contest.

 

The Redhead surely is one of the most handsome ducks I’ve ever seen. In the right light, it’s easy to see how it came by its name.

Lake Morton

Redhead

Lake Morton

Redhead

 

I still have not been able to produce a decent photograph of a male Bufflehead, but the ladies are quite beautiful and I was happy to see them.

Lake Morton

Bufflehead

Lake Morton

Bufflehead

 

You can be forgiven for calling the Ring-necked Duck a Ring-billed Duck (as I have done) because the ring around its neck is not nearly as obvious as the one around the bill.

Lake Morton

Ring-necked Duck

Lake Morton

Ring-necked Duck

Lake Morton

Ring-necked Duck-Female

 

A stiff, fan-shaped tail makes it easy to identify the small Ruddy Duck. Soon the males’ bodies will turn deep chestnut and their bills bright blue as they change to breeding plumage.

Lake Morton

Ruddy Duck

Lake Morton

Ruddy Duck

 

Our locally abundant White Pelicans like to roost along the walls around the lake. In the background, a Mute Swan looks longingly at the pelicans, wishing she could be as lovely.

Lake Morton

American White Pelican

 

 

Now that Spring is here, we’re trying to run around and locate migrating warblers, returning Swallow-tailed Kites, nesting Crested Caracara and such things. But we know that when the snow birds begin to fill the hotels again in November, it will be time to make another trip -downtown.

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

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31 thoughts on “Downtown

  1. Hello Wally. I stopped by to see your latest post and this seems to be it. From your last message it does appear that you may not have been able to get birding. Hope all is well with both you and Gini.

    We are in mid-summer so lots of daylight and early starts. Thanks for your encouragement re our domestic politics. At last we may get our country back and our British rather then cheap and nasty EU passports.

    • Alas, Phil, birding has been taking a back seat to life. Hopefully, the light I can just make out at the end of that next tunnel won’t be another train…..

      Gini and I are both very well! Anxious to be out and about. I know YOU would never do such a thing, but WE use our birding outings to escape/ignore/deny our own domestic politics. So, we simply MUST get outdoors – soon!!

      We shall continue to keep Britain in our thoughts as I suspect rough times are ahead. All the best.

  2. Had to laugh at your “swan thoughts.” Beautiful detailed photos, especially the Redhead rearing up, and the Bufflehead preparing for takeoff.

  3. Those ducks have such beautiful eyes…

  4. Great shots – the redhead and ringneck are very similar to pochard and tufted duck – so these are four species I dont get to see on a regular basis. I am going ‘duck chasing’ this weekend – so the results may appear on WBW next week – maybe!

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

    • G’Day, Stewart. Ringecks are common here in the winter but Redheads not so much inland from the coast. Best of luck on your duck hunting!

      All the best – Wally

  5. What wonderful images of the ducks, Wally! They really are beautiful. It’s always so interesting to see Pelicans from your part of the world. They are so different to ours.

    • Welcome, Liz, and thank you for such nice comments! We also have Brown Pelicans and I’ll try to include a few images of them soon.

  6. Anonymous

    Fabulous photos of all the gorgeous ducks. I guess Finns are snowbirds as well. Many move to Spain or Portugal for the winter. 🙂

  7. Lovely photos as always. The Redhead is really stunning. I wish the pelicans would fly up here for a while.

    • Hello, Nora! Hope you’re feeling well today. We have given out GPS units to all our pelicans with your coordinates and they should be showing up any day now. We advised them to pack umbrellas and raincoats as we heard it rains once in awhile in the northwest! – 🙂

  8. You live in a beautiful area with the most amazing wildlife. These photos are spectacular, awesome shots!

  9. HI Wally At last I have found a day to read your post in peace and of course I was not diappointed. I thought it was hilarious when you were describing the ‘snow birds’! But glad youu welcome them as mush as the avian variety1!! Now can I say your phoography is stunning and I would be hard pressed to pick a favouite so I am not going to. When I saw your Redhead, I thought ‘is that the same duck as our Common Pochard’? And that set me off investigating what the difference was. You duck appears to have a yellow eye whereas my duck has a bright red eye. Then I discovered why I thought they were so similar. The Redhead and the Common Pochard form a sister group which itself is sister to the Canvasback. I am sure you knew all that! I had my bird group out last Monday and we saw Common Pochard. They are not to plentiful here so that was lovely for the group to see. Now we were at Oxford Island (not really an island at all – now isn’t that really Irish!!!) and only 2-4 years ago we would have seen Ruddy Ducks breeding here and this year we did not see one at all. I read what one comment said, and yes they are worried about them in the UK as the comment said so perhaps they have been asked to leave from here!!(This is a nice way of putting it!). Now I felt sorry for your Mute Swan as I do not think he was thinking he was not as beautifull as the Pelican becasue he knows he IS beautiful, regal and even Royal! (just say,ing). By the way, I love the song, Downtown, very catchy.. Better stop now otherwise this is turning into a book in length! Love the reflection shots. Send my love to Gina. You usually mention her in your posts so hope all is well with both of you. Until your next post (and thanks for visiting mine) stay happy and keep birding.

    • Gini and I really enjoy trying to keep up with your adventures, Margaret! You visit such lovely places and through words and images transport us there right along with you! Isn’t it interesting how many bird species around the world are so similar and yet different. Sort of like people!

      Enjoy the rest of your week!

  10. More absolutely delightful images, Wally, and a narrative that had me smiling. It does seem absolutely crass to purposely introduce non-native species into the wild. So often it has resulted in ecological chaos. I’m currently reading a book written in 1909 by an eminent ornithologist at the time, William Henry Hudson. The book is entitled ‘Birds in Town and Village’ – last time I looked it was free on Amazon Kindle. In it, in one chapter, he discusses the benefits of wholesale introduction of more colourful foreign species of bird to make the avifauna of England more interesting!!!! It’s well worth a read even if just to reinforce just how far this world has come in the matter of animal cruelty and conservation.

    Best wishes to you both – – – Richard

    • Many thanks, Richard! I’ll look for that book as it sounds interesting.
      We hope you and Lindsay are having a wonderful week.

  11. Hello Wally,
    Each time I come here, I am amazed at the increasing quality of your photography!
    These duck shots are exquisite, and they are birds we don’t see here, so it is all the more exiting to discover the species in your area.
    I hope you had a great time 🙂
    I am selling my property 😦 and I have now to find a nice place to settle until I make the decision to stay in France or move to Australia.
    Difficult times and I can’t wait to be 6 months older…!!!
    Keep well and enjoy your WE 🙂

    • Thank you for the continuing encouragement! As long as I keep having fun I guess I’ll keep trying to photograph wildlife.
      You are in our thoughts as you try to make what sounds like difficult decisions. Wherever you decide to live, your presence will make it a better place.

  12. Beautiful pictures of the urban ducks! People are funny, still feeding bread to the ducks. I’ve even seen people tossing pieces while standing right in front of a sign asking them not to do so because it isn’t good for the ducks. It was interesting about Spring changes … to us, it is hard to see when winter ends and spring starts because there aren’t the typical flowers and birds. But we’ve been here long enough now that I am beginning to notice subtle changes (I saw swallow-tailed kites yesterday).

    We usually stay a month or so later than most snowbirds and we love this time of year, because we pretend we’re locals… and it is so much easier getting around now that ‘they’ are gone ;>).

    • Thank you, Sallie! Really enjoyed reading about your boating adventures in and around Pine Island. We love that area!

  13. I enjoyed your descriptions of the migrants that visit your area – especially the snow birds! Our equivalent here in Aus. get called “grey nomads” and they keep going round and round the country.
    Great photos and the ducks are beautiful – also great reflections in the water. White pelicans are beautiful but I am rather partial to our own black and white ones – a little more contrast is good for photographing!

    • Thanks, Mick! For us photographer types, Florida also has the Brown Pelican so we don’t have to worry about contrast! – 🙂
      I really enjoyed your latest post and seeing a Figbird in a fig tree!
      Hope you’re enjoying the weekend. All the best.

  14. Hello, I am looking forward to see some migrating birds here. Wonderful shots of the ducks and the pelicans are my favorite. Wonderful post and photos. Happy Friday, enjoy your weekend!

  15. All beautiful, but I believe the top photo of the Redhead is my favorite. Love the reflection in the water, the cup-like quality of the elephant-ear-looking plant — colors are fantastic.

    • Well, thank you, Ma’am! That IS a pretty duck when the light hits it just right. The plant is native to Florida, the Yellow Pond Lily or Spatterdock. It has a pretty yellow bloom, but more importantly, is a great place to toss a hook baited with a red wiggler which will be quickly devoured by a fat Shellcracker!

      Add a hush puppy and rice with tomato gravy and you’ll feel sorry for whatever the rich folks are forced to eat.

      Love you!!

  16. Hi at last Wally. I did keep checking and could see that you found lots do in FL. I did wonder if maybe you had travelled up north for a week or two to see how the other half live. I hope those Snowbirds are feeding the ducks with the real McCoy and not burgers abd KFC – very fattening which would make them even less likely to head north very soon.

    You have some great pictures there. Looks like the pelicans are lined up at the buffet table. Female Bufflehead is a beauty.

    And it’s good to see Ruddy Duck again. You may know that the UK authorites (them that know what’s best for everything and everyone) profceed to cull all of the UK’s Ruddy Duck population. the fear was that the migrant Ruddy Ducks would interbreed with the Spanish popualtion of the related and endangered White-headed Duck and thus wreck the white-headeed chances of increasing from low levels.

    Needless to say, if birders now see Ruddy Ducks they tell no one.

    Enjoy the sun. Ours is on its way I hope.

    • (My apologies, Phil. I apparently answered this under another commenter.)

      I was not aware of the Ruddy Duck situation in the UK. Sounds similar to the wisdom of US “experts” in the northwestern states who advocate wiping out local Barred Owl populations because they prey on the smaller and threatened Spotted Owl. Pretty soon (or maybe it’s already happening??) they’ll apply the same logic to humans. “What good are those pesky senior citizens anyhow?”.

      On a happier note, I got out birding yesterday and was treated to a flock of Bobolinks stopping on their migration route to feed in a local pasture. Uncommon to see them here.

      We hope your sun makes an appearance this weekend! All the best.

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