Fall Has Fell

“Ooohhh!” “Aaahhh!”

That’s an exact quote from our first sighting of a northeastern American forest in a riot of autumn color. Gini and I are native Floridians and as such we only knew two seasons:  green and brown. Our marriage some 48 years ago began a journey which has taken us many places and we have been fortunate to have experienced a world full of beauty. The forest near Syracuse, New York that fall day is indelibly etched in our mind’s album of special memories. Who knew so many different colors could be found on trees?

As our current year transitions from “green” to “brown”, we realized Mother Nature provides us with a sense of the colorful autumn our northern neighbors enjoy each year. The miracle of avian migration brings a myriad of colors fluttering on the wind’s breath to alight in our trees, on our lakes and along our roadsides and all we have to do is take the time to observe. Our time for exploring this year has been very limited but we are now almost back to what we think is “normal” and are attempting to make up for lost time.

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been out and about and have been blessed with extraordinarily pleasant weather. Cool mornings, bright blue skies and balmy afternoons. A little water, egg salad sandwiches and fresh oranges are tossed into the truck along with about 500 pounds of optics and off we go! Cocooned in the vehicle with Gini as we re-discover old haunts and search for new seldom-traveled roads is the best life could offer. How lucky I am!!

Ride with us for awhile and enjoy a little fall birding in central Florida’s forests, marshes, lakes and fields.

 

A Snowy Egret concentrates on a potential meal hiding under the surface. As with many wading birds, the egret stirs the mud with a foot and hopes something delicious will appear.

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

Dagger-like beaks help Anhingas spear a fish dinner. In this case, the Anhinga is helping to rid Florida’s waters of an invasive catfish species. Suckermouth armored catfish, Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus, were likely introduced by escapes from tropical fish farms and aquarium owners dumping unwanted individuals into nearby waters. The overall impact of the species is unknown but in some areas it has disrupted native fish populations. Also, their nesting habit of burrowing into banks has caused siltation and erosion.

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

Announcing his presence to the entire marsh, a Tricolored Heron slowly flaps his way to a likely feeding spot.

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

One of the lakes near our house, Lake Parker, has a small population of Caspian and Royal Terns most of the year. This Royal Tern is distinguished from the similar Caspian by a  yellow-orange beak (as opposed to the red of the Caspian), a white forehead during non-breeding season (the Caspian has black or at least gray smudges) and the underside of the primaries are light (the Caspian’s are dark).

Lake Parker

 

Our area maintains a robust population of Bald Eagles all year. During fall and winter migration, the eagle population soars with winter visitors. Hard to tell if this is a native or “snow bird”, but he/she was curious about what I was up to.

Sam Keen Road

 

Fish Hawk is what many folks call the Osprey. It’s a very apt name as they are excellent at securing a finny feast for themselves and their families.

East Lake Parker

 

Our mild weather allows many insects to breed multiple times during the year. The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail gathering nectar from a Pickerelweed bloom just adds another dimension of color to our day.

Avon Park Cutoff Road Sod Fields

 

This European Starling is quite comfortable in a woodpecker cavity, at least until spring when woodpeckers will likely drive them from the area. All of the starlings in North America apparently descend from 100 individuals which were released in New York’s Central Park in the 1890’s. It seems a group of devoted Shakespeare fans wanted Americans to enjoy the birds mentioned in all of Shakespeare’s plays. Now there are estimated to be over 200 million European Starlings in North America and NOT everyone is overjoyed with this result! (Attempts to release other species mentioned by Shakespeare were not successful.)

Avon Park Cutoff Road Sod Fields

 

At the edge of a large commercial sod field which can hold large numbers of shorebirds during migration, a quartet of Lesser Yellowlegs finds shelter and nice, soft mud for probing along a small pond.

Avon Park Cutoff Road Sod Fields

 

During the past several days, Eastern Phoebes have begun to appear on almost every fence wire, tree snag and even our roadside mail box. They do not breed in our area and it’s a joy to see the sleek little flycatchers with their constantly pumping tails.

Lake Gwyn Park

 

The male Common Yellowthroat is a noisy, pugnacious and brightly adorned resident. The more subtly hued and demure female can easily be overlooked. Thankfully, this little lady posed for a moment before returning to the weedy undergrowth.

Cox Road

 

“Drink-your-tea.” The Eastern Towhee’s clear call resounds from all around us as we slowly drive along a dirt road with an orange grove on one side and a field of scrub oak on the other.

Eastern Towhee Call

Cox Road

 

Another butterfly taking advantage of Florida’s version of autumn, a Long-tailed Skipper.

Lake Gwyn Park

 

The female Summer Tanager is not as immediately recognizable as the all-red male, but she has a beauty all her own.

Lake Parker Park

 

We may not have bright yellow, red and orange leaves during the fall, but it sure seems colorful when we spot something like this Prairie Warbler!

Sam Keen Road

 

One of the most numerous warblers during fall migration is the Palm Warbler. The little birds with the constantly bobbing tail seems to be everywhere once they arrive.

Tenoroc-Bridgewater

 

Although the Pine Warbler is a year-round resident here, fall migrants swell the population significantly. These tree-top hunters can range from bright yellow to almost drab individuals. The first image is likely an adult male while the second may be a first-year female.

Lake Gwyn Park

Lake Parker Park

 

In its fall plumage, the Blackpoll Warbler is quite similar to the Pine Warbler. One helpful identifying feature is the Blackpoll’s yellow or orange feet. Some birds may have dark feet on the top, but the souls will always appear yellow or orange.

Gator Creek Reserve

 

Who is watching whom? A Yellow-throated Warbler contributes is bright black, white and yellow to our autumn outing.

Lake Parker Park

 

Gang leader. It seems whenever I hear a Tufted Titmouse calling, there will be a gaggle of other birds hanging around.

Lake Parker Park

 

We have a small population of Pied-billed Grebes which breed locally but the winter brings a ton of these little cuties. Yesterday, I counted 25 in one group hiding amongst bullrushes in a marsh.

East Lake Parker

 

A newly developed county park (Lake Gwyn near Winter Haven) has been littered with Apple Snail shells each time I’ve visited. One recent morning there were 14 Limpkins and five Snail Kites enjoying the buffet! I’m pretty sure the kites nested there this past spring and we look forward to monitoring their efforts this coming year.

Lake Gwyn Park

 

Near Lake Kissimmee in eastern Polk County, a drive along a road adjacent to a cattle ranch led to an encounter with two young Crested Caracara. They were not bothered by our presence and gave us that typical “ho-hum” look of disdain they apparently learn early in life.

Sam Keen Road

 

Although it’s autumn and the end of the year is rapidly approaching, nature continues to be in a constant state of renewal. At Lake Gwyn park where I found the Snail Kite above, a brand new family of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks appeared from behind an island. A proud Mom and Dad surrounded their group of ducklings (plus one straggler) all decked out in their little “bumble-bee” suits. More fall colors added to our Florida autumn album!

Lake Gwyn Park

 

Thank you for joining us as we get back into a birding routine. Even though you might not have a forest full of changing colors to enjoy, I suspect there are some colorful bundles of feathers not too far from your window. Go take a look.

We hope you 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 “Fall Has Fell

  1. Adele Jennings

    It’s always such a privilege to be connected to your blog! I loved the picture of the Black-bellied Whistling baby ducks! Last week I was up to the Celery Fields in Sarasota and came across a family of them. The babies must have been only about a week old! They were simply delightful to watch. Another pair of Whistling ducks flew in whistling while I was sitting there! I had never heard them whistle before!

    • Hi, Adele! Thank you so much for the terrific comments. Aren’t ducklings adorable? A flock of several dozen adult ducks whistling in the marsh as they fly over your head at sunrise is quite an experience. We hope you’re having a great week.

  2. Richard Pegler

    Absolutely delighted to see you back in Bloggerland, Wally – and what a come-back it is!!! I suspect that you have been away honing those already-superb photography skills.

    That Yellow-throated Warbler must have been a difficult subject to focus on, with much of it being begind foliage.

    Your birds are fabulous, but thank you for including the butterflies also.

    I particularly love the Caracara and Anhinga images. That Anhinga has possibly got a puzzle to solve – how to rid its bill of the weed, without losing the fish!

    My very best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard

    • Aha! The Anhinga told me that wasn’t a weed, it’s his salad! – 🙂

      Thanks so much, Richard, for the honeyed words. I really appreciate it! We’re still sputtering with this blogging thing and may never get it right. We’ll keep trying every so often, though.

      It’s mid-week already! We hope you’re doing something fun and birdy, or insecty, or photograph–y. Cheers!

  3. Hi there! Nice to see you picked up on the theme of the week and included an anhinga with a cat fish!!

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

    • G’Day, Stewart. Once again, I apologize for long absences between blog posts and visiting your wonderful web sites. I grew up fishing in small, dark lakes and there were always Anhingas hanging around trying to steal the fish I caught, many times before I landed it! I understand those invasive “armored catfish” are good to eat. Supposedly you can steam them with the skin on as it’s so tough it acts as an insulator. I may try it one day and will report back.

      My Grandson is headed for Oz today (Sidney then Brisbane) so keep an eye on him for me! – 🙂

  4. Hi Wally, it is marvellous to see you back again in Blogland and with such a wonderful selection of birds.. Are your photographs are wonderful but what I love is how you write Your adventures whille out birding with Gini. It is wonderful after 48 years Youtwo are still wonderfully in love and enjoy nature togetter. That Annhinga has certainly got a razor sharp sword of a beak and you were able to capture the moment that lunch was caught so brilliantly. It cannot be easy to photograph the elusive warblers but you have managed it wonderfully. I would be struggling greatly to the able to iD these little birds. That caracara bird looks very snooty and stuck up I think he has real attitude problems! I love that peekaboo shot of the Yellow throated Warbler and adore the little family whistling ducks. I miss seeing Tex’s Whistlers on a Wednesday and in fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen the young of this duck. I really felt as if I was out birdingwith you and Gini today and discovering all these wonderful treasures in nature. So thank you for taking the time to share your adventures and you’re stunning photographs with all of us. I hope you have many more years were you can enjoy the great outdoors. Many thanks for visiting my blog and leaving comments. I’m sorry it has taken me so long to get back to your blog but due to extreme tiredness from time to time I have cut back on leaving so many comments on other peoples blogs.

    • Margaret, thank you ever so much for your wonderful remarks! Please don’t feel you must comment on our blog! We only do this occasionally and simply hope to provide descriptions and pictures of where we live so that others can enjoy from wherever they may be around the world or perhaps use for a trip planning guide. We know you love us!! 🙂

  5. Lovely to read another blog posting from you and as always your photos as great. Of course I especially enjoy the ones that are even a big familiar – and that is mainly the waterbirds and some of the raptors. Wish I could see the Yellowlegs.
    Thanks for your kind comments on my blog – I am indeed glad that I still have good sight and balance that against the bad side effects. I have nothing at all to complain of when I look at it that way. Thanks again!

    • Thank you very much, Mick! My grandson is on his way to Brisbane today and will be in country about a year. Wish I could visit him to see some of your beautiful environment personally!

      Take care.

  6. Happy to see you back in the blogosphere! We’re enjoying the last of the Autumn color up here in the Pacific Northwest, but just about ready to trade it in for Florida’s late Fall beauty (early next month we’ll join those snowbird eagles)….. Thank you for the beautiful pictures and IDs on both birds and butterflies.

    • Bring us some of that cool (but not wet) weather! We hope you have a safe trip and we’ll save a few colorful birds and bugs for you.

  7. silly little late-bloomer whistlers. 🙂 you do get a wide variety of size,color and type of birds to enjoy!

  8. Hi Wally,
    I too am sorry for not visiting your blog more often.
    I take every opportunity I can to go birding or shoot landscape pics.
    It keeps me from thinking too much…
    I am happy to read you are both fantastic, you are so lucky to still be together.
    Your photos are exquisite this Anhinga with its fish is a fabulous shot.
    I also love the YT warbler watching you through the leaves, very funny!!
    The Osprey with its catch is quite something too!
    Take good care of each other and enjoy your WE 🙂

    • Merci, Noushka, for your very kind remarks. We have been having fun trying to get back in the routine of exploring and birding. Each day is a blessing!
      Take care and we look forward to enjoying your exquisite photography!

  9. Oh my.
    Thank you so much for taking us with you.
    Feathered enchantment, most of which I will never see for myself.
    I am a firm believer that there is beauty everywhere – for those with open eyes, hearts and minds.

  10. Hi Wally. Don’t worry now, I have you on my list of important birders to email should anything “good” turn up around here. It’s just a day or so travel but if not I’ll send you a video and you can still tick it.

    Meanwhile I continue to be a similar shade of green to the background of the Anhinga. You did great in getting the whole of the detail in the picture; similarly the eagle and the Osprey.

    You probably know that the Starling breeding population is well down here in the UK, something like 60% since the mid-1970s. If it weren’t the huge number of winter Starling immigrants from Europe and Russia the loss would be very noticeable.

    I admit I would have struggled to ID that pale warbler, made more difficult by the fact that it appears to be a very young bird carrying hardly any colour. Birding those warblers in autumn must be a real challenge especially when they are tiny and living in that dense foliage.

    As you know I have taken a real shine to your caracaras (hope there’s no hidden meaning there). I like your use of the word “disdain”. It seems to fit the situation very well.

    Have fun now. I’m going back to Goggle now to find more new birds.

    • First, thank you so much for including me on your list of “impotent birders”, oh, wait, that’s “important birders”. I feel so – special.

      I appreciate the kind words on a couple of photographs actually being in focus for a change. “Even a blind pig”, etc.

      We may soon have to return the favor of re-introducing the European Starling to Europe.

      All birds are a challenge for me, that’s why I maintain a network of experts from Lakeland, Florida to Lancashire, Newly Re-United Kingdom.

      You may admire my caracaras anytime you desire. (I sure hope this is a private communication.)

      I shall now heed your advice and am proceeding forthwith to consult with my Gini regarding said “fun”. It seems she, also, has taken a real shine to my caracaras.

      All the best, Phil!

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