Author Archives: Wally Jones

About Wally Jones

Native Floridian. Love to explore.

Commoner Among Royals

Holidays. Wonderful, family-oriented, food-filled and loving times of the year. Exhausting.

A final mailing of several dozen home-made Christmas cookies and fudge prompted a profound statement from my usually unfazed bride:  “Whew! I’m tired!” I asked her to put that in writing so I could drag it out next year before she began her annual Herculean effort to ensure everyone in North America had a Christmas cookie.

Our nature safaris and birding expeditions proceeded at a significantly reduced pace during this time. Last week we managed to spend a morning riding around with all the windows open to let in cooler-than-normal fresh air. Invigorating! A few stops at local lakes found many common birds which are too often overlooked by “serious” birders and photographers. Thank goodness I’ve never been considered “serious”. 

Along a canal, one of nature’s best hunters, the Great Blue Heron, patiently watches for signs of breakfast.

Lake Parker


Subtle shades of purple and blue blend perfectly to give the Little Blue Heron a distinct presence above the wetland.

Lake Parker


Normally associated with the coast, a few Caspian Terns have taken up residence around our local area. The large reddish-orange beak, dark head with smudgy forehead (non-breeding plumage) and somewhat dark primaries help identify this largest tern in the world.

Lake Parker


It would be hard to imagine Florida without the Osprey. Angler extraordinaire, dazzling master of flight, incredible good looks. (No, not me. I am not a pilot.)

Lake Parker


Another species usually found in more coastal areas, the Brown Pelican seems to like our local lakes and wetlands well enough to be a year-round resident.

Lake Parker


One of our more colorful citizens is the Purple Gallinule. In the right light, one can detect an amazing variety of hues. Even from a parting shot.

Lake Parker

Lake Parker 


The Limpkin is a specialist at locating large apple snails and extracting them from their shells. This one seemed intent on varying her diet and was stalking a grasshopper.

Lake Parker


Muddy feet provide a clue where this Tricolored Heron has been scratching up a snack. The brownish bands of feathers match the reeds where this wader likes to hide.

Lake Parker


Anhinga. Ancient-looking birds whose nickname of “snake bird” describes this agile swimmer’s habit of moving through the water with just head and neck visible, giving the impression of a snake. It is also known as a “water turkey” because of its overall shape and pattern of its tail feathers. During our short morning outing we counted over 40 of these large, ungainly-looking birds.

At sunrise birds begin leaving the roost to hunt.

Lake Parker


Although they perch in trees the approach flight looks uncontrolled.

Lake Parker

Lake Parker


It’s breeding season here for the Anhinga and this female is brooding a new batch of snake birds.

Lake Parker


As our new year begins, we reflect on the combination of small things in our lives which remind us how blessed we are each day. Not only do we have each other to love, we have what seems a boundless supply of natural treasures just beyond our front door. All of the birds in this post are quite abundant in our local area and, indeed, we take them for granted in our pursuit of something more exotic or “different”. Taking time to really observe our “common” residents and their beauty – I realized it is us who are the commoners in nature. How privileged we felt to be among the truly Royal inhabitants of the planet!

 We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for visit!

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Accidental Fall

The only way to photograph within Florida’s state parks during the “golden hour” is to camp there the previous night. Opening time is 8:00 a.m. Our house is about 20 minutes from Colt Creek State Park. Camp out or miss the best light?

As we waited for the timed gate to open at precisely 8:00, Gini (who can actually hear) told me about the lovely chorus around us. White-eyed Vireo, an insistent Eastern Phoebe repeating his name, Northern Cardinals, American Crows and one of the local gang leaders, a Tufted Titmouse. The iron gate swung open and we forked over a couple of dollars to the congenial park ranger.

We made our way slowly along the park’s winding main road, noting a resident Red-shouldered Hawk, the methodical hammering of a Pileated Woodpecker and generally enjoying a beautiful morning outdoors. As we rounded a curve, a splash of red, orange and yellow slapped us in the face. This was unexpected!

Florida Sugar Maple, Red Maple and Bald Cypress on the edge of a swampy area were in full autumn display. Florida, it is often joked, has only two seasons:  green and brown. We knew, of course, certain areas could be quite colorful but it has been rare that we have observed this much color in one spot. I hiked down to the shore of the park’s main lake and was stunned at how much color was visible!

We made our way through the park, stopping to explore trails and creeks and ending up at the end of the road where we enjoyed our simple breakfast. Along the way we spotted a white-tailed deer buck with impressive antlers. Not far away were a doe and two fawns. Plenty of birds kept us busy with binoculars and I kept finding colorful trees and leaves to photograph.

It was a good day. Our hope had been to see a few birds but we were surprised by an impromptu display of riotous (for Florida) color! We returned two days later and all the color was gone. Timing is everything.

Technicolor brought to you by Mother Nature.

The park’s main lake looks great all dressed up!

White Ibises in a bright blue sky made a nice addition to a colorful day.

Covered in duckweed and algae, Colt Creek’s green surface blends in with the surrounding woods and disappears in the distance.

A Little Blue and a Tricolored Heron enjoy the view from the lake’s fishing pier.

Wandering around the edges of the swamp reveals many wonderful sights, such as this unique cypress stump.

Aware of our presence, but not wanting to interrupt his meal, a White-tailed deer has an impressive set of antlers.

Near the ranger station at the park’s entrance, a Killdeer hunts for insect snacks.

Standing water in a swampy spot reflects the bright sky and colorful leaves litter the bottom of the slough.

Mac Lake never looked better!

Who could resist exploring such an inviting trail? Not me.

I know many areas have spectacular autumnal displays and the little bit of color we discovered may not be impressive to those who live in such places. For a couple of mid-Florida natives, though, we were happily surprised by our little accidental fall.

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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