Posts Tagged With: american bittern

Not So Far Afield

You would think that I’d learn. “Tomorrow will start clear and dry and a few clouds may roll in during the afternoon.” Weather reporters. Sigh.

Fifty yards down the path, my face felt a few drops of what my Dad would have called “heavy dew”. Rain. Keep going? Turn back? I tucked the camera body under my shirt tail and put the lens covers over the binoculars. A Gray Catbird “mewed” sarcastically from a tangle of willows. Two Blue-gray Gnatcatchers crisscrossed the trail in front of me, daring me to whip out the camera and try to catch them between raindrops. Nature can be so cruel.

Around a bend, there was an opening through which I could see a lovely lake, wetlands extending for some distance and several large dead trees. Among the branches of the tallest snag was an Osprey nest and atop the highest limb perched an Osprey, surveying his wet kingdom. I was so enthralled with the view I had not noticed the rain had stopped.

This trail was new to me and I explored about a mile and a half before heading back to the car. Lakes on one side, old-growth hardwood forest on the other. “Birdy.”

We have written about this location before and doubtless will again. Tenoroc Public Use Area. I’m not sure when it changed, but it used to be known as Tenoroc Fish Management Area. Tenoroc is managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). Over 7,000 acres of fishing lakes, hiking/equestrian trails, a shooting range and special recreation areas for children and people with physical limitations. It is a “gateway” site for The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail.

Did I mention it’s only ten minutes from the house?

By the time I returned to the car, I was almost dry and Gini was several chapters farther along in her book. Granola bars and fresh slices of orange fortified us for more exploring.

There was no more rain and the clouds eventually parted to reveal a deep blue sky and plenty of sunshine. We discovered amazing sights, sounds and supreme satisfaction!

(NOTE: These images are from two different visits, the second and third weeks of October 2019.)

 

An Osprey above an old nest. In Florida, nesting season for the Osprey begins in December and old nests are renovated and reused over and over. (Sadly, this particular nest was destroyed by a violent windstorm after our first visit.) This image provides an idea of habitat typical for the area. If you are able to enlarge the photo, you may spot a Belted Kingfisher near the bottom of the frame just left of center.

Tenoroc FMA

 

A House Wren dared me to take his picture in the rain. These “little brown jobs” only visit us during migration.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Another fall/winter visitor is the Eastern Phoebe. We heard them calling everywhere we stopped. This one kept her eye on a grasshopper which she eventually grabbed and flew out of sight to enjoy.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Little Blue Herons in good light show a subtle diversity of color in their plumage. Yes, this fellow loudly let me know I was disturbing his breakfast hunt.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Fall migration is in full swing and there were plenty of colorful feathered things scampering high in the treetops. I managed to get a shot directly above me of a busy Magnolia Warbler. One would think bright yellow would really stand out in the middle of a tree. One would be mistaken.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Black and orange, on the other hand, are hard to miss. A male American Redstart stopped and stared for 1/500th of a second. Click. Thank you, sir!

Tenoroc FMA

 

There’s that bright yellow again. This time mixed with black stripes which help this Prairie Warbler blend into a bush as he fought the urge to flee. He flew.

Tenoroc FMA

 

One of the benefits of our sub-tropical environment is we get to enjoy dragonflies later in the year than those living in cooler climates. A Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina) can brighten up the dreariest day.

Tenoroc FMA

 

A new species for us! A huge dragon flew in front of the car and I about put Gini through the windshield (again) trying to stop, grab the camera and open the door all at the same time. The very courteous specimen grabbed a nearby branch and posed for several candid shots. Our newest find:  Royal River Cruiser (Macromia taeniolata)!

Tenoroc FMA

Tenoroc FMA

 

Stocky members of the heron family, American Bitterns are another of our fall/winter visitors. Their brown striped plumage allows them to remain motionless among reeds and escape detection. They are fairly uncommon in our county.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Spaniards exploring Florida over 500 years ago brought pigs with them for food. They left a few behind. We now have a feral pig problem. They proliferate faster than they can be hunted or trapped. As with most species, the babies can be pretty cute.

Tenoroc FMA

 

A beautiful Snowy Egret patiently waits for a frog to move. Yum.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Mrs. Belted Kingfisher has spied breakfast!

Tenoroc FMA

 

Mrs. Belted Kingfisher proudly displays her catch!

Tenoroc FMA

 

Mrs. Belted Kingfisher laughs loudly at Mr. Belted Kingfisher who has not had any breakfast!

Tenoroc FMA

 

Mr. Belted Kingfisher knows better than to say anything at all!

Tenoroc FMA

 

We are very thankful (I can’t believe I’m saying this) to the government forces which partnered with commercial interests and private citizens over half a century ago to create a real treasure for all citizens to enjoy. Hopefully, such success stories will motivate more people in all walks of life to encourage similar projects throughout the country (and beyond).

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

 

Additional Information

Tenoroc Public Use Area

Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Sunday Drive

Once upon a time, there were two families. They lived almost 300 miles from each other. One family had six children, the other had four. Once a week, on Sunday, their routines were remarkably similar. The day began early with lots of bustling about, having a quick breakfast together, checking skirts, shirts and ties. Church was a big deal. Although a pew was not reserved, each of these families always seemed to occupy the same respective one every week. Trying to keep that many young children attentive during a long sermon must have been a challenge. A “shushhh” from Mother or a loud “Hallelujah!” from the minister was usually enough to keep us all in line. The ultimate silencer, though, would be “The Look” from Dad. None would dare make a peep or continue to fidget after THAT!

Back home, the first priority was to get out of those Sunday clothes! The two Mothers performed their ritual weekly magic and a huge lunch always appeared on the large family dining table. A roast beef and mashed potatoes, a baked ham with apple sauce or mounds of spaghetti. After such a feast, a short nap was in order. Well, our duty as kids was to fight taking naps with a vengeance, so we usually found something to keep us busy while the old folks snoozed. (Funny how now that WE are the old folks, we would love to have a nap!)

About mid-afternoon, both families would pile into the car again for “The Sunday Drive”. There was usually no actual destination for these drives but they usually involved getting “out in the country”. About the time the kids started becoming obnoxious (“She’s TOUCHING me!!”), Dad would say something like “Who wants ice cream?”. Riot control extraordinaire.

Gini and I have often marveled how similar our childhood memories are.

A couple of weeks ago, we went on a Sunday Drive.

We visited Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. Visit the link below for information on exploring Lake Apopka. The 11 mile wildlife drive always seems to offer something wonderful. Today was no exception.

 

It’s fall and migration is in progress. A flock of Fulvous Whistling-Ducks soars over the marsh in search of a protective spot to rest.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Palm Warblers are among the first wood warblers to arrive each season and we saw well over three dozen of the active little birds during the day.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Squawking his displeasure at us interrupting his hunting, a Great Egret flapped to another area where he hopes for more privacy.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

This immature Red-shouldered Hawk paid no attention to us at all as his gaze was fixed on a water snake for breakfast. He grabbed the snake and flew directly into the bright sun, so no photo of him with his prize.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Autumn means the return of one of our favorite raptors, the Northern Harrier. The owl-like face, long tail and checkered wing pattern combined with a low, lilting flight just above the marsh make this hunter a joy to watch.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Rich colors of the Green Heron help it to blend with the surrounding vegetation as it patiently stalks prey such as small fish, frogs, lizards and snakes.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Watching a Great Egret preen, we are reminded how hunters almost decimated the species as they harvested the beautiful long feathers (aigrettes) for ladies’ hats.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Blooms of the water lily decorated a few spaces of open water.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

A pair of Blue-winged Teal are likely migrants as the species typically does not spend the whole year in central Florida.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

This Fulvous Whistling-Duck appears to be peeved that I’m taking his portrait.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

A large lake bordered by a vast expanse of marsh interspersed with canals makes excellent habitat for the American Alligator. We observed many dozens. They, in turn, observed us.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Several species of freshwater turtles call this area home. Here, a Peninsula Turtle lounges on a limb and soaks up a little sunshine.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

When bees are covered in pollen identification (for me) becomes difficult.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Gaining altitude over the wetlands, an immature Bald Eagle almost looks “dirty”. This is probably a third-year bird and this time next year she should be decked out in fresh white and black plumage.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

There are many variations of the Stink Bug and I think this one is a Brown Stink Bug (Euschistus sp.). Most members of this insect family can damage a wide variety of crops.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Don’t tell this Common Gallinule he’s common. I did and he took offense.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

The bill of this small diving bird provides a clue to how it got its name, Pied-billed Grebe. (Gini calls them “fuzzy butts”. Call the ornithological union.)

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Throughout the marsh there are plenty of snags from which hunters such as the Little Blue Heron can perch and scan below for a meal.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

One of the largest and most efficient of hunters, the Great Blue Heron, is not only magnificent to look at but is also amazing to observe as it hunts a huge variety of prey.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Another early migrant, the American Bittern, specializes in camouflage. When it stands motionless in front of reeds and holds its head toward the sky, it can become almost invisible.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Florida residents. Paper wasps are common and if you don’t provide the respect they deserve you will receive a painful reminder to keep your distance!

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

We thoroughly enjoyed our Sunday Drive. Just as I started to get a bit fidgety, Gini said there was ice cream ahead! Turned out to be grilled German sausage and apple pie. Just as good!

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

Additional Information:

Lake Apopka North Shore

 

Postscript

On the way home from our Sunday Drive, we received a phone call. Help was needed. We went home, packed and headed north.

On October 10th, Hurricane Michael made landfall as a Category 4 storm very near my brother’s home. As the storm churned northeastward, it passed directly over the homes of two of Gini’s brothers. Thankfully, all three families had evacuated and received no injuries. Property damage was extensive, unfortunately, and it will be awhile before things return to normal.

We helped in our small way by providing some food and cleaning up a seemingly infinite number of downed tree limbs. Other family members pitched in with financial aid and helped as they were able.

Safely back home, we are thankful for all we have and, for awhile, will try not to take what we have for granted.

Life is good. Enjoy it!

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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