Posts Tagged With: american coot

The Rain Falls, Mainly It’s A Pain

I often joke about how being a meteorologist in Florida has to be the easiest job in the world. No matter what time of year, you just say: “Fifty-percent chance of rain.” Collect a paycheck. Repeat.

In our sub-tropical climate, much of the year produces conditions conducive to moisture. Sometimes it rains. A lot. We are currently in the “dry season”. So, naturally, as I glanced at the forecast for the day:  “Fifty-percent chance of rain.” Sigh.

The good news is I planned to only travel about ten minutes from the house, so if I get up and it’s raining, hooray! Back under the covers.

It wasn’t raining.

Lake Parker Park officially opens at 7:00. Sunrise was scheduled (?) for 7:02. Fortunately, I arrived at 6:50 to find a nice welcoming open gate. The sun remained under covers of its own for awhile. When it did peek out from the low clouds, some very nice golden light warmed the shoreline.  The birds don’t care so much about schedules, gates or even the weather. They gotta eat. So there was plenty of activity in the air, on the lake’s surface, in the shallow water, among the reeds and in the trees throughout the park.

Yours truly was thankful for no rain. My outlook on our forecasts is: “Fifty-percent chance of not that much rain.” I’ll take those odds. The morning was mild with only a gentle breeze and a hint of actual coolness to the air. Some trees showed a bit of color and a large flock of Ring-necked Ducks overhead confirmed fall and winter migration is proceeding right on time.

It’s rare that I only spend an hour-and-a-half here, but today I headed home early. When I arrived, Gini was busy threatening some fresh fruit with a very sharp knife. I put the kettle on for coffee. Once the images were processed Gini nodded her approval. We agreed that we continue to be blessed in so many ways.

Hope you enjoy the morning walk. No brolly needed.

 

Sunrise.

Lake Parker Park

 

Cypress trees turn a rusty color during the winter. (An Anhinga is perched at the extreme left.)

Lake Parker Park

 

A quartet of Double-crested Cormorants greet the day from their overnight roost.

Lake Parker Park

 

An immature Bald Eagle soars over the lake in search of a fishy breakfast.

Lake Parker Park

 

Cypress knees are vertical protrusions above the roots of cypress trees. Their function is not really understood. One theory is they help anchor trees growing in saturated soil. Trees growing in well-drained areas do not develop “knees”.

Lake Parker Park

 

I choose to believe this Wood Stork was yawning. The other option would be he was laughing at me, and I just know that couldn’t be possible.

Lake Parker Park

 

The American Coot is extremely common and is usually passed over when it comes to photo ops. I think they are quite handsome in their black plumage, white bills and red eyes.

Lake Parker Park

 

Across a narrow inlet a small cypress tree is bathed with morning sunlight on its right side and bright yellow flowers cover the ground beneath its branches.

Lake Parker Park

 

In the shallows, a Glossy Ibis probes the soft mud for insects, fish and crustaceans.

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park 

An actual autumn leaf! In Florida! Pretty sure it’s a maple species, possibly Florida Maple (Acer saccharum var. floridum) or Red Maple (Acer rubrum).

Lake Parker Park

 

If you go about willy-nilly taking pictures of creatures bathing and preening, expect to receive a nasty glare. Black-crowned Night Heron, disturbed.

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park

Rain in the forecast does not mean it won’t be a beautiful day. At worst, the rain will replenish the watershed, bring relief to dry flora and offer a drink to our thirsty wildlife. Where’s the pain in that?

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Learning Something New

—  Not far below New Smyrna is the north end of the Indian River, and the distance to Jupiter Inlet, its other end, is one hundred and-forty miles. The most interesting fact about this river is that it is not a river at all, but a salt-water sound.

It is a delight merely to view the river from the shore. As you look off across the blue water from the mainland you see the islands dim in dreamy haze on the other side. Schools of fishes flash their silvery sides to the sun in the shallows; farther out frolicsome mullet leap high into the air and fall back with a resounding splash; herons large and small stand and meditate in or near the water; and cormorants, black and ungainly, sit on piles of abandoned docks for hours motionless, or, if one makes a plunge for a fish, he promptly flops back to his perch. During the winter the river is a resort for innumerable ducks. In places the surface is fairly covered by them, and a boat voyaging on the river will make flocks rise from the water every few hundred yards to travel off and settle down elsewhere. —

“The East Coast and the Indian River” Highways and Byways of Florida, 1918

 

“What are you reading, Aunt Et?” Although not actually my aunt, she was called “Aunt Et” by everyone remotely related in our very large family tree. “War and Peace”, she replied. “For the fourth time. Seems like I learn something new each time.” Aunt Et had been a school teacher for most of her life and had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. At the age of 98, she was sharp and full of life. She didn’t hesitate to call members of the local school board to let them know whenever they made another bone-headed decision. She and her husband settled in this area early in the 20th century, raised a large family and did well in the state’s citrus industry. Along with wonderful memories of a fascinating lady, we returned to our home on the Gulf coast with a treasure trove of citrus and a few bags of “sand pears”, not great for eating but they made superb preserves.

That was over 50 years ago.

Mention the Indian River to most Floridians and many will immediately think of high quality oranges, grapefruits and tangerines. Fishermen will begin dreaming of the huge snook and tarpon which inhabit Ponce Inlet or tackle-smashing redfish cruising Mosquito Lagoon. Birders – well, their eyes just roll back in their heads trying to comprehend thousands of waterfowl, 100+ daily species lists and lifers just waiting to be spotted. There are many premier birding “hotspots” all along the Indian River of Florida’s east coast.

On this day, I was with one of Florida’s best birders and enjoyed a day-long tutorial on locating, seeing and hearing birds, many of which I very likely would not have observed on my own. We were exploring the Indian River watershed along the southern portion of its range and at day’s end had tallied over 90 species of birds. We began the day well before dawn, counting seven calling Barred Owls and snapping a quick photo of one just outside the car window. To finish the day, on the way home just before leaving Indian River County, an endangered Snail Kite coasted across the busy highway resulting in some exciting braking, swerving, U-turning and other normal birding procedures. In between these two extremes were Sandhill Cranes with young, Crested Caracara building a nest, wintering warblers, Northern Gannets plunging into the Atlantic Ocean, oil-covered snow birds, wild pigs, damselflies in distress, a commotion of coots, cute furry mammals and a turtle called a cooter all covered in duckweed.

(See “Additional Information” below for links to two of the areas we visited. Much of this was new territory for me and I look forward to discovering more of what this area has to offer.)

 

This Barred Owl was so intent on his potential prey that he didn’t budge when the car stopped alongside. He was less than 15 feet away and I couldn’t fit him within the frame of the lens I had on the camera. As soon as the camera shutter clicked he was gone.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

 

Sunrise appears to have come a bit too soon for this sleepy-looking Turkey Vulture. Their large talons aren’t built to grasp small diameter items such as a utility line so they have to balance carefully.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

 

A very young raccoon was quite curious about us and kept a watchful eye from his palm tree perch.

Raccoon

Raccoon

 

This Sandhill Crane family was foraging along a berm which we were traversing between two ponds. They politely moved around us as we passed them and all was well. Thank goodness. Those beaks could do some damage.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

 

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

 

The day was warm and insects were plentiful. A Rambur’s Forktail provided some color among the pond weeds.

Rambur's Forktail - Heteromorph Female  (Ischnura ramburii)

Rambur’s Forktail – Heteromorph Female (Ischnura ramburii)

 

A pair of Hooded Mergansers are visiting for the winter. Soon they’ll head back north to breed and we hope to see them again in the fall.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

 

With plenty of water and plenty of weeds there is plenty of prey for a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk to pursue.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

 

The Green Heron is not a very large bird to begin with (18 inches/46 cm long) but when he turns to face you he almost disappears. A handy trick if you’re trying to pretend you’re a reed.

Green Heron

Green Heron

 

Boat-tailed Grackles are loud, obnoxious bullies. But when the light hits them just right, beautiful is the only word to describe them.

Boat-tailed Grackle

Boat-tailed Grackle

 

This Peninsula Cooter is covered in duckweed, just like the area of the pond he frequents. He’s hoping the sun will dry some of the stuff so it will fall off his back. Then he can go get a fresh coat of green.

Peninsula Cooter

Peninsula Cooter

 

The bright reddish-orange of a Carolina Saddlebags can be seen from quite a distance. Dragonflies in the air herald Springtime around the corner.

Carolina Saddlebags - Male  (Tramea carolina)

Carolina Saddlebags – Male (Tramea Carolina)

 

Another winter visitor, a female Ruddy Duck, has long, stiff tail feathers which act as a rudder when diving for food.

Ruddy Duck - Female

Ruddy Duck – Female

 

When a Bald Eagle flies overhead, pandemonium erupts as American Coots scramble to avoid becoming breakfast.

American Coot

American Coot

 

Yet more tourists, the Redhead and Northern Shoveler try to blend in with a group of coots as they know there is safety in numbers. (They also know coots are easier for eagles to catch – see the previous photograph.)

American Coot, Northern Shoveler, Redhead

American Coot, Northern Shoveler, Redhead

 

A butterfly in the skipper family, a Dorantes Longtail finds an abundance of wildflowers blooming on this balmy Florida day.

Dorantes Longtail  (Urbanus dorantes)

Dorantes Longtail (Urbanus dorantes)

 

To paraphrase my Aunt Et, each time I go birding I seem to learn something new. We hope you do, too!

 

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

 

 

Additional Information

Lake Blue Cypress

West Regional Wastewater Treament Facility (entry from Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail map)

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

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