“Feel like going for a ride?”
“I’ll get my shoes on. Where to?”
“Let’s check out the kingbird roost.”
Notice, Gini gets her shoes first. She has always been that way. Positive, optimistic, action-oriented. Worry about little details, like a destination, later.
Several years ago (10 according to records I could find), a group of Western Kingbirds along with a couple of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were noted roosting in a citrus grove not too far from here. They begin arriving around early December and stay until March. Like clockwork, they appear on utility lines bordering the grove 30-40 minutes before sunset. They chatter, hawk a few insects and one-by-one dive into the dense trees as dark settles in.
These two species are not commonly seen in central Florida, even during migration, so it’s a treat for those who may not have an opportunity to travel west of the Mississippi River where they are more prevalent. Two years ago, the group included an even more uncommon member, a Fork-tailed Flycatcher, a rare neo-tropical bird likely from South America.
Arriving a bit early allowed us to cruise the perimeter of the groves and we were rewarded with a nice selection of birds, very active near the end of the day. A trio of female Baltimore Orioles was a surprise and a half-dozen American Robins provided a splash of color and noise. A quick click through the car window was the only chance I had to catch an image of a low-flying Bald Eagle as she appeared over an orange tree.
We are concerned about this area. Florida has faced a devastating loss of citrus trees in recent years due to a disease which has been hard to tame. Many grove owners are turning to other, more reliable, crops. A large section of the groves used by these roosting flycatchers is being converted to huge covered greenhouses. We are not sure what the plans are for greenhouse production. Some good news was found in several plots of newly planted citrus trees. Hopefully, they will thrive and provide shelter for future generations of these beautiful winter visitors.
The rays of the setting sun highlight the lemon yellow undersides of a Western Kingbird.
Gray head, salmon-colored sides and – that tail! Scissor-tailed Flycatchers are a joy to behold.
An image of a Fork-tailed Flycatcher from two years ago. A few of these striking birds are seen in the southern United States each year although their home is in South America and southern Mexico. This one seemed to be among friends as he joined in the nightly routine prior to diving into an orange tree. (The strong rays of the setting sun gave his wings and tail an unnaturally colored glow.)
New fencing around a greenhouse complex provides a handy perch for a Palm Warbler as he scans the grass for the last meal of the day.
Just beyond the Palm Warbler above, a Red-shouldered Hawk uses a newly erected greenhouse support pole for his own lookout spot.
Around the edges of the citrus groves are lakes, open fields and old homesteads where long-ago plantings of shrubs, vines and hardwood trees grow wild. In one large tree were three female Baltimore Orioles searching the leaves for a juicy insect morsel.
A half-dozen American Robins swooped into the top of the oriole tree, chatted for awhile then noisily flapped off toward their own citrus tree roost for the night.
Another hardwood tree harbored two Red-bellied Woodpeckers. They had no time for visiting as the sun was getting low and they still needed to shop for supper.
Speaking of supper, an American Kestrel sure would like a grasshopper or lizard to show up in the field below. Where did these falcons perch before utility lines were invented?
We approached an intersection at the edge of the grove and a Bald Eagle came into sudden view over the orange trees. I went through my routine of trying to slam on the brakes, point the camera out the window, focus and shoot. Imagine my surprise to discover the image is almost adequate!
Our late afternoon spur-of-the-moment outing was delightful! Beautiful birds, spectacular sunset and I got to spend time with my best friend. Life. Is. Good.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!