Posts Tagged With: american lotus

Evening At The Rookery

Procrastination is the root of all evil. You can quote me.

“Snail Kite!” Sure enough, the cinnamon-colored female was at the end of a fishing pier extracting a morsel from a large Apple Snail. Gini said I should come back and walk along this area in hopes of getting some good photos.

“Look at all those egrets!” Gini pointed to a clump of reeds along the shore which were anchored by a stand of willows and a couple of tall cypress trees. This is a spot which has, for the past few years, hosted a small rookery and is quite accessible from the sidewalk running parallel to the lake frontage.

This two-mile stretch of road along the lake is a main connector to a major thoroughfare on the northern city limits. As such, it is heavily traveled. The low speed limit is helpful for spotting birds along the shore and out into the lake, but it’s best to leave such activity to the passenger for safety’s sake.

The above sightings were almost two months ago. Last week I finally visited the area with the camera. Most of the nests were empty. No chicks were visible. A few young birds were hanging about, mostly to mock me for being so late.

It was about two hours before sunset, but in an hour the sun’s rays would be blocked by buildings on the west side of the road so I only had about an hour of good light left. The gang of youngsters was raucous and began pushing and shoving to claim the best spot to roost for the night. A few adults made an appearance but could not calm the unruly kids.

Next year. Yeah. Next year I’ll get here in time for nesting and eggs and babies. Honest.

 

The ubiquitous Cattle Egret is usually taken for granted. We ignore them in our rush to find something “less common”. In breeding plumage, we realize how handsome they can be.

West Lake Parker Drive

 

A young Tricolored Heron has learned patience from his parents and was eventually rewarded with a small fish. His sister wants to know if you like her hair styling.

West Lake Parker Drive

West Lake Parker Drive

 

For a brief time during breeding, adult Little Blue Herons display darker blue bills, black eyes and black legs.

West Lake Parker Drive

 

Immature Little Blue Herons will remain white for most of their first year and will have mottled blue and white plumage for almost another year before displaying the complete blue of an adult.

West Lake Parker Drive

 

Juvenile Anhingas are also white (mostly) at birth and begin to show light brown within their first few weeks. These are still on the nest but will soon be capable of independent flight. Interestingly, they can swim (if they have to) within several days of hatching.

West Lake Parker Drive

 

The sun was about to drop out of sight and a mass of American Lotus lit up with the final light of the day.

West Lake Parker Drive

 

As you pass that spot which beckons you to grab your camera, do it. Don’t put it off. I don’t want you to miss the joy of this year’s baby egrets, the heron hiding her chick with a wing, the breeding plumage only visible for a few days. Carpe Diem.

 

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

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

Reclamation Exclamation

I never learned to curse properly. Even today I can’t seem to exhale expletives as smoothly as most five-year olds. If an inappropriate utterance does happen to escape my lips it seems to hang in the air while my sweet Gini’s mouth gradually opens wider and wider and her coffee-with-cream brown eyes become twice their normal size under eyebrows which are arching toward the sky. I blame my parents. I don’t recall them ever cussing. Plenty of my peers were expert in the art of foul-mouthed oratory. A military career exposed me daily to an entire sub-language of obscenity I never knew existed. Oh well. I may be too far gone to learn new habits at this point so I’ll just continue to struggle along living with the shame of remaining verbally deficient.

“Look at that crane!” Gini said she couldn’t see it. “How can you miss THAT??” She still didn’t spot it. Then it dawned on me she thought I meant one of our Florida Sandhill Cranes. “The walking crane.” Oh, she said, obviously disappointed. The “walking crane” is a common sight in west central Florida where phosphate mining is common. These behemoths are so large they can’t move easily from one spot to another as they are too heavy to be mounted on wheels or a track system like other cranes. They use a unique cam system which raises the whole crane up and moves it slightly forward on specially designed “feet”. It won’t win any speed contests. Most folks who love nature despise the idea of phosphate mining on several different levels, not the least of which is the destruction of native habitat for profit. It’s easy to hate big, faceless corporations who strip our land of its resources for nothing more than unabashed greed.

Gosh, I wish I knew how to curse.

On the other hand…..

Without the fertilizer which comes from the phosphate mined here, many areas of our planet would experience famine. Without the jobs created by the phosphate industry in Florida, many families would be destitute and have to rely on government support to survive. I’m not defending big business, but there are many sides to issues which may at first glance seem all negative. I grew up in this area and mining was a part of the landscape. As an ignorant teenager (yeah, I know, redundant term), I enjoyed many hours of really productive fishing in reclaimed phosphate pits. Today, we still enjoy great fishing and now some of our best birding occurs in areas which were mined and have been restored by the big, bad corporate cabals.

One such reclaimed mining area has become a favorite destination. Hardee Lakes Park near Bowling Green, Florida. It’s only an hour’s drive from the house and offers four lakes and 1150 acres of hardwood forest, swamp and pine woods. The park has recently been renovated to include an improved camping area with modern showers and it is now open every day of the week beginning at 0700. Our recent visit produced 52 species of birds. The four lakes are all former phosphate pits which means they are deep and have almost no shallow water near the shoreline. Accordingly, there are not many wading or shore birds found here. Most of Florida’s natural lakes are like shallow bowls, gradually declining to maximum depths of only four to eight feet. Phosphate pits may be 20-40 feet deep or deeper. During the day we saw over two dozen White-tailed Deer, Sherman’s Fox Squirrel (a species of special concern), Gopher Tortoises, a few migratory warblers, four Black Terns (first time we’ve seen them here), Northern Bobwhite sneaking through the forest and we heard calling Barred Owls. We enjoyed lunch at one of the picnic tables on the shore of a lake and reluctantly headed home after a very relaxing morning. In over five hours in the park, we encountered exactly one (1) other human being, a park ranger. Our kind of park.

 

We saw quite a few White-tailed Deer in the park today. These deer can become almost tame in parks which have a lot of campers who mistakenly think they’re “helping” deer by feeding them (usually marshmallows and cookies). These deer were quite wary and wild.

An alert buck.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

 

A watchful doe.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

 

A carefree fawn.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

 

Although I mentioned not many shorebirds due to no shallow water, this Spotted Sandpiper enjoyed hunting for breakfast along an artificial “beach”.

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

 

The four lakes offer good fishing for humans but the birds have discovered it’s productive for them, too. Forster’s Terns are already in their non-breeding plumage. We were surprised to find four Black Terns this morning. They’re not rare in this area, but neither are they common.

Forster's Tern

Forster’s Tern

Black Tern

Black Tern

 

On a boardwalk through a hardwood swamp area, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was busy chasing insects. He picked up a piece of grass, contorted his body to get a better look at me and flew to the safety of a tree to ponder if I was a threat.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

 

This Red-shouldered Hawk loudly objected to my presence. She must have been about to capture a meal when I came around a bend in the path because she remained on her perch instead of flying away.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

 

Mr. and Mrs. Northern Bobwhite scurry across the path. These birds are normally in more grassy areas but may have been headed to the lake for a drink/bath.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

 

Along the lake shores, American Lotus were in bloom providing a nice splash of color. The spent seed pods are sought after by florists to include in arrangements. Almost all parts of the plant are edible and were used extensively in Native American dishes.

American Lotus

American Lotus

American Lotus

American Lotus

 

The male Eastern Pondhawk is powdery blue when mature. Immature males are green and resemble the adult female.

Eastern Pondhawk - Male (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Eastern Pondhawk – Male (Erythemis simplicicollis)

 

Female Four-spotted Pennants are more brown and have more subtle wing spots than the dark males.

Four-spotted Pennant - Female  (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant – Female (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant - Male  (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant – Male (Brachymesia gravida)

 

On the way home, we counted 13 Wild Turkeys in one flock on the south side of the road and less than a quarter mile later we spotted a group of 14 on the north side of the road. And we’re pretty sure they were talking about us……

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

 

There may be plenty to curse about in our world, but perhaps in our exploration of Nature we can reclaim our ability to exclaim how wonderful it can be!

 

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

 

Additional Information:

Hardee Lakes Park

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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