Posts Tagged With: bald eagle

Recovery

“There’s a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico.” Not what I wanted to hear earlier this week.

In late August, we called our son in Houston to see if he and his family needed to visit us in Florida until Hurricane Harvey passed. My son reminded us ever-so-diplomatically that if he were to have any flood damage at his house he would have to turn in his geology degree. They weathered the monster storm just fine.

A couple of weeks later, our son was on the phone asking if we needed to visit them in Houston until Hurricane Irma passed.

Mother Nature. Who knew she had a sense of humor?

I have no degree in geology but assured him we had weathered storms before. Of course, that was just bravado. We did the requisite stocking of supplies and prayed a lot. The intensity of our praying may have increased with the ferocity of the winds howling outside as rude Irma passed directly overhead during the night.

The current storm, Nate, is churning toward my sister’s house in Florida’s panhandle. It shouldn’t give them any problems. Shouldn’t. I don’t trust Mother Nature to play fair.

A couple of days after Irma caused devastation to Florida, Gini and I ventured out to survey our local area. We didn’t get far. Within just a few miles from the house, roads were covered in water and blocked by downed trees and power lines. We returned to the house and prayed some more. For those who would be weeks without water and power.

After a few more days, we again set out and found most roads passable. (A HUGE thank you to the responders from law enforcement, tree companies, utilities workers – literally thousands from other states – who have worked so hard to get Florida back to a sense of normalcy.) Since our normal birding haunts within public parks and reserves were closed we checked on accessible areas such as pastures, country roads and lake shores. Wildlife was abundant and we remain amazed at how resilient nature can be.

We have made a half-dozen forays since Irma tromped on Florida and life is returning to its normal pace. Today’s photographs are a compilation of what we found within two weeks of the hurricane’s passing. Migratory songbirds don’t read headlines and don’t watch the Weather Channel, so they have been showing up in treetops as they have for millennia.  We appreciate it.

 

We visited this area in southern Hardee County a week before the hurricane and could see no water at all.

County Line Road

 

A pair of Crested Caracara found something of interest in a field and keep a sharp lookout for thieves.

10 Mile Grade

 

Wading birds don’t mind the flooded fields at all! An immature White Ibis flapped by us on his way to probe the soft mud for breakfast.

10 Mile Grade

 

This Northern Mockingbird extracts a grub from an oak tree branch.

East Lake Parker

 

A Caspian Tern takes a dive at a local lake. There was a pier between me and where the tern entered the water but I was able to peek through the railings in time to see him fly off with his prize.

East Lake Parker

East Lake Parker

20170913 Lake Parker 00047

 

Ants are on the menu as the sticky tongue and bill of this Red-bellied Woodpecker are covered with the little morsels.

East Lake Parker

 

Driving along a remote country road, we found a Roseate Spoonbill taking advantage of water running across the road and washing all sorts of goodies into his waiting, well, spoon bill. I don’t know if he was looking to the heavens in thanks or wishing we would move along!

Green Pond Road

 

Water is returning to somewhat normal levels in many wetlands and residents, such as this young Red-shouldered Hawk, are thankful to find old perches and fresh food.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

With so much water, vegetation is flourishing. A Cloudless Sulphur finds nectar from Caesar Weed (Urena lobata), an invasive species with an attractive bloom.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Near Lake Kissimmee, about an hour east of us, we found several large and small flocks of Wild Turkey.

Joe Overstreet Road

 

A pair of European Collared-Dove perched picturesquely on a pier.

Joe Overstreet Landing

 

It’s the time of year Bald Eagles begin courtship and the males can display some pretty spectacular aerobatics as they try to impress the ladies. I managed to follow one such fellow through a series of tight turns as he screamed throughout the show. There were four eagles involved in the demonstration but I tried to ignore the others (not easy!) to get a series of this guy. Here are four out of the two dozen images I took.

Joe Overstreet Landing

Joe Overstreet Landing

Joe Overstreet Landing

Joe Overstreet Landing

 

Limpkins are plentiful in our area thanks to a plethora of Apple Snails. These large waders are the only members of their species (Aramidae) in the world. Their name comes from their “limping” gait.

Joe Overstreet Landing

 

Along one dirt road, we stopped counting the webs of the Golden Silk Orbweaver, as they seemed to be everywhere. The strong silk is very effective at capturing large insects, such as the grasshopper here.

Joe Overstreet Road

 

Purple Gallinules are not very accomplished songsters, but they sure make up for it in the colorful looks department!

Lake Parker Park

 

Fall migration is in full swing. Most of the time, the birds are too high in the tree tops or in dense cover which makes photography impossible. Occasionally, I get lucky.

Yellow Warbler

East Lake Parker

 

Prairie Warbler

East Lake Parker

 

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Black-and-White Warbler

Saddle Creek Park

 

Northern Parula

Saddle Creek Park

 

Cape May Warbler

Lake Parker Park

 

Baltimore Oriole (female)

Saddle Creek Park

 

American Redstart (male)

Saddle Creek Park

 

There is nothing “fun” about a storm, especially a huge tropical Hurricane. Damage to our region has been severe. The same is true for Texas, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, other islands of the Caribbean and even Nate, while “just” a tropical depression, has taken 22 lives in Central America.

We are extremely thankful to have had minimal damage.

Our routine has been disrupted but our lives have not. Nature continues its cycle of life and we continue to be in awe of its magnificence.

As Gini and I recover from the storm, to be fortunate enough to see a mighty Bald Eagle perform a courtship flight or to marvel at the flash of bright orange as a Redstart startles insects from a hiding place – this is how we know we are truly blessed. To be able to do it together is something really special.

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Into The Forest

(Part Two of our adventures in northwest Florida.)

… Two roads diverged in a wood, and I  –  I took the one less traveled by …  Robert Frost 

We would have been perfectly satisfied to remain aboard our comfortable houseboat, well, probably for the rest of our lives, but that’s another story. The floor-to-ceiling windows in the living area provided views up the creek, down the creek, across the salt marsh, of the mouth of the river, the bridge beyond which lay the vast bay, the endless blue sky (after that first night!) – why would we want to leave? When we did venture away from our dock to explore along the coast, the scenery was so spectacular we didn’t want to return to the confines of the boat. What might be around that next curve of shoreline? I suspect Gini and I were both explorers in another life. It was inevitable our souls united.

My brother suggested we escape the magnetic forces of the coast to wander for a day in a little different environment. The Apalachicola National Forest covers over half a million acres spread out north and east of Apalachicola. There are at least three major rivers flowing through the forest and myriad creeks, lakes and natural springs. It has the largest remaining stands of longleaf pines and wiregrass in the country, an ecosystem which used to cover the majority of the southeastern United States. Most of the roads are not paved, many require four-wheel drive and there just aren’t many humans out here. Our kind of place.

There’s no substitute for local knowledge when traveling in unfamiliar territory and my brother is as much an expert on this area as one could hope to find. He pointed out Tupelo trees which in the spring will blossom and attract bees which will produce my favorite honey. Out of the way bayous, a road which dead-ends on the shore of a beautiful bay, evidence of recent bear activity, a pitcher plant prairie, a rare flower. And where to have lunch. Just because we were “away from the coast” didn’t mean we were “far from the coast”. So my fear of going a day without fresh seafood was unfounded. You know you’re in the right spot when the “good ‘ole boys” pull up in their swamp buggies and mud-splattered pick-up trucks. Throw in the hound dog wandering through the broken screen door and rips in the vinyl seats and all that’s left is to order a glass of tea and figure out whether you want grouper, shrimp or crab.

Our last evening of a memorable vacation was highlighted by a Bald Eagle drama we watched unfold from the upper deck of the houseboat. The eagle used a channel marker from which he could spot schools of fish. We watched him fail to snag dinner three times. On the fourth try, he latched onto a striped mullet but I think the water was deeper than he anticipated and the fish may have been larger and heavier than he thought. As he attempted to take flight with the fish, he couldn’t become airborne, probably due to soaked feathers and the weight of the fish. Not wishing to fail again , he turned toward his channel marker perch and began “swimming”. As he reached his perch, he realized he couldn’t fly up that far with his fish. Spotting a tree branch in the shallow water, he hopped onto it with his prize only to be dumped back in the water as the branch was not stable. The eagle finally had to let the fish go or risk drowning as the tide was rising. Without the extra weight, the bedraggled bird flew to his perch and hoped the humans aboard the passing shrimp boat hadn’t witnessed his disgrace. We did, but we won’t tell.

 

Moving away from the coast, we encountered vast marshes, creeks and bayous winding southward.

Apalachicola

Cash Bayou

Apalachicola

Cash Bayou

 

At the end of Sand Beach Road, one would expect to find – no sand and no beach. Plenty of shallow water and grass.

Apalachicola

Sand Beach

 

From Sand Beach, looking across East Bay, we could see the long bridge which connects Apalachicola and Eastpoint.

Apalachicola

Sand Beach, East Bay

 

One of the main rivers flowing through the forest is East River.

Apalachicola

National Forest – East River, Gardner’s Landing

 

Even in late fall there are plenty of wildflowers blooming throughout the area, such as this Narrow-leaved Sunflower.

Apalachicola

Gardner’s Landing, Narrow-leaved Sunflower

 

Along Graham Creek we found Tupelo, Cypress, Oak, Maple, Bay and other tree varieties.

Apalachicola

Graham Creek

 

Florida Lobelia and False Foxglove added splashes of color to the prairies.

Apalachicola

Florida Lobelia (Lobelia floridana)

Apalachicola

False Foxglove (Agalinis sp.)

 

My brother found a fairly rare wildflower known as Largeleaf Grass-of-Parnassus. It’s only been observed in four counties in Florida.

Apalachicola

Largeleaf Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia grandifolia)

Apalachicola

Largeleaf Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia grandifolia)

 

Carnivorous plants abound in some areas here attesting to a healthy bug population. Pitcher Plants seemed to be everywhere at the same location we found the Grass-of-Parnassus.

Apalachicola

Pitcher Plants

Apalachicola

Pitcher Plants

Apalachicola

Pitcher Plant

 

This type of Pine savannah used to cover the entire southeastern United States.

Apalachicola

Pine Savannah

 

The Bald Eagle is a mighty hunter, but even the best of us don’t always bring home dinner on time.

Apalachicola

Bald Eagle

Apalachicola

Bald Eagle

Apalachicola

Bald Eagle

Apalachicola

Bald Eagle

Apalachicola

Bald Eagle

Apalachicola

Bald Eagle

Apalachicola

Bald Eagle

Apalachicola

Bald Eagle

Apalachicola

Bald Eagle, Shrimper

 

One more outstanding sunrise greeted us as we prepared to head across the Apalachicola River toward home. Among the items we packed for the journey are some very special memories.

Apalachicola

Sunrise – Apalachicola River

 

 

We made it home safely. It took a few days for our bed to stop “rocking” with imaginary waves. We’re looking forward to returning.

 

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

 

See more birds at:   Paying Ready Attention   (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

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