Posts Tagged With: belted kingfisher

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Breakfast and Lunch

Since owls are primarily nocturnal hunters, I wonder if they consider that first mouse caught just after sundown “breakfast”? Once upon a time, I worked a regularly changing shift schedule. Four days were from 0700-1500, the next four from 1500-2300, then next 2300-0700 and then I enjoyed four days off. The four days off were quite nice, but 12 days of changing hours every four days with no break – not that great. Meals were a challenge for poor Gini as she tried to keep the kids on a schedule but I never knew whether to eat scrambled eggs at 2200 or a sandwich or roast chicken and salad. Apparently, I worked it out and did not starve.

Now that modern medicine has declared everything we ate in our youth is either poison or caused us to be ugly (Gini obviously avoided those things), it’s much easier to decide what to consume each day. Oatmeal, fruit, green stuff or some kind of bean. Since all the joy of preparing and sharing a meal has been sucked out of our lives, we try to make up for it by having some of our meals in the beautiful outdoors. Fortunately, we have found a few spots where the ambience is so breathtakingly wonderful it just doesn’t matter what we’re eating.

One of these is particularly suited to beginning a day peacefully as the sun breaks the horizon over the deep blue of water and gorgeous greens of reeds, lilies and huge trees. Breakfast here is usually accompanied by the chatter of gallinules and coots, the calls of limpkins, a shriek of a red-shouldered hawk or the muffled gobbles of a flock of turkeys under the oaks. Coleman’s Landing on the western shore of huge Lake Kissimmee has picnic tables, boat ramps, a floating dock, restrooms and has recently added modern campsites, including spaces for RV’s and new shower facilities. A visit here at any time of day is refreshing.

Less than 30 minutes from the house is one of Florida’s jewels, Colt Creek State Park. Since it’s so close, we can have an impromptu lunch by the shore of a sparkling lake while we watch bluebirds catch caterpillars, grebes dive for fish, swallows swarm in front of us, eagles soar overhead and chickadees scold from the trees. If we tire of looking at the water (which hasn’t happened yet), we could enjoy an open field of wildflowers full of butterflies and dragonflies or hike through mixed hardwood and conifer forest or check out the swampy wetlands for barred owls or wading birds. A weekday visit here usually finds us with the place to ourselves and it’s so soothing to close our eyes and not hear any human-made sounds. The wind rustling a tree top, a fish splashing in the lake, a bumble bee, a wren declaring himself available for love – who cares what’s for lunch?

Pictures. One thousand words each.

 

At Coleman’s Landing, the breeze ruffled the feathers of a Red-shouldered Hawk as he scanned the water’s edge for his own breakfast.

Coleman Landing

Red-shouldered Hawk

 

A pair of Belted Kingfishers clucked at us and each other – probably about disputed territory.

Coleman Landing

Belted Kingfisher

 

I couldn’t get this Prairie Warbler to face the camera but he’s beautiful from any angle.

Coleman Landing

Prairie Warbler

 

Mating Halloween Pennants blend in well with their environment.

Coleman Landing

Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina)

 

A visit to Colt Creek State Park coincided with several species of wildflower blooming which, happily, attracted a few insects. The Gulf Fritillary is hard to miss even at a distance.

Colt Creek State Park

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

 

White Peacocks seemed to be everywhere.

Colt Creek State Park

White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae)

 

This Sleepy Orange finally sat still for a couple of seconds after I got dizzy chasing him through a field.

Colt Creek State Park

Sleepy Orange (Abaeis nicippe)

 

Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers are pretty easy to see thanks not only to their size (up to 3 inches/8 cm) but also to just a little bit of gaudy color.

Colt Creek State Park

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea microptera)

 

One of our larger dragonflies, the Great Blue Skimmer, can be identified by the powdery blue body, greenish eyes, dark wings and white face.

Colt Creek State Park

Great Blue Skimmer – Male (Libellula vibrans)

 

Carolina Saddlebags is one of our most abundant dragons.

Colt Creek State Park

Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina)

 

Overhead, a trio of White Ibis flapped lazily in the bright blue sky.

Colt Creek State Park

White ibis

 

A small wetland attracts good numbers of waders, such as a Little Blue Heron.

Colt Creek State Park

Little Blue Heron

 

The proliferation of Apple Snails near most bodies of water in central and south Florida has seen an increase in the range of the Limpkin, who feeds almost exclusively on these freshwater mollusks.

Colt Creek State Park

Limpkin

 

We really enjoy having a meal while surrounded by the extraordinary beauty of nature. All of a sudden, the actual food often becomes secondary. No matter what you call your next meal, try having it outside, under a tree, by a lake, listening to the birds.

 

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

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

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