Posts Tagged With: birding

Between Raindrops

Summer’s soggy saga stays steady. Hot. Humid. Wet. Thunder. Lightning. No letup in sight.

IT’S TIME TO GO BIRDING!

As difficult as it may be to fathom, annual fall bird migration has already begun. Swallow-tailed Kites are forming into groups, foraging over agricultural fields snapping up flying insects and devouring them in mid-air. Prothonotary and Yellow Warblers are starting to appear on checklists and we spotted an American Redstart a couple of days ago flashing her tail broadly to frighten bugs from hiding places.

Our local patch, Lake Parker Park, is a nice spot each year for small numbers of migrating passerines and waterfowl. The radar showed a band of more thunderstorms moving our way from the Gulf of Mexico. If I hurry, perhaps I can make fantastic observations in record time!

The sun actually made an appearance! Of course, it was directly behind the young Green Heron I tried to photograph, resulting in a faded out silhouette. At least you could make out his “immature” hair-do. The usual cast of characters were present going about the business of survival. They don’t care if a storm is coming, a bird’s gotta eat!

A Snail Kite flapped lazily over distant reeds searching for breakfast. Two Osprey splashed down onto the lake’s surface almost simultaneously about 50 yards apart. Both came up carrying fresh fish. Noisy Common Gallinules were abundant, most with small, black fluffy chicks in tow. Purple Gallinules ran up and begged for a handout – one of the negatives of birding in an urban park. The eerie cries of Limpkins rang out up and down the shoreline. A Red-bellied Woodpecker circled a dead oak tree limb, probing for some morsel. Two Marsh Rabbits slipped into the tall grass and became invisible. An alligator watched the aforementioned Gallinule chicks as well as a small dog whose owner allowed his pet too close to the shore.

As I made my way around the park, not many birds presented an opportunity for photography. Dragons, however, were very industrious. Lots of ovipositing, patrolling, fighting, hunting. Action galore! Of course, I only brought the big lens and trying to heft the monster back and forth to track a small dragonfly was almost beyond my ability. I came away with a couple of images that aren’t completely awful. (We won’t discuss the other hundred or so).

There was a change in light and a coolish breeze sprang up. That felt good! It also meant I should head for the car. Drops began falling just as I reached for the door handle.

The Amazing Gini was waiting in the kitchen with bagels, boiled eggs and strong coffee. But first, hugs and kisses. Unlike the birds and beasties, we rank food second on the list of our priorities.

Only a few photographs of today’s outing. (“Thank goodness.”) Hey – I heard that!

 

A young Green Heron stalks a frog near the lake shore. He eventually got it, too! Naturally, I missed the shot.

Lake Parker Park

 

Dark all over with a very tapered abdomen, Pin-tailed Pondhawks (Erythemis plebeja) were very active along a canal which feeds the lake.

Lake Parker Park

 

One of the most common dragonflies in our area (and maybe in the entire eastern U.S.) is the Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis). Adult females are a striking green and the males dusty blue (“pruinose”) all over. Immature males begin life looking like Mom and gradually transition to Dad’s blue suit.

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park

 

A bright spot in the world of dragons, adult male Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami) are hard to miss!

Lake Parker Park

 

In her element, a Limpkin appears somewhat prehistoric as she rests on a log just before the rains begin.

Lake Parker Park

 

Don’t let a little rain in the forecast stop you from seeing what your own patch has to offer just before the drops start to fall.

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

No Particular Place To Go

During our first 20 years of married life, we had the good fortune of moving to a new location about every three years. We had a chance to see several parts of the United States and Europe. Each move brought with it wonderful experiences, different environments, diverse cultures and spectacular adventures! When we settled in at a new spot, we ventured forth to explore. Sure, we sometimes sampled the tourist “hot spots”, but more often we just started driving or walking or taking the local bus or train. Wandering around aimlessly brought us into contact with a lot of wonderful people and we found some fantastic places not highlighted on any tourist map. Our relatives always asked whether we ever got lost? As one of America’s early explorers, Daniel Boone, responded to a similar question: “I have never been lost, but I will admit to be confused for several weeks.”

 That’s pretty much our approach to traveling in general and to birding, specifically. Sure, we love to visit the birding “hot spots”, but we really like taking roads less traveled and if there’s no road, so much the better. A recent trip to our south did include one small park at a large lake, but otherwise consisted of driving back roads and stopping at areas of interesting habitat. We were in Highlands County which consists of large areas of agriculture and pasture land. The Kissimmee River flows south along the county’s eastern boundary which provides another interesting element of diverse ecology. We discovered that a lot of birds like it out here even though it’s not a designated “reserve” or “management area”. It seems birds are bright enough to locate their own food and places to roost! Who knew?

The highlight of our morning was seeing baby Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks with their yellow-striped heads and staying close to Mom. The pastures held hundreds of Cattle Egrets and White Ibises along with a smattering of Little Blue Herons and Wood Storks. Raptors seemed to be everywhere – Red-shouldered Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, American Kestrels and Crested Caracara. Each field seemed to be alive with low-flying Barn Swallows along with a few smaller Bank Swallows assaulting the insect populations. Eastern Meadowlarks were in large groups and many were singing their beautiful, clear song. Perhaps they were happy to be finished molting. On the way home, we stopped alongside a commercial sod field and spotted several hundred shorebirds busily probing the soft mud. Most were Least Sandpipers with a few Pectoral Sandpipers, Semi-palmated Plovers and Killdeer at the buffet. At the edge of a canal, a Wood Stork and Roseate Spoonbill prepared to roost for the evening. A thunderstorm was building and moved with us northward as we scurried to the house.

We enjoyed the day wandering around with no map, no agenda and no worries.

Some images follow.

 

A few decades ago, the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck was a rarity in Florida. Not anymore!

Scrubpens Road

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Scrubpens Road

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

 

Scrubpens Road

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Little Blue Heron

Scrubpens Road

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

 

An interloper. This stranger tried to join a Whistling-Duck family but the adults repeatedly attacked it. After about 15 minutes from when we first spotted them, the odd duck was able to tag along without suffering any more beatings. I don’t know domestic breeds very well, but this looks to be a hybrid Pekin/Black (or Blue?) Swedish.

CR721

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck and Hybrid

 

At Lake Istokpoga, a nice boardwalk takes one through a wetland area which can provide a great variety of fall and spring migrants.

Lake Istokpoga Park

Boardwalk

 

A curious Blue-gray Gnatcatcher wondered what I was up to.

Lake Istokpoga Park

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

 

After a bit of preening, a Roseate Spoonbill settles down for the night.

Avon Park Cut-Off Road

Roseate Spoonbill

20150927_Highlands County_00072.jpg 

 

This Wood Stork searches for a last-minute snack before bedtime.

Avon Park Cut-Off Road

Wood Stork

 

Gini suggested that standing in an open field with my face pressed against a metal pole (scope tripod) during an approaching thunderstorm might not be my best idea of the day. She is real smart like that.

Avon Park Cut-Off Road

Thunderstorm

 

 

Great scenery, great birding, great company – and we didn’t see a single birder or tourist the whole day. If you find yourself riding around with your binoculars some day with no particular place to go, you’re on the right road.

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: , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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