Posts Tagged With: black-bellied whistling duck

Swamp Sunflower

Parting the tall green stalks revealed – a cow. She blinked at me. I blinked at her. I took a step back. She continued munching. Dawn was breaking and I still hadn’t found a composition to show the beauty of this massive marsh filled with gold. In desperation, I pointed the lens eastward and hoped for the best.

“Missed it by that much.”

(If you remember that line by Don Adams from “Get Smart”, congratulations! We are officially old.)

The sun had already popped above a low cloud on the horizon and the previously blue predawn sky was now awash in bright white light. Sigh.

We were on the northwest shore of Lake Jesup, northeast of Orlando, in Seminole County, Florida. Specifically, we were making our first trip to the Marl Bed Flats Tract of the Lake Jesup Conservation Area. The date of our visit was October 11, 2019. I read about the area and its potential for outstanding displays of Swamp Flowers (Helianthus angustifolius) in Ed Rosak’s wonderful photography blog, Central Florida Photo Ops. In addition to his own scouting report, Ed pointed readers to another blogger, Jeff Stamer (Firefall Photography) who provided detailed information on getting to the fields along with great tips on making the most of a photography trip.

The past couple of years have apparently been too wet for good flower propagation, not to mention you would have had to have a boat to reach the area. This year conditions were good. A short hike through a beautiful oak/cabbage palm hammock opens onto a large expanse of marsh absolutely filled with sunflowers! Many stalks are over six feet tall and so dense in spots as to make walking through them very challenging. The ground was wet from three days of rain early in the week and I already mentioned there may be cows hiding amongst the blooms. (Another warning, watch where you step if you are averse to that sort of thing.)

The morning was glorious! I could complain about no puffy white clouds in the sky and there was a bit of a breeze requiring a higher shutter speed and the ground was uneven and wet and — and there were millions of flowers so creating a composition was almost impossible.

Almost.

 

Marl Bed Flats

Marl Bed Flats

Marl Bed Flats

Marl Bed Flats

Marl Bed Flats

Marl Bed Flats

 

A female Snail Kite tried to figure out what I was. She’s sporting a band (ring) on her right leg.

Marl Bed Flats

Marl Bed Flats

Marl Bed Flats

Marl Bed Flats

 

A pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks head for Lake Jesup, whistling all the way.

Marl Bed Flats

Marl Bed Flats

Marl Bed Flats

 

Marl Bed Flats

 

Mark the date on next year’s calendar. Late September through early October. Check the blogs I’ve provided links to below for possible scouting reports. Go. Be dazzled.

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

 

Additional Information

Lake Jesup Conservation Area – Marl Bed Flats Tract

Central Florida Photo Ops

Firefall Photography

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

Watch Out For Falling Birds !

The miracle of bird migration is typically portrayed by images of thousands of ducks and geese filling the skies with noisy quacking and honking as they lift off from northern climes headed for the warmth of tropical locations each autumn. If one is fortunate enough to observe flights of such large numbers of birds it is truly awe-inspiring.

There is another aspect of avian migration not well known to “non-birders”. It involves stealthy little feathered jewels who travel mostly at night and may never be seen by human eyes as they complete their annual journey of survival. Small songbirds begin showing up here in central Florida in late summer and even though they may travel in groups it is not unusual for them to escape unnoticed as they make their way south.

We sometimes describe Florida as having two seasons – green and brown. The sub-tropical climate is perfect for billions of insects to breed and bird migration is timed to perfectly coincide with the peak of the bug birth bonanza. With little fanfare, warblers and other woodland birds arrive in dribs and drabs surprisingly ahead of what the calendar says is the first “official” day of autumn.

So here we were, the last week of August, trudging along a sandy path at dawn already soaked due to high humidity, craning our necks to see what that movement is in the very tops of the tallest trees in the area. (Aren’t there perfectly good bugs in the lower branches?) By noon, a serious case of “warbler neck” would be making itself felt.

Today we were exploring Tenoroc Public Use Area, which was formerly a vast phosphate mining operation in Polk County. As the minerals were extracted to the maximum extent possible, the land was eventually sold to the state and private parties. An effort began to reclaim the mining pits, restore the land to a more natural ecology and develop an area which has become a premier destination for fishermen. Largemouth Bass grow well in the deep waters of the pits and careful management has made the area very popular for those seeking a “trophy”. All bass must be returned to the water immediately so the gene pool is kept intact.

Mining operations ceased here over 50 years ago, and the reclamation process by humans as well as natural forces has been impressive. In addition to great fishing, the diverse habitat has resulted in the area being a “gateway” for birding. The large number of lakes (former mining pits), wetlands, open grasslands, hardwood and pine forests – make this a very rewarding place to visit for a casual walk or serious day of birding.

It was early in the year to be expecting a very large number of migrants but we were pleasantly surprised by the diversity of what we did find. By noon we had observed 50 species of birds.

(Some individual totals which are more than one would expect on a “normal” day here: 10 Red-bellied Woodpecker, 8 Downy Woodpecker, 10 Prairie Warbler, 8 Yellow-throated Warbler, 5 Black-and-White Warbler, 5 Ovenbird, 12 Tufted Titmouse, 13 Northern Cardinal, 9 Carolina Wren, 26 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, 27 Northern Parula.)

So although the calendar (and thermometer!) says it is “summer” – fall migration is under way!

 

Tenoroc FMA

Great Crested Flycatcher

Tenoroc FMA

Downy Woodpecker

Tenoroc FMA

Prairie Warbler

Tenoroc FMA

Yellow-throated Warbler

Tenoroc FMA

Red-shouldered Hawk

Tenoroc FMA

Carolina Chickadee

Tenoroc FMA

Ovenbird

Tenoroc FMA

Tufted Titmouse

Tenoroc FMA

Northern Parula

Tenoroc FMA

Carolina Wren

Tenoroc FMA

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

The sleek yellow and blue Prothonotary Warbler has long been a “nemesis” bird for me, escaping my lens too often.

Tenoroc FMA

Prothonotary Warbler

Tenoroc FMA

Black-and-white Warbler

Tenoroc FMA

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

 

Swallow-tailed Kites breed in Florida, migrate to South America and return in mid-February. This bird should have left the state a couple of weeks ago!

Tenoroc FMA

Swallow-tailed Kite

 

Not a migrant nor a warbler. Just beautiful to look at.

Tenoroc FMA

Black Vulture

 

When you visit Tenoroc, be certain to check in at the ranger station. It’s a big area and they try to keep track of all their visitors.

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

 

Additional Information

Tenoroc Public Use Area

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

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