Posts Tagged With: black tern

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

Beach Bird Bonanza

My Sweetheart and I had to update some paperwork at our local military base the other day and took the opportunity to explore a bit.  It has been four years since our last visit and there have been several changes to the area.

MacDill Air Force Base is located near Tampa, Florida and is on a peninsula jutting into Tampa Bay.  This base has been a vital part of the U.S. Air Force mission since officially opening in 1939.  Military bases are like small cities and must be able to support the large number of people living and working there.  Part of this full range of amenities at MacDill includes a very nice recreation area.  There are a marina, boat launch, beach, camping area, fresh-water lake and several miles of shoreline along Tampa Bay.

—Before going any further, we acknowledge and appreciate the service of all the military personnel of America.  As a veteran, I understand the dedication and sacrifice each of you makes every day.  We salute you and your families.—

For more than a week, a low pressure system has been sitting to our west in the Gulf of Mexico and sending waves of rain eastward.  Many areas of the state have experienced flooding as the ground has become saturated.  Some of these rain events have been accompanied by strong winds and migrating birds have been “grounded” until a break occurs.  On the day we visited the air base, the day dawned without rain but dark clouds were moving rapidly from west to east and the skies remained “threatening”.  We completed our paperwork mission and drove to the marina and beach area to enjoy a brunch of granola bars and colas.  (It’s all the marina store had available!)

There was a break in the clouds and we had a bit of actual blue sky for awhile.  I popped over a sand dune to see if anything interesting might be on the beach.  The entire length of the small beach was covered with birds!  As I slowly moved up the shoreline, the birds seemed to pay little attention to me and were busy preening and resting.  I only had 20 minutes before another rain shower moved in but during that period saw 25 species of birds and took over 200 photographs (okay, so many were multiple shots of the same birds).  Highlights included:  140 Black Skimmer, 60 Marbled Godwit, 50 Sandwich Tern, 35 Royal Tern, 35 Semipalmated Plover, 30 Laughing Gull, 20 Forster’s Tern, 15 Dowitcher, 15 Brown Pelican, 10 Willet, 10 Western Sandpiper, 4 American Oystercatcher and 2 Roseate Spoonbill.  What a nice brunch that turned out to be!

I think we won’t let four more years pass before we visit the air base again!

Hope you enjoy a few of the sights we found.

A Roseate Spoonbill cruises just off of the beach on his way to a lagoon for a little fishing.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Just a couple of weeks ago, these Marbled Godwits were likely munching bugs in grasslands a couple of thousand miles northwest of here.

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

The next three images provide perspective on the Marbled Godwit’s size.

A Semipalmated Plover looks pretty small and has to take a lot of little steps to keep up with his larger cousin.

Marbled Godwit, Semipalmated Plover

Marbled Godwit, Semipalmated Plover

Dowitchers might appear large next to a Least Sandpiper, but seem miniature next to the Godwit.

Dowitcher, Marbled Godwit

Dowitcher, Marbled Godwit

With the larger Godwit in the background, Royal and Sandwich Terns preen.

Marbled Godwit, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern

Marbled Godwit, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern

Small “peeps”, Western Sandpipers, gather on the lee side of a small dune as more foul weather approaches.

Western Sandpiper

Western Sandpiper

The American Oystercatcher is quite striking with its relatively large size and coloration.

American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Semipalmated Plover

American Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Semipalmated Plover

American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher

These Black Terns probably should be further south by now but have been delayed by the weather.  It’s interesting to see them feed by “plucking” prey from the water as opposed to the headlong dives of other terns.

Black Tern

Black Tern

Black Tern

Black Tern

A Common Tern rests on  the beach.  Despite their name, I don’t see very many of them.

Common Tern

Common Tern

A pair of Black Skimmers dwarf the Black Tern flying along with them.

Black Skimmer, Black Tern

Black Skimmer, Black Tern

The Black Skimmer often lays his large bill on the sand when resting, giving the appearance of a bird in distress.

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

The normally drab-looking Willet is stunning when it displays the black and white of its wings.

Willet

Willet

Birds take refuge on the protected side of a tree on an inlet as the next storm approaches.  I took refuge in the truck!

Shelter From The Storm

Shelter From The Storm

If one must take care of administrative errands, including a romp on the beach helps make the task more enjoyable.  If the romp includes an unexpected gathering of a couple hundred birds, so much the better!

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 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 51 Comments

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