Posts Tagged With: blue-gray gnatcatcher

“Not Much To See In This Park”

Marsh Wrens are small. About 4-5 inches long (10-14 cm). Their brown, black and white plumage helps them hide perfectly among the reeds and rushes of a wetland. I love their pugnacious attitude, typical of the wrens. In our area, we only get to enjoy them during migration and I find it a challenge to produce a decent photograph of the little beauties. So I was happy that Gini spotted one and even happier as it flew to the base of an Alligator Lily less than 50 feet away. I could see the stems of the plant moving as the wren moved around nabbing insects non-stop. Double-checked the camera settings, focused on the moving stems – now, if she’ll just hop up a little bit …

I heard the crunching gravel as he pulled the car to my side of the road. He approached to within a few feet of where I stood (camera poised), got out, closed the car door – the pretty Marsh Wren flew to Argentina – “Hey! How’s it going?”

Gini says I was rude. I think she was being sarcastic but she isn’t familiar with that mode of expression so I’m not sure. The camera with that big lens was getting heavy anyhow so I was relieved to be able to finally drop it to my side. (See? Subtle sarcasm. It’s a gift.) “What a beautiful day”, I offered in what I thought was a pleasant chamber-of-commerce tone.

“Yessir, a nice day. But there’s not much to see in this park,” said the stranger. This, I think, is where my bride might have construed rudeness on my part, but, honestly, I was just attempting (admittedly, with difficulty) to be civil. “It depends on what you’re looking for”, I suggested. “Oh, I’m just here for the deer. But not many around. Only saw a few a long way off.”

“Well, good luck to you”. As we drove away, the clueless gentleman peered intently into the weeds trying to fathom what I might have seen in there, his camera at the ready in case, no doubt, a deer should suddenly spring from the muck.

Despite this brief encounter, our day was filled with enjoyment. Bright blue skies, clear air, cool temperatures and an amazing amount of nature activity. Flocks of dozens of American Goldfinch were feeding in the fields and a few Pine Warblers were mixed in with them. Killdeer and Common Ground Dove greeted us at the entrance gate. Red-shouldered Hawks and an American Kestrel performed sentry duty along the park road. Wintering Savannah and Chipping Sparrows hopped through areas of short grass rounding up herds of bugs. Blue-headed Vireos, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers scoured tree limbs and the underside of leaves for juicy morsels. Wading birds, woodpeckers, soaring vultures – sights and sounds to delight anyone who loves the natural world.

We even had cameo appearances of turtles, snakes, lizards, frogs, bugs, hairy things and (shhh – don’t say anything to “you-know-who”) — d-e-e-r!

Today’s excursion was to a familiar spot not far from the house, Colt Creek State Park. We keep finding new areas to explore within the park.

It was the kind of day that as we drove past the ranger station and headed home we both exhaled deeply and in unison. This. This is why we keep coming back.

 

A few images can’t do justice to what we experienced, but we’ll include them just the same. No, there is no photograph of a Marsh Wren anywhere to be found here. How rude of you to even ask.

 

A Red-shouldered Hawk spotted movement at the base of his perch tree. Evidently, it wasn’t something he wanted as he resumed staring at me urging me to be on my way.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Just past the entrance gate, a Killdeer darted through the weeds snapping up anything that moved.

Colt Creek State Park

 

At the edge of a swampy area, a Gray Squirrel found a cypress knee makes a nice dry spot to munch a mushroom.

Colt Creek State Park

 

The frilly white flowers of this bush identify it as a Groundsel Tree (Baccharis halimifolia). A pretty spot for a pretty Palm Warbler to perch.

Colt Creek State Park

 

It was a chilly morning (for Florida) and a little Blue-gray Gnatcatcher fluffed his feathers to the maximum in an effort to increase insulation.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Ruby-crowned Kinglets were very active throughout the park. They seem to never stand still. Another species we only see in winter.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Yet another migratory visitor, the Eastern Phoebe had just dove into the weeds, caught a beetle and swallowed it before I could raise the camera. A seed on his bill was all that remained of his snack.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Why did the caterpillar cross the road? To have his photograph taken, of course! I think this fellow is a Salt Marsh Caterpillar (Estigmene acrea) ?? Any help would be appreciated.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Let’s just agree to call the Turkey Vulture’s appearance “unique”. Whatever you think of his looks, they are an impressive bird and I, for one, appreciate the valuable cleanup service they provide.

Colt Creek State Park

 

In addition to the park’s namesake, Colt Creek, another small waterway, Gator Creek, flows through the park. I thought this rock was a nice metaphor for life. Like the swiftly flowing water, life speeds around us on all sides but Gini is my rock. Together, we are immovable.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Even MORE winter visitors! American Robins, North America’s largest thrush, seemed to be everywhere in some areas. In the trees and all over the ground. Active, noisy, beautiful.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Cold-blooded creatures find a warm spot when the weather turns cool. This gorgeous Bluestripe Garter snake wasn’t about to give up her place in the sun for some guy flailing on the ground a few feet away.

Colt Creek State Park

 

As the sun continued to warm the air, insects became active. Hungry birds were ready. A Savannah Sparrow stopped just long enough to give me a quick glance before scurrying after little hopping things in the weeds.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Sometimes, karma slaps me in the head. My sarcastic nature (shocking, I know!) is often answered with some of the same. I think that’s what happened here. After my encounter with the visitor who “just came for the deer”, I almost couldn’t NOT see deer the rest of the day. Gini and I had a quiet lunch in the car watching birds hopping about in oak trees. As I got out of the car, six deer were in a clearing behind us calmly munching their own lunch. Later, a doe gazed at me from behind a thick curtain of sedge grass. I could make out two fawns beside her. Later still, a young buck with new spike antlers skulked at the edge of the woods, wary of what kind of threat I might present.

Yes, I am convinced God has a sense of humor. In my case, it is often wrapped lovingly with a healthy dose of sarcasm.

Colt Creek State Park

Colt Creek State Park

 

Even if you go “just for the deer”, try to observe all of Nature’s wonders that surround us all each day. Gini would say “it’s just common sense” that the more we look – the more we see. It’s my harsh task to remind her that “common sense”, alas, just is not all that “common”.

 

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

 

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

Last night (1/20), we were treated to a total lunar eclipse. Just for you, I took a picture.

Yard

 

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

Spring On The Wing

Where has Spring gone? Seems like we just started looking for spring migrants and “poof” the entire bird world is having babies! Perhaps it’s a feature of growing older. Someone hit the “fast forward” button and I can’t find it to turn the dang thing off.

The Beautiful Brown-Eyed Woman is obsessed with the season as well. “We simply MUST get going with the spring cleaning!” “Oh, look! A spring sale on linens!” “I love all the fresh produce we’re seeing this spring.”

Truth be told: She DOES put a spring into my step!

Colt Creek State Park. Twenty minutes from the house and some wonderfully diverse habitat. Entrance gates and parking lots. Probably the best birding spots on the planet. Today was no exception. Vireos and wrens sang from the underbrush, fish crows grunted overhead, curious catbirds popped onto a limb to give us the once-over and Holy Moley! It’s a Summer Tanager! Not necessarily rare but seldom seen.

A slow drive along the park roads yielded squeaky little nuthatches, woodpeckers, a gopher tortoise, clear-whistling titmice, deer calmly munching their grassy breakfast and a nice selection of migrants as well as resident birds.

The peaceful setting of the park’s primitive campground was a perfect spot for breakfast. From a nearby large oak tree came the ascending buzzy trill of Northern Parulas, recently arrived from their winter resort in South America. There! Just above the pine trees a pair of Swallow-tailed Kites, also returning from the tropics searching for a suitably tall tree to begin building a nest.

It seems as if Spring no sooner arrived than it’s time for high temperatures and daily thunderstorms to begin the wet season. Summer is not far away. More bird babies to locate!

Hope I finish my spring cleaning chores before the season is over.

 

At the park entrance, we were greeted by a bright red Summer Tanager.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Below the tree where the tanager was perched, a nervous Orange-crowned Warbler probed every twig and leaf for the protein-laden insects he’ll need to finish his northward migration.

Colt Creek State Park

 

This White-eyed Vireo looks like she had a rough night! A little preening and a sip of morning dew should soon set her right.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Songs of more returning breeding birds indicated the park was full of Red-eyed Vireos. We finally found one willing to pose for a moment.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Central Florida only has two species of sparrow which breed locally. The remainder, such as this Swamp Sparrow, will soon disappear until the fall.

Colt Creek State Park

 

One little bird we have an abundance of in summer is the diminutive and active Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

Colt Creek State Park

 

In our area, three species of vireo breed: White-eyed, Red-eyed and Yellow-throated (pictured below with a caterpillar(?)).

Colt Creek State Park

 

A pair of Brown-headed Nuthatches were heard before our eyes could locate them. Ever squeezed a child’s toy rubber duck? Then you know what these pugnacious little creatures sound like. They begin breeding as early as mid-February here so this couple may already have chicks, which would account for them coming so near us to see if we might be a threat.

Colt Creek State Park

 

The clear whistle of the Tufted Titmouse can be heard at quite a distance and they’re usually the first to challenge us as we enter their area. During migratory seasons, they are also good indicators that other species may be nearby as they seem to act as gang leaders (okay, maybe tour guides).

Colt Creek State Park

 

Buzzy trills abound and Gini counted over a dozen of these colorful warblers as we drove through the park. Northern Parulas seemed to be everywhere, and that is just fine with us.

Colt Creek State Park

 

The photograph may not be that great but the feeling sure is! I seldom get to see this migrant much less have a chance to take his picture. The Northern Waterthrush has the characteristic stripes of the thrush family but is actually a warbler. Along with its cousin, the Louisiana Waterthrush, it walks along marshy ground constantly bobbing its tail as it pulls tasty morsels from the mud.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Carolina Wrens were calling throughout the park as they prepare to mate and are quick to respond to any intruders (that would be us).

Colt Creek State Park

 

Spring. Annual renewal. Migrants. Flashes of color. Exuberant songs. A fabulous time to explore the outdoors!

Oh. And, as I have just been reminded, a time to clean. Sigh.

 

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

 

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Colt Creek State Park

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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