Posts Tagged With: brown-headed nuthatch

Forest Adventure

“Should I take a jacket?”

Not a common question in the sub-tropical “Sunshine State”. However, we do experience a few cool days at this time of year where a jacket would definitely make an early morning outing more comfortable.

My sage advice to one who already knows the answers to all things: “Take one along. That will insure you won’t need it.”

Indeed, the day was perfect. Cool but comfortable without the jacket. High clouds but dry all morning. Best of all – no wind.

Every time we return to the Arbuckle Tract of the Lake Wales Ridge State Forest, we seem to encounter something different. With over 13,000 acres, I suppose that’s not too surprising. Birds, mammals, reptiles, flora – no wonder it has become one of our favorite locations!

We were a bit concerned as we neared the entrance road. Two large dump trucks lumbered towards us on their way out of the forest. Later, we encountered a grader smoothing out the fresh dirt to fill in some deep holes. A forest service truck was parked alongside the road and workers were spraying invasive plants, primarily Brazilian Pepper (Schinus terebinthifolia).

Maintenance day.

No worries. The wildlife didn’t seem to mind the sprucing up at all. Neither did we.

Almost immediately after entering the forest tract, we spotted a Florida Scrub-Jay. The day was already a success! This is the only bird species that lives exclusively in Florida. They can be found in scrub pine and oak flatwoods occurring in high and dry areas, such as the ancient ridge running down the center of the peninsula (where we were located) as well as coastal and river sand dunes adjacent to likely scrub areas.

From the state forest link below:

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest derives its name from the narrow ridge that runs north and south through the Florida Peninsula. Many years ago ancient ocean levels rose and covered nearly all of the present-day peninsula. The ridge became an island on which the plants and animals continued to evolve in isolation.”

We enjoyed a quiet breakfast at tranquil Lake Godwin. Returning toward the main road, Gini’s sharp ears picked up the “rubber-ducky” squeaking of a gang of Brown-headed Nuthatches. At the same time, a dozen or so Pine Warblers landed and foraged in the grass of the road ahead, Eastern Bluebirds flitted just above the palmetto fronds going from pine tree to pine tree, Downy Woodpeckers probed the higher branches for bugs and – what’s that? A slight movement gave away a Fox Squirrel hugging a nearby pine tree trunk. He moved quickly to a higher limb as I pointed the camera in his direction.

The morning ended all too soon and we reluctantly headed home. A flurry of activity at the forest entrance caused us to pause for an additional half-hour. The trees were filled with Tufted Titmice, Pine Warblers, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Downy Woodpeckers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, a Great Crested Flycatcher, Northern Cardinals, Palm Warblers, Blue Jays and the fabulous Florida Scrub-Jay. Like a wave rolling along, the mass of feathered feeders moved on – as did we.

What a nice exclamation point on our very fine forest adventure!

 

An excited Eastern Towhee greeted us as we arrived at the forest entrance road.

Lake Wales Ridge SF, Arbuckle Tract

 

We only see Palm Warblers during migration, although many remain through the winter. This one found a juicy morsel for breakfast and proceeded to pound it mercilessly on the branch until it was suitably tenderized.

Lake Wales Ridge SF, Arbuckle Tract

 

Diminutive Brown-headed Nuthatches are fearless and quick to arrive in defense of their territory when an intruder (that would be me) is detected. The problem is, they tend to remain among the highest possible branches directly overhead. I have a fair collection of nuthatch underside images.

Lake Wales Ridge SF, Arbuckle Tract

 

The  “mammal formerly known as Sherman’s Fox Squirrel” has apparently been re-classified as genetically the same as the Southern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger). No matter what his name is, it’s a magnificent animal!

Lake Wales Ridge SF, Arbuckle Tract

 

Gini’s artistic eye found a pine tree which was felled by recent wind storms to be appealing in its rich color and diverse texture.

Lake Wales Ridge SF, Arbuckle Tract

 

My bride’s keen observation also spotted a new plant (for us): Pineland Purple (Carphephorus odoratissimus var. subtropicanus), also called False Vanillaleaf.

Lake Wales Ridge SF, Arbuckle Tract

 

The Great Southern White (Ascia monuste) may be lacking in a diversity of color but she is still a stunning beauty.

Lake Wales Ridge SF, Arbuckle Tract

 

He saw me before I saw him. A Great Crested Flycatcher allowed one photo before diving for cover.

Lake Wales Ridge SF, Arbuckle Tract

 

Rusty brown and a golden eye combined with its large size and impressive beak identify the Brown Thrasher. In the same family as the Northern Mockingbird (Mimidae), the Brown Thrasher has been observed to have more than 1,000 songs in its repertoire!

Lake Wales Ridge SF, Arbuckle Tract

 

The relatively small Common Ground Dove in good light and up close is seen to have a “scaly” appearance. About the size of a Song Sparrow, they rely on their plumage to remain hidden in the grass and I’ve been startled many times as one flushes almost from under my feet.

Lake Wales Ridge SF, Arbuckle Tract

 

Florida Scrub-Jays remain in family groups throughout the year. Last year’s offspring often help raise next year’s brood. Immature birds will stay and help defend the territory for about a year before seeking their own homestead.

Lake Wales Ridge SF, Arbuckle Tract

Lake Wales Ridge SF, Arbuckle Tract

Lake Wales Ridge SF, Arbuckle Tract

 

Another amazing adventure in this beautiful forest! Hopefully, you have your own woodland or special area to explore and discover new things each time you go.

 

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

 

Additional Information

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildflowers, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 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!

 

Additional Information

Colt Creek State Park

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

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