Posts Tagged With: bufflehead

Downtown

“You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares –

So go downtown” (Tony Hatch, sung by Petula Clark)

 

In America, we enjoy two types of migration each year. Birds travel thousands of miles south to escape severe winters which they could not survive. Here in Florida, we have an opportunity to observe birds we would not otherwise be able to see without traveling to their breeding areas. Most migrants fly to Central and South America for the winter but a few remain in our area all winter.

The second type of migration involves what have become endearingly known as “snow birds”. Although they do not sport feathers and may not face actual extinction if they remained in their northerly abodes, we welcome them each year just as warmly as we do our avian guests. Some have even evolved over time and adapted to our summer heat and humidity and have not returned to their ancestral breeding territory. I have not been able to locate a decent field guide for identifying individual snow birds and must rely on attempting to catch them in their traveling apparatuses which are conveniently marked with their geographic origin.

Winter visitors as well as year ’round residents enjoy our downtown area. It offers unique architecture, diverse dining, an open market, art venues, parks and lakes. The officials of our fair city, in their infinite wisdom and never-ending search for methods to lure folks to local businesses, have purchased exotic waterfowl over the years to populate a couple of downtown lakes. Because Florida doesn’t have enough attractive native waterfowl of its own for folks to enjoy dont’cha know. Sigh.

Most bodies of water will encourage a variety of wildlife to visit, even if the lake is located in a bustling city’s downtown business district. And once the critters discover the two-legged animals are quick and generous with tossing them stale bread and bits of hamburger bun, well, that’s a hard thing to keep secret in the animal world! As a result, our downtown lakes are usually very active with waterfowl of all types. In the winter, several hundred ducks enjoy the shallow water, warm weather, the company of other birds and the aforementioned abundance of free food. It also doesn’t hurt that the city keeps the lakes cleared of alligators and other would-be predators.

This past winter, we had a couple of visitors which, although not rare, are not seen every year. The diminutive Bufflehead can look quite small next to a resident Mute Swan, but three females evidently felt secure all winter. The much larger Redhead quickly learned successful panhandling techniques and also remained with us all season. The usual large numbers of Ring-necked and Ruddy Ducks were represented and most have now departed northward to make more ducks.

Our snow bird population has also diminished but we know they, too, will return come fall. Snow to shovel and ice to scrape – or a bit of sun and moisturizing humidity? No contest.

 

The Redhead surely is one of the most handsome ducks I’ve ever seen. In the right light, it’s easy to see how it came by its name.

Lake Morton

Redhead

Lake Morton

Redhead

 

I still have not been able to produce a decent photograph of a male Bufflehead, but the ladies are quite beautiful and I was happy to see them.

Lake Morton

Bufflehead

Lake Morton

Bufflehead

 

You can be forgiven for calling the Ring-necked Duck a Ring-billed Duck (as I have done) because the ring around its neck is not nearly as obvious as the one around the bill.

Lake Morton

Ring-necked Duck

Lake Morton

Ring-necked Duck

Lake Morton

Ring-necked Duck-Female

 

A stiff, fan-shaped tail makes it easy to identify the small Ruddy Duck. Soon the males’ bodies will turn deep chestnut and their bills bright blue as they change to breeding plumage.

Lake Morton

Ruddy Duck

Lake Morton

Ruddy Duck

 

Our locally abundant White Pelicans like to roost along the walls around the lake. In the background, a Mute Swan looks longingly at the pelicans, wishing she could be as lovely.

Lake Morton

American White Pelican

 

 

Now that Spring is here, we’re trying to run around and locate migrating warblers, returning Swallow-tailed Kites, nesting Crested Caracara and such things. But we know that when the snow birds begin to fill the hotels again in November, it will be time to make another trip -downtown.

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

The Potato Eating Place

Windows. Holes in a building which invite air and light to come inside. Functional. They have the additional benefit of allowing us to gaze outside our buildings once in awhile. Some progressive architects and engineers realized that with conditioned air and artificial light, windows were obsolete as practical devices. So we have office buildings, factories, schools and dwellings with no hint of natural light intruding within or any chance of breathing fresh air and certainly no worry of an accidental breeze falling on one’s cheek. Peering out at the blue sky or catching sight of a tree – now, you wouldn’t want to be distracted would you?

Gini and I have been quite fortunate to have lived in several different locales over the past few decades. In each area we discovered unbelievable beauty and found some truly ugly sights as well. One of our most delightful discoveries was in a small village in Germany. Our search for a place to live took us to a cobblestone street lined with a hodgepodge of quaint cottages, whitewash-covered block buildings and combination storefront/dwellings. Each shared a common feature. Window boxes overflowing with a profusion of flowers. On the other side of the double-paned glass, sills were packed with all manner of containers stuffed with greenery. Ferns, ivies, begonias, orchids, cacti. All of this flora was typically framed in lacy looking curtains neatly pulled back as if each window was vying for some sort of prize. This street was not unique. More than once, we were gently informed the windows of a home reflected the character, or even the soul, of the inhabitants. Needless to say, we spent a fortune on pots and fertilizer during our stay!

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to visit a birding spot near the town of Apopka, Florida. In the center of the state, agriculture has long been a major source of economic activity here. It has alternately been dubbed the “Fern City” and “Indoor Foliage Capital of the World”. Growing conditions here in the sub-tropical climate are quite conducive to producing plants which thrive within buildings.

The town is adjacent to Lake Apopka, Florida’s third largest lake. Evidence indicates humans existed along the lake’s shore as long ago as 15 B.C. Since then, various Indian tribes have lived in the area, including the Seminole in the 1700-1800’s. The name “Apopka” likely comes from the Creek/Seminole words “Aha” (potato) and “Papka” (eating place). In the mid-1800’s, European settlers moved into the area with land grants from the government in exchange for developing the land. Many crops thrived and the area did well economically. Too well. Agricultural business developers saw the potential and over the next 100 years abused the land and in the 1970’s once-vibrant Lake Apopka was declared the country’s most polluted lake. Efforts to reclaim the lake have been successful. Today it is well on the way toward returning to one of the most beautiful and wildlife rich environments in the state.

The entire northwest shore of Lake Apopka has been turned into a system of hiking trails and years of sound management practices have resulted in this being a premier birding spot. Our trip today was motivated by recent sightings of two Groove-billed Ani, a little unusual for this location and it would be a life bird for me. Well, the Ani apparently had an appointment elsewhere, but as often happens, Nature offers outstanding consolation prizes for those who participate. We saw 55 species during a two mile walk and the special highlights include:  Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, White-crowned Sparrows, four Painted Buntings, what may be a migrant Western Red-tailed Hawk (immature) and a very uncommon (for this time and place) Nashville Warbler. On the way home, we stopped in at Lake Minneola in nearby Clermont and found several dozen Lesser Scaup, about a dozen Bufflehead and an assortment of terns and gulls to round out a spectacular day.

From lush agricultural paradise to pollution nightmare to reclamation success story – The Potato Eating Place is worth a visit any time!

The star of the show today was the diminutive but beautiful Nashville Warbler. (He’s supposed to be in Central America right now.)

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler

 

A couple of migratory White-crowned Sparrows played hide-and-seek before finally consenting to give us a decent view.

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

 

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

 

We heard the clear whistle of Eastern Towhees all day but only got a clear shot of this pretty female.

Eastern Towhee - Female

Eastern Towhee – Female

 

Eastern Towhee - Female

Eastern Towhee – Female

 

Male Painted Buntings are hard to miss. They look like they fell onto an artist’s palette and rolled around. The females are overall greenish in color and blend in with just about everything.

Painted Bunting - Male

Painted Bunting – Male

Painted Bunting - Male

Painted Bunting – Male

 

This Red-tailed Hawk was quite different than what we normally encounter in central Florida and resembles images of young western species. No reddish color to the tail (typical of immature birds), heavily marked underparts, dark throat. A gorgeous raptor no matter where it came from!

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

 

A female Bufflehead was busily diving and I could only get one shot of her briefly resting on the surface. I’ve been trying for some time to get a decent shot of the handsome male. I’m still waiting – the males remained in the middle of the lake.

Bufflehead - Female

Bufflehead – Female

 

Lesser Scaup are Florida’s most numerous winter ducks. When the sun strikes their head the colors range from brown to green to purple.

Lesser Scaup

Lesser Scaup

 

Forster’s Tern is sleek and fast. During breeding season their heads will be completely black.

Forster's Tern

Forster’s Tern

 

A Ring-billed Gull rests before continuing the hunt for lunch. These are second in numbers only to the Laughing Gull in our area.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

 

Our natural world is filled with wonderful things to experience. As a species, we continue to abuse our environment and once in awhile we succeed in reversing the process. Whether it’s a window box of flowers, a reclaimed wetland, a national park or just a “potato eating place” – find something beautiful in your life for which to be thankful.

 

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

 

Additional Information:

Northwest Lake Apopka Restoration Area

Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail – Lake Apopka, Clay Island

Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail – Lake Apopka, North Shore

 

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

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: