Posts Tagged With: cattle egret

A Sidewalk On The Wild Side

In some humans, there is a perception that greater efforts will yield greater rewards. Many of us teach our children that to attain “success” requires hard work. When I was attending a management school, we were advised to seek out employees who were ambitious, full of energy and always volunteering for projects and to assign these vigorous souls our most important tasks in order to assure completion of organizational objectives. Okay. I tried that. I soon realized this was effective in identifying future bureaucrats, but was not very good at getting things done. Instead, I gave the most vital jobs to the laziest individuals I could find. I discovered their main interest was to invent shortcuts so they could return to being lazy as soon as possible. My unit’s production consistently ranked high in the area of timely goal fulfillment.

As the alarm sounded, I felt guilty about sleeping in so late. Official sunrise would occur in an hour and the eastern sky was just beginning to become “less dark”. I ate some fruit, checked my camera settings, looked out the window one more time and as the dawn was 15 minutes away from breaking, I jumped in the truck, scrambled down the road and finally reached my destination – five minutes later.

My usual “patch”, Lake Parker Park, is only two miles from the house and that’s where I parked this morning. However, today I would follow a different plan. From the park entrance, there is a convenient sidewalk along the shore of the lake which ends about 1.5 mile (2.4 km) to the south. This southern terminus is an intersection with a very busy highway in a highly developed commercial business district. At the northern end, where I began my walk, is the entrance to the city park. As one travels south along the lake, the adjacent road is usually full of traffic. There is a city fire department training facility here, complete with a tower that is occasionally set afire for very brave folks to practice dealing with flames and smoke. The view across the tranquil lake’s surface is abruptly disturbed by two massive coal-fired electric plants belching dark smoke toward the heavens. Continuing southward, the neighborhood gradually changes from a nursing home, to some quite nice fairly new residences, to older bungalow style houses which have been renovated, to some older bungalow style houses which have not been renovated, to a large former motel now used as public assistance housing and ending in the aforementioned business district. Not your typical “Wow! I want to go birding THERE!” sort of spot.

At least there was no fire department training today. As I followed the concrete path along the lake, there was a strange mix of birds, blooming water plants, discarded beer cans, plastic bags, cars, dog-walkers, joggers, alligators – it was quite surreal. Also, I found 48 species of birds, including a small rookery full of herons and egrets building nests and incubating eggs, fishing Bald Eagles, a house full of breeding Purple Martins and a host of colorful feathered urban residents. And I still feel guilty about not working hard for such a huge personal reward. Well, not that guilty.

Come on! Look at what I found!

An old boat lift wheel makes a nice morning perch for an Anhinga to greet the day.

Anhinga

Anhinga

I counted eleven Limpkins along the shore this morning but couldn’t manage a decent photo of even one! The shore was littered with empty shells of Apple Snails which explains the high number of Limpkins. A Double-crested Cormorant and a Boat-tailed Grackle have discovered why the Limpkins enjoy escargot.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

Boat-tailed Grackle

Boat-tailed Grackle

The unique calls of White-winged Dove filled the air and this one remained on her perch long enough for a portrait. (White-winged Dove Call)

White-winged Dove

White-winged Dove

Purple Gallinules are extremely colorful and along this stretch of urban shore are extremely aggressive. They have learned to associate humans with a handout. Sad on several levels. I found one who seems to have not yet had his morning coffee and another who agreed to pose but when I asked her to powder her nose, she left a feather from the puff on her nose.

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

This Pied-billed Grebe contorted itself into a question mark as if to say “You lookin’ at ME?”.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

It was just a little too early for this Ring-billed Gull to begin its day of fishing. I know that feeling.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

The residential nature of much of the area contains many old, large hardwood trees as well as tall palms. Perfect for a Pileated Woodpecker to make a home. This one flew along the street for a moment before diving into an oak in a nearby yard.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

When the sunlight is at just the correct angle, it appears to be shining through a prism onto the feathers of a Glossy Ibis.

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis

One of our most common birds is the Cattle Egret. So common, they are routinely ignored by birders and photographers. During breeding season, they are much harder to ignore as their heads display some pretty intense colors. During nest construction, one bird (presumed male) kept offering a stick to another (presumed female), a typical courtship ritual with many egrets and herons.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

Speaking of hard to ignore. A Snowy Egret displays the reason this species was almost wiped out by hunters seeking the breeding plumes (aigrettes) for ladies’ hats in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Purple Martins have raised little ones in this condo for at least the past four years. It was fascinating to watch the adults arrive with a bug as the noise level and wing fluttering increased enormously from the kids inside.

Purple Martin - Female

Purple Martin – Female

Purple Martin

Purple Martin

Purple Martin

Purple Martin

The domestic Mallard. The root cause of many of duckdom’s problems. Indiscriminate. Prolific. Superior genes. And yet, still not bad to look at. Who doesn’t think ducklings are downright adorable?

Mallard - Male

Mallard – Male

Mallard - Female

Mallard – Female

Mallard - Juvenile

Mallard – Juvenile

Mallard - Juvenile

Mallard – Juvenile

Continue to work hard toward your own goals. Continue to feel good about crawling out of a warm bed three hours before sunrise, driving two hours, trekking through ankle-deep muck, swatting insects, avoiding the path with the alligator guarding it. I’ll continue to do that, too. But I won’t feel guilty about the occasional lazy morning stroll along a wild sidewalk either.

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

See more birds from around the world at Paying ReadyAttention for

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

A Little Seasoning Whets The Appetite

My eyes strained to make out shapes which should be familiar but no images were forming. I knew there was a line of trees to my right along a fence and there was water to the left. A splash, perhaps a frog moving from his hiding spot on the bank, confirmed I was correct about the water. I could barely discern the spot onto which I stepped. Lightning punctuated the inky blackness far to the south. We might have rain today but it likely wouldn’t form until the afternoon. The other-worldly calls of Limpkins began sounding from around the marsh. (Limpkin Call) Almost imperceptibly the sky shifted from nothingness to dark blue and blobs which I knew to be trees gradually materialized in the distance. As the curtain of the morning was slowly drawn back, large formations of Ibises and Egrets moved across the edge of the horizon from their roosts as they dispersed to feeding areas. Water birds were becoming active nearby and myriad Herons, Egrets and Ibises flapped just above the tops of the vegetation and settled into spots likely to hold abundant prey. Mosquitoes buzzed incessantly around my eyes, ears and mouth. A sliver of orange fire in the east punctured what remained of the night and our day was truly in progress.

It’s September in central Florida. Still very hot. Still very humid. Thunderstorms are scheduled every day by mid-afternoon and seldom disappoint. It has been a wetter than normal summer. We hope for cold fronts to form in Canada to energize migration. Soon. In the meantime, Nature teases us with a Yellow Warbler overhead, a chip from a Northern Waterthrush in the understory, a fleeting glimpse of a Blue-winged Teal quartet zipping across the sky. The season is changing. Even in our sub-tropical environment we can feel a difference in the air. We look forward to the surprise of discovery experienced twice each year which serves as a booster shot of excitement and insures we remain forever hooked to our sweet addiction.

As we progress through this life, we encounter “key” people. Those individuals who by position or force of personality cause things to happen and can be relied upon to “get things done”. When I was a manager, I was constantly on the lookout for this type of person because I knew they would be instrumental in the success of any venture. In birding, I have discovered it’s still important to identify and have access to “key” people. In this case, that would be the person with the key to the gate you’re trying to get beyond! I have found such a person. Shh! Don’t tell him the real reason I like his company.

Once the “key” person accomplished his vital role, we once again entered the Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands on the southeast side of Lakeland in Polk County, Florida. It may be another year before this area is open to the public. In the meantime, that feller with the key in his pocket has been gracious enough to schedule several tours for anyone interested in experiencing some the best birding in central Florida. Drop me an email if you’re interested and I’ll get some information to you.

Our day ended before noon and we had tallied just under 70 species. Highlights for me included a Short-tailed Hawk, a Willet (common along our beaches but rare at this inland area), Gull-billed Terns and over 30 Black-necked Stilts. Add to all of that patches of blooming flowers, colorful butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, Bobcat tracks, alligators and two of the state’s most accomplished birders who see and hear subjects long before I’m aware of them – and it was a very good day indeed.

 

Sunrise. Now I could actually see how many mosquitoes were in the cloud surrounding me.

Sunrise

Sunrise

 

Here’s a view of a small portion of the wetlands area. There are three “cells” of water which have been constructed in the wetlands which covers about 1,000 acres. A pump station on the south shore of Lake Hancock will pump lake water into one of these cells where specially planted vegetation will act as natural filters to clean the water. The clean water will be pumped into another of the cells for further filtration before being released into nearby Saddle Creek which feeds the Peace River and eventually the improved water will flow into the Gulf of Mexico at Charlotte Harbor. A small effort in the grand scheme of water management, but multiplied many times around our state it can make a difference.

Northeast Cell

Northeast Cell

 

A Dorantes Longtail dries out its wings after a heavy dew.

Dorantes Longtail (Urbanus dorantes)

Dorantes Longtail (Urbanus dorantes)

 

From the top of a small tree a Northern Parula sings as if Spring was here instead of Fall.

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

 

A curious Tufted Titmouse didn’t take long to start his alarm call to let the world know where we were. “Intruder Alert!”

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

 

It’s hard to miss the Scarlet Skimmer. There were dozens of these gaudy dragons around the marsh.

Scarlet Skimmer (Crocothemis servilia)

Scarlet Skimmer (Crocothemis servilia)

 

The Gull-billed Tern makes you do a double-take. Nice slim body and wings of a tern, then you see that thick bill and it just looks odd.  The first image is a bird already in winter plumage and the second individual still retains the black cap from the breeding season.

Gull-billed Tern

Gull-billed Tern

Gull-billed Tern

Gull-billed Tern

 

American White Pelicans enjoy the fishing at Lake Hancock year ’round and their numbers can swell during migration to several thousand.

American White Pelican

American White Pelican

 

A group of Black-necked Stilts and Lesser Yellowlegs enjoy foraging and preening in a shallow section of water.

Black-necked Stilts, Lesser Yellowlegs

Black-necked Stilts, Lesser Yellowlegs

 

Male and female Needham’s Skimmers are quite different in appearance. The male’s coloration can range from orange to almost red. Immature males are similar to the female until they become adults.

Needham's Skimmer - Male  (Libellula needhami)

Needham’s Skimmer – Male (Libellula needhami)

Needham's Skimmer - Female  (Libellula needhami)

Needham’s Skimmer – Female (Libellula needhami)

 

A Cattle Egret may not be the most beautiful of birds but doesn’t look half bad with his hair combed.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

 

Great Blue Herons are masterful fishermen and all the other birds are keenly aware of his prowess. A White Ibis hopes for a morsel.

Great Blue Heron, White Ibis

Great Blue Heron, White Ibis

 

The smallest butterfly in North America is the Southern Skipperling, one of the grass skippers. We’re fortunate that with Florida’s climate they remain here all year long.

Southern Skipperling (Copaeodes minima)

Southern Skipperling (Copaeodes minima)

 

 

If you hunger for a birding trip, check your seasoning and enjoy cooking up a great day outside! Don’t forget to locate a “key” person to assist you in overcoming the occasional locked gate life may place in your path.

 

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: