Posts Tagged With: cedar waxwing

Sabbatical – Part The First

“I got a piece of land out in the countryside

 Lay back and smell the Sun warm up the Georgia pine

 Feels so good to be taking it easy

 Why would I ever leave?” 

(Homegrown, Zac Brown Band)

 

“It’s really dark in the swamp at night.” Gini made no comment on the deep philosophical profoundness of my utterance. To be fair, I think she was asleep. We were hurtling through the inky blackness of central Florida’s Green Swamp, the car’s bright headlights struggling to illuminate the oncoming asphalt as far ahead as possible. One could be tempted on this 30 mile straight-as-an-arrow stretch of road to test the limits of acceleration possible. One, thankfully, also recalls how many times in the past a full-grown deer or wild pig has materialized from the misty marsh and stopped to stare into the mesmerizing brightness of halogen. I ease off of the accelerator a wee bit.

 

Gini’s brother has been working very hard over the past several years to transform a large tract of land in western Georgia into a homestead suitable for retirement in a few years. He and his gracious wife invited us to visit for a few days and we were looking forward to a change of venue. Eschewing the always busy interstate highway, we opted to travel along the coast road which would keep us near the Gulf of Mexico, allow us to enjoy picturesque small towns and force us into a more relaxed driving mode.

 

About an hour after sunrise, we left the highway and poked along through the salt marsh to a small park situated on the Gulf. There we breathed salty air in huge gulps while mullet broke the water’s surface and herons probed the shallow water for a breakfast crab. Gini had made egg salad sandwiches and along with some fresh orange slices we had a sumptuous, leisurely breakfast and watched as the sun’s early rays lit up the entire scene to our west. Simply beautiful!

 

Following a plan to avoid higher traffic areas, our route took us through rural north Florida into the pecan groves and cotton fields of southern Georgia. We found a small family-owned barbecue place where we got sandwiches to go and had lunch at a park filled with over-wintering Canada Geese. They “serenaded” us while we ate. Loudly.

 

The next couple of hours offered up scenes of bucolic central Georgia. Vast fields being plowed and preparing for spring crops, huge warehouses and silos where peanuts are stored for shipping, swift-flowing creeks flowing through pine forests, manicured groves of pecan trees which produce the sweetest nut imaginable, remnants of old cabins made of board and stone succumbing to over a hundred years of use, a friendly wave from a farmer on his tractor. Truly, a special place.

 

We arrived a little before dusk. Happy to not be driving for awhile, we enjoyed catching up with family news, had a light meal and just before bed I stood outside for a bit. No city lights visible, no traffic noise. A sky full of stars and the smell of pine. As I turned to go inside, a coyote announced to the pack that it was time for the hunt. I drifted off to sleep with the “song-dog’s” voice echoing in my head.

 

Early morning! A kiss and a cup of coffee for my sweetheart (in that order), and I was off to explore. A large grove of young Longleaf Pine, a vast area of mixed hardwood, a couple of grassy fields – a lot of potential. I was not disappointed! This was early spring and there was a nice mix of migratory songbirds as well as residents. The walk included some wary White-tailed Deer, a large covey (20+) of Northern Bobwhite, a Great-horned Owl calling in the distance and, not surprisingly, fresh coyote tracks from last night’s adventure.

We had a wonderful visit and will be returning soon. In the meantime, a couple of photographs may provide a sense of the homestead. Stay tuned for more …

 

A section of woods which contains huge pine trees, oaks, bay, hickory, wild plum – smell those pine needles?

Chancey Mill Road

 

With so many pine trees, I was happy to discover Brown-headed Nuthatches. True to form, they spent a lot of time running down tree trunks head first and hanging on to the underside of branches while they probed for bugs.

Chancey Mill Road

 

A lot of color in the tree tops with so many songbirds and warblers. Bright Pine Warblers were a common sight.

Chancey Mill Road

 

The property has a few huge pecan trees which will soon be covered in fresh green leaves.

Chancey Mill Road

 

Gini’s brother has placed a few nesting boxes around the property for Eastern Bluebirds. And here is one who appreciates his efforts!

Chancey Mill Road

 

American Goldfinches are in transition to their breeding plumage and the males will soon be extremely bright in their yellow and black suits. They don’t breed here and it won’t be long before they head a bit further north.

Chancey Mill Road

 

The diminutive Carolina Chickadee does breed here and they will soon be pairing up to build nests and will be loudly scolding anything that moves.

Chancey Mill Road

 

Some old buildings have been left standing and offer great exploring opportunities. This small barn is well over 150 years old and was constructed with boards from pine trees that were on the property. Foundations for some of the buildings were made with large rocks from the nearby Chattahoochee River.

Chancey Mill Road

 

We enjoyed noisy flocks of 20-30 migrating Chipping Sparrows while we were there. Although this species may be found here year round, most of these large groups will migrate on soon.

Chancey Mill Road

 

House Finches breed here and it was wonderful to hear their burbling song each day.

Chancey Mill Road

 

Birds aren’t the only critters that love the lush growth of this area. Here, a Cloudless Sulphur sips nectar and adds even more color to the landscape.

Chancey Mill Road

 

A pair of Common Ground Dove probes the clover and will soon make their loose grass nests in the nearby understory of the young pine grove.

Chancey Mill Road

 

More migrants! One morning a group of over 40 Cedar Waxwing descended into the yard. They hung around a couple of days before swooping northward.

Chancey Mill Road

Chancey Mill Road

 

Pine trees, a blackberry bramble, a path. Is there time to explore before supper?

Chancey Mill Road

 

 

Gini and I are truly blessed to live in an area we think is close to paradise. Even so, it’s nice once in awhile to explore new spots. How lucky to be able to take a vacation from paradise and visit – another paradise!

 

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

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

Over The River, Through The Woods, Under Construction

BEEP – BEEP – BEEP – BEEP

It can’t be time to get up already. We just went to bed. Ever the gentleman, I offered to let my bride sleep in an extra hour – or two. “No, let’s get going.” I’m pretty sure she was smiling. She tends to wake up happy. Now I felt guilty for wanting to sleep in – uhh, for being considerate and wanting HER to get some extra rest. Up and at ’em.

Our target today was about an hour’s drive south on the eastern edge of the community of Fort Meade in southern Polk County. The Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area is about 125 acres of hardwood forest along the banks of the Peace River. Visitors to the park will find a canoe launch, plenty of picnic tables, grills, large pavilions, rest rooms and a fair view of adjacent ponds and wetlands. We wanted to see if work had been completed on a trail which was planned from the park to the southwest for 2.5 miles through a wetlands and ending at another canoe launch point on the Peace River.

BEEP – BEEP – BEEP – BEEP

The lullaby of dump trucks backing up as they delivered loads of dirt suggested that construction was still ongoing. Oh, well. Maybe we should find another spot to explore this morning. Wait, what’s that? Hey, a small flock of Cedar Waxwings! The first we have seen this year. Most waxwings migrate further south but a few remain through the winter as long as the weather is mild. Look! A Northern Parula. And a Black-and-white Warbler, no, two, no, three! Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Yellow-rumped Warblers seemed to be everywhere. A pair of Osprey were tending a nest. A Northern Harrier tilted low over the wetlands and a pair of Ring-necked Ducks splashed into a nearby spot of open water. We thoroughly enjoyed the next couple of hours as there seemed to be birds in every tree. Gini spotted a huge hornet’s nest, probably made last year by Bald-faced Hornets. They build new nests each spring and this one was empty, but impressive.

Heavy equipment was moving in and out of the park at a steady pace but it didn’t seem to bother the birds at all. We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast on the bank of the river while being entertained by curious Tufted Titmice, various water birds including a Belted Kingfisher, three species of woodpeckers and warblers and vireos sucking up bugs from the leaves.

To think, we almost went elsewhere. Sometimes under construction should be taken under consideration.

 

Cedar Waxwings were very happily devouring berries and didn’t seem to mind me snapping a few candid photos.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Cedar Waxwing

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Cedar Waxwing

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Cedar Waxwing

 

The Black-and-white Warbler is distinctive not only in plumage but also in behavior. Thinking he must be related to a nuthatch, he scampers DOWN a tree trunk probing for insects along the way.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Black-and-white Warbler

 

This “peek-a-boo” image of a Tufted Titmouse was all I could manage. They were abundant and loud all morning but just would not give me a chance to get an unobstructed picture.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Tufted Titmouse

 

A utility pole made a good perch for a Red-bellied Woodpecker to announce her presence to the world. The back side of the pole had three old cavities which may have been used by this bird in the past.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Red-bellied Woodpecker

 

Although not a very good photograph, this is one of the few times I’ve actually seen the “yellow belly” of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

 

Seeming to have a nice pair of spectacles, a Blue-headed Vireo remained above our heads for quite awhile and was curious as to why we were on the ground and not on a tree branch like a sensible animal should be.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Blue-headed Vireo

 

Gini’s hornet’s nest. Yes, she wanted me to retrieve it. No, I did not climb up a tree 50 feet to get it for her. Not this time.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Hornet’s Nest

 

The male American Kestrel is one of my favorite birds. A combination of good looks, athletic ability and pure attitude. Reminds me of someone – where is that mirror?

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

American Kestrel

 

Ignore the sound of that alarm! Pay no attention to the sound of construction! Get up! Get out! Go birding!

Right now!

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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