“I’ll be back in time for a late breakfast.”
She is still laughing.
Part of the 7,000+ acre Tenoroc Public Use Area, the “Bridgewater Tract” is literally five minutes from the house. Unfortunately, one must first check in at the headquarters building which is about 15 minutes up the road. A small inconvenience. We visit Tenoroc often due to its proximity and diverse mix of bird species. With over 1,000 acres of lakes, open grassy areas, mixed pine and hardwood forests and wetlands, the potential for a really good birding day is always high.
The Bridgewater Tract is adjacent to Lake Parker, a 2100 acre body of water within the city limits of Lakeland, Florida. Like the rest of the Tenoroc lands, Bridgewater consists of reclaimed phosphate mining areas. The former mining pits have been stocked with fish and the surrounding habitat has been managed to somewhat resemble what it looked like over 50 years ago. The results are apparently agreeable with the birds.
All the lakes within the Tenoroc system are fairly deep, following years of phosphate extraction. Relatively deep water begins almost immediately along the shoreline. With very little shallow water available, wading birds and “puddle” ducks are scarce. Abundant trees and dense undergrowth, especially near the water, is very attractive to a large number of other birds. A few trails wind through open grass and wetland areas as well as through woodlands.
Of course, I knew very well breakfast would be nothing but a memory by the time I finished exploring. Gini had managed to stop laughing by the time I returned and had lunch almost ready. Best. Wife. Ever.
My morning observations broke no records but it sure was enjoyable!
A small group of Common Grackles were excited about a hawk in their territory. Our geographic variant of this species shows a bit more purple iridescence than birds in other parts of the country.
Joining the grackles in screaming about the hawk, a couple of Red-winged Blackbirds flew into the tree tops.
North America’s smallest woodpecker is the Downy Woodpecker. With a splash of bright red on his head, this male inspected every inch of several branches, scooping up insects almost without any hesitation.
Pine Warblers have an incredible range of plumage, from almost all gray to bright yellow. Even this somewhat drab bird has a beauty which cannot be denied.
Birders’ affliction. We are either gazing upward or have binoculars glued to our faces trying to discern what exactly is in the center of a bush. As a result of this affliction, we stumble over logs and roots, step into puddles, frighten poor snakes trying to get out of our way and are sometimes surprised to find someone gazing back at us. The raccoon was quick to depart.
Migration is in full swing and one species whose numbers really burgeon during this time is the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. This one held still longer than most.
A cautious female Common Yellowthroat is not as bright as the male but her subdued plumage exudes a beauty all its own.
“Butcher Bird”. I grew up using this name for the Loggerhead Shrike. Apparently, it is a widely used nickname for the small gray hunter. Carcasses of insects and lizards impaled on a thorn, twig or barbed-wire fence are tell-tale signs of a shrike in the area.
Although it is almost officially winter, here in subtropical Florida we are still blessed with the presence of dragons. One of the small and colorful Odonata, a Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis), allowed a quick photo op before “dashing” to chase a mosquito. I knew I liked dragonflies for a reason!
One of our winter visitors, an Eastern Phoebe, gave me a quizzical glance as I neared her perch, trying to decide if I meant her any harm. I changed direction and she kept up her search for breakfast.
As a Bald Eagle soared overhead, I realized how high the sun was above the horizon. Leaving the eagle to search for a breakfast fish, I headed home.
Hiking around the lakes and among the trees, observing nature as it awakened to a new day was worth missing breakfast. Returning home to the welcoming embrace of the woman I love reminded me how truly blessed I am. Find a place near you to observe birds and wild things – just remember to appreciate what is really important in your life.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!