Posts Tagged With: damselfly

Leftovers

It’s time to show you my favorite photographs from blogging during the past year!

Relax. Not really. I already did that to you once. And you were all very kind. Thank you for that!

If you’ve been paying attention, you already know (or strongly suspect) that I’m more of a contrarian than a conformist. So instead of trying to determine which images I liked the best, I shall serve you a heaping dish of leftovers. Scraps. Remains. Dregs. Residue. Leavings. Remnants. Stuff acquired during 2015 which didn’t quite fit into a nice, neat blogging category. Maybe it was a picture from a Sunday drive or a single image from a trip where no other suitable images were made or a snapshot from the back yard.

For those of you who have never participated in that grandest of American feasting holidays, Thanksgiving, I’m sorry. Typically, our extended family (along with friends who we think of as family) meet at a central location and everyone brings food to share. The table is usually overburdened with roast turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, green beans, corn, pies, cakes … it’s quite a spectacle. At the end of the day, any food items remaining are parceled out for those who are interested in taking them home. In my estimation, one of the few things better than roast turkey on Thanksgiving Day is a turkey sandwich the next day. And to enjoy that sandwich on the edge of a lake with Gini by my side while we count migrating ducks, well, that’s something special.

No sooner had we cleaned out the refrigerator of Thanksgiving leftovers than Christmas arrived. In my estimation, one of the few things better than roast ham on Christmas Day is a ham sandwich the next day. And to enjoy it on the edge of a lake…. (you know the rest).

One week later. Happy New Year! Now, although a leftover sandwich made from a standing rib roast is really good (especially to enjoy it on the edge of a lake, etc.), Gini is able to turn the remaining meat and bones into a pot of heavenly harmony affectionately known as “hash”. Originating from the French for “to cut or chop”, Gini’s hash contains the aforementioned remnants of a superb roast, including bones, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, mushrooms and ingredients so secret even the government doesn’t know about them. Just the aroma of her hash being warmed has been known to make grown men weep and Southern Women swoon. It’s that good.

Well, all of the above culinary delights are now but a memory and the food planning calendar contains a lot of salad and bean items. Sigh. Before the glow fades from these fond memories, I offer you a platter of luminous leftovers. Don’t forget your napkin.

Enjoy.

 

The Red-tailed Hawk is one of the largest hawk species in North America and has been observed in an amazing range of plumages. From almost all black to almost all light-colored, the signature brick red tail is usually present in adult birds. Where better to find one of our most beautiful raptors than hiking around all day in summer at – the local landfill. (The sacrifices I make for you all.)

North Central Landfill

Red-tailed Hawk

 

Also known as “traffic warden”, this Eastern Phoebe reminds visitors to get out and walk.

Saddle Creek Park

Eastern Phoebe

 

For those with acute hearing (which would NOT be me), the Sedge Wren readily announces his location. The problem is once you find his location, he usually remains hidden deep within the reeds. This one couldn’t resist taking a peek at the guy in the camouflage shirt which he could CLEARLY SEE. (I must get my money back.)

McKendree Road

Sedge Wren

 

I stooped to new lows this past year to locate damsels in distress. This Variable Dancer remained motionless for a micro-second and a single shutter click captured a gorgeous miniature ballerina.

Mosaic FMA

Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis)

 

When Little Blue Herons are young, they are white. As the year progresses, they begin to show their slaty plumage bit by bit and it’s common to spot “calico” herons in the marsh. This fellow had an itch and is sporting the latest teen hairdo so popular in today’s heron society.

Lake Gwyn

Little Blue Heron – Immature

 

An artsy moment in which I search for my roots.

Saddle Creek Park

Roots

 

Short-tailed Hawks (Buteo brachyurus) are not common in North America and probably number less than 500 in Florida. This small tropical hawk usually soars quite high (often above vultures) and drops quickly and unexpectedly to capture small songbirds. This is the first one I’ve ever seen perched. There are two forms, light (as pictured) and an all dark morph.

Saddle Creek Park

Short-tailed Hawk

 

A Wood Stork and White Ibis may share a perch but they don’t have to speak to each other.

McKendree Road

White Ibis, Wood Stork

 

Visitors are surprised to learn there are hills and valleys in Florida. Okay, they aren’t very dramatic, but parts of the state are not as flat as most think. This pasture land is only about a half hour from our house and is prime habitat for one of our favorite birds …..

Pasco County

Trilby Road Pasture

 

Burrowing Owls love the open, closely cropped fields found in pastures. Within a couple of square miles of this burrow were eight additional burrows, all with one or two owlets last year. Here, Mom stands guard while the two youngsters begin to explore around the burrow entrance. They quickly learn to use those big eyes to scan the sky often. Hawks eat little owls.

Pasco County

Burrowing Owl

 

It has been amazing to discover the world of dragons! Incredible diversity of colors, expert hunters, dedicated parents, acrobatic fliers – and to think they spend their first three or four years under water! This Roseate Skimmer is one of the more colorful members of the species.

Lake Gwyn

Roseate Skimmer – Male (Orthemis ferruginea)

 

The American Redstart is seen in our area only during spring and fall migration. They flash their tails and wings frequently as they move through a tree’s foliage to flush insects from hiding.

Saddle Creek Park

American Redstart – Female

Saddle Creek Park

American Redstart – male

 

Although the Sedge Wren above likes to remain hidden, the Marsh Wren aggressively jumps out of the weeds to see who’s invading his territory. A lot of attitude for his size!

Saddle Creek Park

Marsh Wren

 

This immature Wood Stork isn’t as handsome as the adult yet (okay, maybe there’s no difference), but he still can’t help but admire himself as he quenches his thirst.

Banana Lake Park

Wood Stork

 

Almost any visit to the marsh offers a vision in pink overhead. The Roseate Spoonbill is hard to miss in clear sky.

Lake Gwyn

Roseate Spoonbill

 

A trip to refill the back yard bird bath revealed a surprise. A Cooper’s Hawk, who usually invites birds to dinner, decided to try squirrel for a change of pace. He was polite enough to wait to begin his meal until I returned with the camera.

Polk County

Cooper’s Hawk

 

Even though the population of the Red-headed Woodpecker has declined significantly over the past 25 years, it has been a bit encouraging to discover they are nesting successfully in good numbers in our area. Hopefully, they will continue to stage a comeback.

Lake Garfield

Red-headed Woodpecker

 

Our community hosts a modest farmer’s market every Saturday and it’s a nice way to find locally produced goods. There is often a good selection of organic fruits and vegetables. We even have a train that goes through the center of town. (Much to the chagrin of commuters every day.)

Lakeland Market

Market

Lakeland Market

Tomatoes

Lakeland Market

Produce

Lakeland Market

Peaches

Lakeland Market

Pastry

Lakeland Market

Flowers

Lakeland Market

Produce

Lakeland Market

Train

 

 

Well, we hope you enjoyed your leftovers this year! I’m already dreaming of Gini’s hash for next year. After such a feast, there’s only one sensible thing to do —

Rolling Woods Lane

Mourning Dove

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

“May I Take Your Order?”

When I was a teenager, you knew you had achieved a true milestone in life when you got your first car. It might not have actually been “yours” since your parents likely sent the bank a monthly sum for the privilege of letting you drive the thing. And it probably wasn’t exactly fresh out of the factory either. Which is why there was a class in high school called “auto shop”. Way back then cars were still mechanically simple enough that a few hand tools and enough oil could nurse most vehicles through a couple of years. Prior to this significant event, you were relegated to riding with someone who did have a car (immediately elevating them to the status of “best friend”) or suffering the ultimate ignominy – gulp – riding your bicycle. Once you achieved “car owner” status, one of the requirements was to be seen in the new machine on Friday nights after the football game at the Drive-In. Hamburgers, French fries, a frosted mug of root beer – all brought right to your car and affixed to the window of YOUR CAR on a tray – life was good.

Then came the Drive-Thru. Our planet’s quality of life has declined ever since.

At first, it was a wonderful experience. Drive up, tell the speaker what you want, pick up your food and go – where? Home. Open the bag. Eat your food. Throw away the bag. No one saw you in your cool car. You didn’t visit with your friends. You became surly if the “fast food” wasn’t ready fast enough. As a culture, we became impatient with everything. Quick service replaced quality service in every facet of our lives. The trend continues.

So it was with a huge dose of skepticism and trepidation that I first visited a location touted as a “drive-thru nature experience”. Yikes! Will there be a clown taking my order for which birds I want to see?

I have written a few times here about the truly wonderful Viera Wetlands (officially known as the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands) located near Florida’s east coast in Brevard County. It takes us about an hour-and-a-half to get there but it’s worth it to be able to experience the diversity of life in the area. Part of Brevard County’s water treatment efforts, the wetlands consists of 200 acres and includes four “cells” of about 35 acres each and a central lake. The cells are of differing depths to attract a variety of wildlife including thousands of migrating waterfowl each winter. There are berms around the facility which can be driven, biked or hiked. (See the link below for a number to call and check the condition of the roads as they are often closed during the rainy season. They can be accessed by foot almost any time.) More and more communities are beginning to follow this model for water treatment facilities and we hope it will be as successful as this one. What a wonderful boon to those who are not physically capable of hiking who can now enjoy nature just outside the car window!

Gini and I visited the wetlands this spring and were treated to a very healthy dose of pure Nature. Although our species list of birds (40) was less than prior trips we had some pretty neat highlights: two dozen Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, over a dozen Anhinga and Great Blue Herons (most nesting and/or with juveniles), almost 250 American Coot, several migratory Marsh Wrens, Savannah Sparrows and Swamp Sparrows, a couple of calling King Rails and a half dozen Least Bitterns.

Following our picnic lunch, we paid a visit to Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area, near Christmas, Florida. This is a huge area (almost 31,000 acres) bordered by the Indian River and has over 60 miles of trails to explore. It was late in the day and we didn’t get to do a lot of birding but sure found a host of beautiful blooms!

Photographs can’t really do justice to the experience of all we found, so, you’ll just have to go and see for yourself!

 

Old palm tree stumps make good potential nesting sites for Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

 

Many of the palm trees in the wetlands were in use as nesting platforms by Great Blue Herons. This parent was very attentive to its chick and when Junior raised his head for a better look at this grand-paparazzo, Mama placed a foot on his head and gently persuaded him to keep a lower profile.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron - Juvenile

Great Blue Heron – Juvenile

 

Great Blue Heron - Juvenile

Great Blue Heron – Juvenile

 

Nest building and decoration were the order of the day. Here, an Anhinga moves a newly harvested green twig for better Feng shui. Below, four young Anhinga juveniles impatiently await someone to bring fish for breakfast. (Did you know young Anhinga were almost all white?)

Anhinga

Anhinga

Anhinga

Anhinga

 

For me, Least Bitterns are usually heard but seldom seen. I felt fortunate to actually spot three different individuals today.

Least Bittern

Least Bittern

 

Least Bittern

Least Bittern

Least Bittern

Least Bittern

 

A Great Blue Heron is called a wading bird for a reason. This one didn’t get the memo and attempts to swim after a meal. He soon realized those long legs weren’t long enough and when he regained solid footing took off for the shallow end of the pool.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

 

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

 

Pacing like an expectant father in a maternity ward, a Crested Caracara waits for a Softshell Turtle to finish laying eggs. The turtle nest was adjacent to the road and passing traffic flushed the hungry Caracara. We don’t know if he returned. (This bird has appeared in our blog previously. See: East Coast Adventure and Crested Caracara – An Update. We found out this guy was originally banded/ringed here at Viera Wetlands on October 16, 2006 and was estimated to be two years old at that time. He’s still here which underscores one of the traits of this species which is being very site faithful.)

Crested Caracara, Softshell Turtle

Crested Caracara, Softshell Turtle

 

Only seen here during migration, a Savannah Sparrow forages for seeds and insects.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

 

Yes, it’s one more picture of an American Alligator. This one shows off the results of excellent dental hygiene.

American Alligator

American Alligator

 

At Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area, we found Ying and Yang the twin turtles (Florida Peninsula Cooter).

Florida Peninsula Cooter (Pseudemys floridana peninsularis)

Florida Peninsula Cooter (Pseudemys floridana peninsularis)

 

As we drove toward the Indian River along a very dusty dirt road, it seemed every few feet displayed a different type flower. In a wet section shaded by oak and bay trees was a large section of Lizard’s Tail.

Lizard's Tail (Saururus cernuus)

Lizard’s Tail (Saururus cernuus)

 

In a more prairie-like area we found the showy Largeflower Rosegentian.

Largeflower Rosegentian (Sabatia grandiflora)

Largeflower Rosegentian (Sabatia grandiflora)

 

Near the ground peeking out from leaves of larger plants was the very small but bright Narrowleaf Blue-eyed Grass.

Narrowleaf Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium)

Narrowleaf Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium)

 

Eastern False Dragonhead is also known as Obedient Flower, due to the fact a flower can be turned to face a different direction and it will stay there instead of returning to its original position.

Eastern False Dragonhead (Physostegia purpurea)

Eastern False Dragonhead (Physostegia purpurea)

 

Almost anywhere there was standing water we saw the beautiful Prairie Iris, also called Dixie Iris.

Prairie Iris (Iris hexagona)

Prairie Iris (Iris hexagona)

 

In water that was shallow and not moving, a blanket of yellow signified the presence of carnivorous Bladderwort. The damselfly on this bloom is probably too large to worry about being devoured.

Damselfly On Floating Bladderwort

Damselfly On Floating Bladderwort

 

We had a fantastic day with birds, babies and blooms and we didn’t even have to get out of the car. Don’t be afraid to explore your local drive-thru nature center and maybe order up a Crested Cararcara with a side of Least Bittern!

 

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

 

Additional Information

Viera Wetlands

Tosohatchee WMA

 

Linking to Stewart’s “Wild Bird Wednesday”.  See more birds from around the world at Paying ReadyAttention for

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildflowers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

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