Posts Tagged With: eastern towhee

Swiftly Flow The Days*

Time. We talk about slowing it down. Reversing it, even. Many throughout history have tried to stop it altogether. About 500 years ago, a guy from Spain tromped around not too far from here looking for a spring from which a sip of cool water, it was said, would keep him eternally youthful. (Not a bad yarn to tell your Queen if you need a load of money for men, ships and supplies! “And of course, Your Majesty shall be the only recipient of such a precious gift.“)

I am a time criminal. I waste it profusely. There are important tasks to be performed and I delay beginning them. Perhaps at some point the important tasks will diminish in significance and I won’t have to accomplish them at all. Alas, I was assigned a Time Guardian. She knows my proclivity toward procrastination and will not allow my idleness to interfere with important tasks. Once upon a time, I thought I could disguise my laziness by “appearing” to be busy. That is when I discovered my guardian could read my mind. She can divert my inattention before I even know I am about to delay the start of an important task. It isn’t natural. But it sure is effective.

Fortunately, my Time Guardian is, on occasion, amenable to looking the other way if she thinks my avoidance of an important task might be of a worthy nature. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest she may be an actual accomplice to my crimes against time, but …..

Me:  “Tomorrow the sunrise and moonset times are close to each other and it might present a chance for some interesting photographs at the beach.”

Time Guardian: “There’s some cold chicken in the fridge and we can throw in some fruit. What time do we need to leave?”

The following images are from the past several days and were taken from various places of local interest which we have visited many times. Each represents a trip taken on “the spur of the moment” and each was an avoidance of some important task on my part. I could not have been successful in these endeavors without assistance from a complicit Time Guardian.

 

Sunrise can be the most beautiful part of any day! Or, it can be shrouded in fog where one has to strain to see anything at all. The sun rising over Lake Kissimmee begins to give shape to familiar objects such as the bridge over the river.

Lake Kissimmee

 

Before the woods begin to glow from a rising sun, many creatures enjoy the cover of darkness to carry on their business without being seen. With huge light-gathering eyes and a sort of “radar”, the Eastern Screech Owl can easily locate some of those creatures for breakfast. We had been hearing Whip-poor-wills calling and thought that’s what this was until a flashlight showed our error.

Gator Creek Reserve

 

On a rainy morning in the Lake Marion Wildlife Management Area (east of Haines City), we found several Barred Owls hunting over the upland pine tract. This one didn’t want to leave his perch as we walked underneath.

Huckleberry Island Tract

 

Hillsborough River State Park was established in the mid-1930’s and is one of Florida’s oldest parks. With the rainy season beginning in earnest, the river’s rapids are higher than normal.

Hillsborough River State Park

Hillsborough River State Park

 

It seems no matter where we go, if there are trees and bushes, there are White-eyed Vireos.

Huckleberry Island Tract

 

In between rain showers, dragons are on the hunt. This one is a Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis).

Lake Parker Park

 

It is still spring and many birds are courting, nesting and raising chicks. This pair of Eastern Towhees were likely not pleased at our intrusion.

Huckleberry Island Tract

 

One of our favorite places to stop for a quick look is close to a very busy highway. SUMICA is a French acronym (Societe Universelle Mining Industrie, Commerce et Agriculture) which described a turpentine and sawmill town which existed from about 1917 to 1927. A Loggerhead Shrike welcomed us with song. (Okay, he was more likely singing to a nearby female shrike.)

SUMICA

 

As with the dragons, a few moments of sunshine brings out other insects, such as a bright Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae).

Tenoroc FMA

 

Closer to home, nearby Lake Parker Park is host to a diverse population of birds, especially water birds. I found this cute pair of new Green Herons close to one of the footpaths.

Lake Parker Park

 

Also at Lake Parker Park, a young Limpkin is impatient for Mom to show her how to open a freshwater mussel. Their bills are especially adapted for getting into an apple snail, but the mussels require brute force. Mom used her bill like a hammer until the shell broke open.

Lake Parker Park

 

With our abundance of rain, it hasn’t always been possible to enjoy a sunset. This one was from an area near the house which is a reclaimed phosphate mining area. Saddle Creek Park offers fishing, camping, hiking and some of the county’s best birding, especially during warbler migration. This evening, storm clouds remain, but parted just long enough for a pretty spectacular end to the day.

Saddle Creek Park

 

“Sunrise, sunset

Swiftly fly the years”*

 

Time is an issue for all of us humans. There never seems to be enough of the stuff for us to do what we want. It is important to have a Time Guardian to help us efficiently organize what limited time we have. And if she happens to understand the importance of bending the rules once in awhile, consider yourself lucky. I know I do!

 

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

 

*(From Sunrise, Sunset, written by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick for the musical Fiddler On The Roof.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Can’t See The Forest For The Birds

“This fog sure is dense.” Gini was helping to scan the road ahead for vehicles or animals which might suddenly appear from the mist. I announced that when I saw the weather forecast last night I wasn’t worried about leaving too early as the fog would keep the bird activity down until the sun began to cause the gray blanket to dissipate. Two-and-a-half falsehoods in one sentence. I couldn’t take my eyes from the road, but I’m pretty sure those beautiful brown eyes next to me rolled heavenward.

Our target for today was the Arbuckle Tract of the Lake Wales Ridge State Forest near Frostproof in Polk County. (See Additional Information below.) This section of the state forest consists of a single dead-end dirt road which roughly parallels the western shore of Lake Arbuckle (but you cannot see the lake from this road at any point). Several trails and side roads offer a lot of opportunity for exploring by vehicle, horse or hiking. Portable restrooms are located at the Check Station, where there are also picnic tables under huge shady oak trees. A short drive to Lake Godwin takes you past a wetland area where we found quite a few wading and water birds. The small lake has more picnic tables, a nice pier for fishing from and a loop trail through open pine and palmetto scrub.

Along the forest road, tracks in the damp red dirt told a story of the previous night. White-tailed Deer commuted along the road and then veered into the underbrush to feed. Raccoons are plentiful as every few yards displayed their claw marks crossing the road.  The soft earth revealed the unique three-toed print of a Nine-banded Armadillo. Very small tracks were likely from rodents and abstract curves made by serpents of the night were numerous. Indeed, we saw an Eastern Black Racer cross ahead of us, pausing briefly to raise his head to see us better.

Birds. We seldom traveled more than two minutes without seeing or hearing birds. Harsh rasps of Florida’s endemic Scrub Jays; woodpeckers calling and drumming; chips of Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers; trills of a multitude of Pine Warblers; clear whistles of “drink-your-teeeeeea” as Eastern Towhees called from shrubs throughout the forest; exuberant White-eyed Vireos seemed intent on letting us know spring was on the way; soft burbling voices as a covey of Northern Bobwhite scurried alongside the road; a scream from a Red-shouldered Hawk.

It was a wonderful morning to be in the forest with its fresh pine scent and so much wildlife all around us!

As we left the forest road, instead of heading directly home, we took a short tour down another dead-end road (sensing a pattern?) to find Arbuckle Campground and Park, a county facility. It was badly damaged last year by Hurricane Irma and re-opened a couple of months ago. In addition to camping spots, the park has plenty of picnic tables, restrooms, showers (for campers) and a nice boat ramp. A fishing pier is still under repair. Huge cypress trees, oaks, bay and other “wet feet” species offer terrific cover for birds. We found warblers (including our first Northern Parula of the year), woodpeckers, migrating American Robins and plenty of water birds. We’ll return here soon!

A few images of birds seems appropriate about now.

A group of at least five Northern Bobwhite were along the edge of the road. We could hear them murmuring to each other, soft whistles and gurgles, but couldn’t spot them. This is why Gini gets the big bucks. “They’re right beside the car”, she whispered. I had been searching the underbrush beyond.

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest-Arbuckle Tract

 

Little Downy Woodpeckers are always on the move, probing every part of a tree.

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest-Arbuckle Tract

 

Winter visitors here, Chipping Sparrows like to hang out in groups and love the open pine forest. Their chestnut crown and un-streaked breast help them stand out a bit from all the brown and gray tree branches.

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest-Arbuckle Tract

 

Yellow-throated Warblers breed in our area and usually appear for a moment to see who is under their tree.

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest-Arbuckle Tract

 

Bright, clear whistles rang out on all sides during the morning as Eastern Towhees vied for attention of females. The ladies aren’t as “contrasty” as the male but I think they’re every bit as good-looking.

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest-Arbuckle Tract

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest-Arbuckle Tract

 

Rubber duckies. Squeeze them and they squeak. Thirty feet up in a pine tree, rubber duckies were squeaking at us. The little Brown-headed Nuthatch may not have much of a voice, but they make up for it with a pugnacious attitude! They are quick to challenge anything in their territory, including a clunky-looking two-legged creature stomping around the underbrush.

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest-Arbuckle Tract

 

The warbler which thinks it’s a nuthatch. Black-and-White Warblers probe tree bark while upside down on the trunk, just like a nuthatch.

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest-Arbuckle Tract

 

The forest was full of Pine Warblers. Perhaps they’re gathering in groups preparing to migrate north for the spring. Perhaps there was a sale on bugs. Pine Warblers can range from drab gray to canary yellow. We saw those and every shade in between.

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest-Arbuckle Tract

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest-Arbuckle Tract

 

Prairie Warblers also can vary in plumage just about as much as the Pine. Their facial pattern seems to give them a somewhat sad look. Their brightness and pretty song brings a smile.

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest-Arbuckle Tract

 

During our break for breakfast, we were serenaded by a persistent White-eyed Vireo. He would go from tree branch to bush and back to the tree and just sang his heart out. Simply beautiful!

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest-Arbuckle Tract

 

Our short visit to the nearby campground and boat ramp area provided our first sightings of Northern Parula since the fall. They breed in our area but most of them spend the winter in South and Central America.

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest-Arbuckle Tract

 

A Tricolored Heron flew along the shoreline as we reluctantly headed for home.

Arbuckle Campground and Park

 

Many people are unaware that Florida has a state forest system which provides many opportunities for nature and wildlife observation. Check out the link below for a spot near you.

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

 

Additional Information

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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