Posts Tagged With: firewheel

Making A List, Checking It Twice

At this time of year, many of us have a full plate of activities on the tables of our lives.  For us, everything revolves around family.  Although our children now have children of their own, we worry about how they’re doing and experience more than our fair share of angst over not being with them all at this wonderful time of year.  (Okay, we have angst about that all year long!)  There is baking, shopping, wrapping, mailing, decorating and a myriad of other chores which must be done.  Accordingly, when I received a call to visit a newly opened conservation area to check out the birding potential, I responded maturely and appropriately.  “What time?”

The new area is just southeast of Orlando near the town of Kissimmee.  It’s called Twin Oaks Conservation Area and is located on Macy Island Road on the northeast side of Lake Tohopekaliga.  It’s a very pretty area with picnic pavilions, fishing pier, separate observation pier, hiking trail, equestrian trail and modern restrooms.  Its position on the lake is a spot known as Goblet’s Cove which provides a fairly large protected area inviting to waterfowl.  The park consists of just under 400 acres and offers a large grassland area, lake and lakefront, wetlands and a stand of hardwood trees.

We spent a couple of hours here and without too much effort tallied 50 species of birds.  On the lake were Blue-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Pied-billed Grebe and an estimated 3500 American Coot.  Sandhill Cranes were trumpeting almost non-stop from before sunrise until we left almost three hours later.  Savannah Sparrows were abundant in the tall grass where we also found Swamp Sparrows, House Wrens, Sedge Wrens and Eastern Meadowlarks.  With all the open water and grassland, raptors were prevalent and included two endangered Snail Kites, four Bald Eagles, two migratory Northern Harriers, American Kestrels, a Red-shouldered Hawk and a Cooper’s Hawk.  Limpkins were active along the shoreline trying to get to the large Apple Snails before the Snail Kites found them.  In the oak trees we found warblers and vireos.  It was a pleasant place and we’ll be returning soon.

On the way home, we stopped briefly at several small parks and found interesting birds and wildlife at each place.  I’ve added a link to some of the spots we visited below under “Additional Information“.

The following images will give you a small idea of our exploration.

 

Sunrises are always special and this one was no exception.  A light fog hugged the ground as Sandhill Cranes began moving from their nightly roosts to the grasslands to feed, trumpeting loudly along the way.

Sunrise

Sunrise

 

Goblet’s Cove and the fishing pier, complete with fishermen!  All of that grass was full of sparrows.

Goblet's Cove

Goblet’s Cove

 

I’ve been working on getting decent images of sparrows but have not yet been successful.  In the meantime, this Swamp Sparrow shows his distinctive dark back streaks before disappearing into the thick grass.

Swamp Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

 

A trio of Sandhill Cranes head to where the bugs are, “talking” to each other during the commute.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

 

These Savannah Sparrows posed briefly before doing that disappearing trick thing.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

 

I apologize for such a poor image, but this Blue-headed Vireo was a life bird for me.  Yes, it’s also on my list of “get a good picture” birds.

Blue-headed Vireo

Blue-headed Vireo

 

Indian Blanket, Firewheel, Gaillardia.  Call them anything you like.  They’re simply beautiful.

Indian Blanket or Firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella)

Indian Blanket or Firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella)

 

Bumble Bees sounded like small airplanes as they buzzed among the flowers of the grassland.

Bumble Bee (Bombus sp.)

Bumble Bee (Bombus sp.)

 

Although common in our area, the Red-bellied Woodpecker is a handsome bird and very efficient at gathering insects.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

 

Two spiders of the orb weaver family which specialize in entangling unsuspecting hikers in sticky webs.  They love to string their artful creations across paths and are very successful at trapping a large number of insects during the night.  The Golden Silk spider is the larger member of this family but the Arrowshaped Orbweaver, although much smaller, is no slouch when it comes to coloration.

Golden Silk Spider (Nephila clavipes)

Golden Silk Spider (Nephila clavipes)

Arrowshaped Orbweaver (Micrathena sagittata)

Arrowshaped Orbweaver (Micrathena sagittata)

 

The invasive Eurasian Collared-Dove is as beautiful as it is prolific.  This species was introduced in the Bahamas in the 1970’s when a few birds escaped a pet shop during a burglary.  A few other birds were released on the island of Guadeloupe due to an impending volcanic eruption.  Some of the above birds made it to Florida in the 1980’s and the species has now colonized in most of North America.

Eurasian Collared Dove

Eurasian Collared Dove

 

Stink bugs thrive in most parts of the world.  I think this one is a Rough Stink Bug but would appreciate a correct identification.

Rough Stink Bug (Brochymena sp.) - ?

Rough Stink Bug (Brochymena sp.) – ?

 

A Black-and-White Warbler enjoys a bug of his own.

Black and White Warbler

Black and White Warbler

 

This lime-green larva is that of a Pine Sawfly (not certain of the exact species).  Although it resembles a caterpillar, it’s actually a member of the same order to which ants, bees and wasps belong (Hymenoptera).  The adult resembles a wasp but doesn’t have the narrow abdomen.  These insects can do a lot of damage to pine trees.

Pine Sawfly (Neodiprion) - (?)

Pine Sawfly (Neodiprion) – (?)

 

Yes, yet another photograph of an alligator.  (YOU try saying no to one!)

American Alligator

American Alligator

 

This five-foot beauty is a Florida Banded Water Snake.  They are not venomous but can give you pause when you step over a log and one scoots between your boots.

Florida Banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris)

Florida Banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris)

 

Orchids are among the most showy of flowers on the planet.  Most orchids, that is.  This subtly colored species is a Florida native and is found on the floor of pine forests.  They produce an odor at night which is very attractive to moths, thus increasing the odds of successful pollination.

Toothpetal False Rein Orchid (Habenaria floribunda)

Toothpetal False Rein Orchid (Habenaria floribunda)

 

A Poem –

It can be nice to wander and roam,

It’s nicer still, to be back home.

I have my list of chores and I’m checking it twice;

If all was done it sure would be nice.

When the holiday pressure starts to get you down,

Grab your bird book and get out of town!

 

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

 

Additional Information

Twin Oaks Conservation Area

Lakefront and Brinson Parks (This link is for fishing enthusiasts but provides good information and a map.  Birding can be very good all along this area and is sometimes a good place from which to observe endangered Snail Kites feeding.)

Osceola County Schools Environmental Study Center

Reedy Creek Management Area

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Wildflowers, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Morning Meandering

Seven years.  This period of time seems to have some significance.  Break a mirror – seven years of bad luck will follow.  The first acknowledged “global war” took place primarily in Canada and the northern American (British) colonies and lasted seven years.  The Bible relates the story of seven years of famine in Egypt and predicts that seven years of tribulation will precede the end times.  Marriages are supposed to experience a “seven year itch” and some folks run off to seek scratching which results in lawyers becoming more prosperous.

It is not all bad news.  I can name at least four marriages (including my own) which experienced no itching or subsequent need for scratching.  I personally broke a mirror in high school and was rewarded with moving next door to a girl I eventually married (over 45 years ago).  Periods of global peace have lasted much longer than seven years.  The Bible is full of stories about very long periods of joy and happiness.

More good news!  Seven years ago this month, Florida opened its 160th State Park!

Colt Creek State Park in Polk County has, over the years, been a cattle ranch, commercial pine tree forest, hunting preserve and was briefly used to mine lime rock.  This land was purchased by the state due primarily to its importance within the floodplain of the nearby Green Swamp region.  Water flowing from the park makes its way to four of Florida’s major rivers including the Withlacoochee, Hillsborough, Peace and Ocklawaha.

There are over 12 miles (19.3 km) of trails within the park from which one can enjoy pine flatwoods, cypress domes (see “Additional Resources”), open pastures and bottomland forests.  In a recent year-long survey, 150 species of birds and 79 butterfly species were observed.  Mammals within the park include white-tailed deer, bobcat, river otter and Sherman’s fox squirrel.  Fishing is possible and canoes and kayaks are available.  The park has plenty of picnic tables and grills while a large screened pavilion could host over 100 people.  There is access to primitive campsites for those who want to backpack into the park’s more remote sections.

I visited the park early one morning this week and enjoyed a very quiet walk in the forest, a rest by the lake and an exciting wildlife encounter.  It was very windy throughout the morning and not many butterflies were about.  I think that may have affected the bird activity also as I didn’t see a lot of variety today.  It’s a beautiful park, well maintained and (maybe it’s best feature) very close to the house.  I shall return.

Hope you enjoy a bit of the sights as much as I did.

Entrance

Entrance

The largest of the lakes (which is actually quite small) in the park, Mac Lake, has a pier for easy fishing and small boats are permitted (no gasoline engines).  It’s a scenic lake and was quite tranquil at the start of the day.

Mac Lake

Mac Lake

Pickerelweed is pretty common throughout the state anywhere it can find a wet place to grow.

Pickerelweed

Pickerelweed

I surprised a pair of juvenile White Ibises on the path near the lake.  They will molt into the distinctive all white plumage early in their second year.

White Ibis (immature)

White Ibis (immature)

The sound of the wind blowing through the tops of tall pine trees made for a very pleasant walk through the woods.  Fresh pine scent all around me didn’t hurt, either!

Pine Forest

Pine Forest

A Blackeyed Susan brightened up the hike.

Blackeyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Blackeyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

You’re never really alone in a forest.  This Red-shouldered Hawk kept a wary eye on me.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Butterweed was blooming in profusion along the edges of the fields.

Butterweed (Packera glabella)

Butterweed
(Packera glabella)

Two types of thistle are common within our county.  This one is the less prickly, Nuttall’s Thistle.

Nuttall's Thistle (Cirsium nuttalli)

Nuttall’s Thistle (Cirsium nuttalli)

A Sandhill Crane was busy feeding in a small pool and didn’t notice me right away.  A second crane soon appeared but I didn’t see any chicks (most pairs currently have young).

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

The surrounding bottomland is full of beautiful trees which offer shelter for all sorts of life.

Hardwoods

Hardwoods

Mushrooms abound in the area.  I have not attempted to identify any of them.

Fungus

Fungus

This common member of the Gaillardia family is called Firewheel.

Firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella)

Firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella)

I think this may be a member of the Skullcap (Scutellaria) family but I’m not sure.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Skullcap (sp.?)

Skullcap (sp.?)

The Mexican Pricklypoppy provides a sunshine burst of yellow.  Be careful if you get too close, though!

Mexican Poppy (Argemone mexicana)

Mexican Poppy (Argemone mexicana)

While I was taking a rest and water break, a Bald Eagle appeared overhead.  He was apparently hoping to enjoy a morning of quiet fishing.  It was not to be.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

A Red-shouldered Hawk flew in to voice an objection to a violation of his air space.

Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk

Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk

The eagle ignored him and the hawk retreated.  He was soon replaced with a more aggressive raptor.

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

The kite harassed the eagle for several minutes, displaying his versatile aerobatic technique.

Bald Eagle, Swallow-tailed Kite

Bald Eagle, Swallow-tailed Kite

Bald Eagle, Swallow-tailed Kite

Bald Eagle, Swallow-tailed Kite

Bald Eagle, Swallow-tailed Kite

Bald Eagle, Swallow-tailed Kite

Soon, the eagle performed a barrel-role and flew upside down under the kite, no doubt to emphasize his talons were MUCH larger than the kite’s!  The kite disappeared.

Bald Eagle, Swallow-tailed Kite

Bald Eagle, Swallow-tailed Kite

A scream from the eagle advertised for all to hear that he was claiming this piece of air this morning.  He wasn’t bothered again.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

So, Colt Creek State Park has weathered seven years without bad luck, wars, plagues or lawyers.  We hope it survives for a very long time.

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

Additional Resources

Colt Creek State Park

Cypress Domes

 

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

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