Posts Tagged With: forster’s tern

Reclamation Exclamation

I never learned to curse properly. Even today I can’t seem to exhale expletives as smoothly as most five-year olds. If an inappropriate utterance does happen to escape my lips it seems to hang in the air while my sweet Gini’s mouth gradually opens wider and wider and her coffee-with-cream brown eyes become twice their normal size under eyebrows which are arching toward the sky. I blame my parents. I don’t recall them ever cussing. Plenty of my peers were expert in the art of foul-mouthed oratory. A military career exposed me daily to an entire sub-language of obscenity I never knew existed. Oh well. I may be too far gone to learn new habits at this point so I’ll just continue to struggle along living with the shame of remaining verbally deficient.

“Look at that crane!” Gini said she couldn’t see it. “How can you miss THAT??” She still didn’t spot it. Then it dawned on me she thought I meant one of our Florida Sandhill Cranes. “The walking crane.” Oh, she said, obviously disappointed. The “walking crane” is a common sight in west central Florida where phosphate mining is common. These behemoths are so large they can’t move easily from one spot to another as they are too heavy to be mounted on wheels or a track system like other cranes. They use a unique cam system which raises the whole crane up and moves it slightly forward on specially designed “feet”. It won’t win any speed contests. Most folks who love nature despise the idea of phosphate mining on several different levels, not the least of which is the destruction of native habitat for profit. It’s easy to hate big, faceless corporations who strip our land of its resources for nothing more than unabashed greed.

Gosh, I wish I knew how to curse.

On the other hand…..

Without the fertilizer which comes from the phosphate mined here, many areas of our planet would experience famine. Without the jobs created by the phosphate industry in Florida, many families would be destitute and have to rely on government support to survive. I’m not defending big business, but there are many sides to issues which may at first glance seem all negative. I grew up in this area and mining was a part of the landscape. As an ignorant teenager (yeah, I know, redundant term), I enjoyed many hours of really productive fishing in reclaimed phosphate pits. Today, we still enjoy great fishing and now some of our best birding occurs in areas which were mined and have been restored by the big, bad corporate cabals.

One such reclaimed mining area has become a favorite destination. Hardee Lakes Park near Bowling Green, Florida. It’s only an hour’s drive from the house and offers four lakes and 1150 acres of hardwood forest, swamp and pine woods. The park has recently been renovated to include an improved camping area with modern showers and it is now open every day of the week beginning at 0700. Our recent visit produced 52 species of birds. The four lakes are all former phosphate pits which means they are deep and have almost no shallow water near the shoreline. Accordingly, there are not many wading or shore birds found here. Most of Florida’s natural lakes are like shallow bowls, gradually declining to maximum depths of only four to eight feet. Phosphate pits may be 20-40 feet deep or deeper. During the day we saw over two dozen White-tailed Deer, Sherman’s Fox Squirrel (a species of special concern), Gopher Tortoises, a few migratory warblers, four Black Terns (first time we’ve seen them here), Northern Bobwhite sneaking through the forest and we heard calling Barred Owls. We enjoyed lunch at one of the picnic tables on the shore of a lake and reluctantly headed home after a very relaxing morning. In over five hours in the park, we encountered exactly one (1) other human being, a park ranger. Our kind of park.

 

We saw quite a few White-tailed Deer in the park today. These deer can become almost tame in parks which have a lot of campers who mistakenly think they’re “helping” deer by feeding them (usually marshmallows and cookies). These deer were quite wary and wild.

An alert buck.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

 

A watchful doe.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

 

A carefree fawn.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

 

Although I mentioned not many shorebirds due to no shallow water, this Spotted Sandpiper enjoyed hunting for breakfast along an artificial “beach”.

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

 

The four lakes offer good fishing for humans but the birds have discovered it’s productive for them, too. Forster’s Terns are already in their non-breeding plumage. We were surprised to find four Black Terns this morning. They’re not rare in this area, but neither are they common.

Forster's Tern

Forster’s Tern

Black Tern

Black Tern

 

On a boardwalk through a hardwood swamp area, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was busy chasing insects. He picked up a piece of grass, contorted his body to get a better look at me and flew to the safety of a tree to ponder if I was a threat.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

 

This Red-shouldered Hawk loudly objected to my presence. She must have been about to capture a meal when I came around a bend in the path because she remained on her perch instead of flying away.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

 

Mr. and Mrs. Northern Bobwhite scurry across the path. These birds are normally in more grassy areas but may have been headed to the lake for a drink/bath.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

 

Along the lake shores, American Lotus were in bloom providing a nice splash of color. The spent seed pods are sought after by florists to include in arrangements. Almost all parts of the plant are edible and were used extensively in Native American dishes.

American Lotus

American Lotus

American Lotus

American Lotus

 

The male Eastern Pondhawk is powdery blue when mature. Immature males are green and resemble the adult female.

Eastern Pondhawk - Male (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Eastern Pondhawk – Male (Erythemis simplicicollis)

 

Female Four-spotted Pennants are more brown and have more subtle wing spots than the dark males.

Four-spotted Pennant - Female  (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant – Female (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant - Male  (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant – Male (Brachymesia gravida)

 

On the way home, we counted 13 Wild Turkeys in one flock on the south side of the road and less than a quarter mile later we spotted a group of 14 on the north side of the road. And we’re pretty sure they were talking about us……

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

 

There may be plenty to curse about in our world, but perhaps in our exploration of Nature we can reclaim our ability to exclaim how wonderful it can be!

 

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

 

Additional Information:

Hardee Lakes Park

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

Report From The Patch

Grandma Jones was an evil woman. Standing barely five feet tall she looked quite harmless, especially when standing alongside Grandpa who was well over six feet in height. Together, they resembled Grant Wood’s painting, “American Gothic”, only she was much smaller than her female counterpart. Of course, I don’t believe she had an actual mean bone within her diminutive frame, but when I was a kid, I would have sworn otherwise. My Dad worked as a carpenter in Miami when he and Mother started a family. He was raised on a farm north of Pensacola in Florida’s panhandle where, along with nine brothers and sisters, he learned the value of hard work. We always looked forward to visiting our grandparents’ farm because we knew there would be adventure galore.

City kids. We were ripe for learning many lessons.

Banty chickens (Bantam) roosted in various spots around the farm. Grandpa had built them a nice shelter which they never set claw into. They preferred to roost in trees and lay eggs on the porch, by the old syrup press, on feed sacks or in the seat of Grandpa’s tractor. “Go gather as many eggs as you can find”, Grandma said, giving hints on where to search. Oh, boy! An egg hunt! What fun! If you are not familiar with the breed, let’s just say Banty chickens can be, uhhh, “aggressive”. The roosters have wicked spurs on their legs and I carried a wicked scar on my ankle for years after gathering eggs for Grandma. “Take this sandwich to Grandpa”, Grandma said, directing me to the watermelon field and advising the best route was through the pasture just outside the kitchen door. Oh, boy! Fresh watermelon was sure to be my reward! A very large, very fast red bull taught me the key to winning future track contests was pure speed. Another scar was added to my early collection of wounds. This time on my back as I dove through the barbed wire fence to reach safety. “Let’s go to the okra patch”, said the little woman in the witch’s hat riding a straw broom. I was on to her game. “I think I hear Mother calling me”, I quickly responded. “I’ll go help you pick a basket full for supper”. The witch morphed back into the small woman in a gingham apron with a kindly face. We carried a basket and she showed me how to use a sharp knife to cut the pods from the stalks and how to pick the best looking okra. I was so proud to be able to contribute to the night’s meal. My wonderful Grandmother even praised my okra picking skill at the supper table for all to hear. Maybe I had been wrong about her. It’s the little details we sometimes don’t notice until too late. For instance, I never noticed my sweet Grandma was wearing a long-sleeved shirt and cotton gloves as we gathered okra. If you’ve never picked okra, you may not be aware the plants are covered with hairy stems which can cause a little irritation when it contacts human skin. My inflamed red arms burned and itched for days despite frequent applications of calamine lotion. Suspicion confirmed. That little woman was to be avoided at all costs! On the other hand, she did keep me supplied with warm biscuits stuffed with fresh pear preserves ….

Speaking of okra patches, I visited my birding patch recently in the hope of discovering hundreds of exotic migratory species stopping to rest on their journey northward. Once again, I didn’t find what I was looking for but was totally satisfied with what I did find. One definition of patch: “a small piece, part, or section, especially that which differs from or contrasts with the whole.”

That pretty well sums up Lake Parker Park, a fairly typical urban park on the shore of a lake and with lots of picnic shelters, jogging paths, tennis courts, soccer fields, a boat ramp and (“that which differs”) – a whole bunch of birds. I take it for granted (again) that I’ll see 40 or 50 species every time I visit and have yet to be disappointed. On this day, nothing really unusual was sighted but it was a day full of color. From the orange of the sky at sunrise, to the whites, yellows, pinks, grays, browns and reds of the birds, it was a totally enjoyable and relaxing morning. Wish you had been there.

Some images of the day are on the way.

 

Rising above the surface of the lake, a Forster’s Tern and the Sun greet me when I first arrive.

Forster's Tern

Forster’s Tern

 

Reflections of the sunrise bounce off the water to light the underside of a Royal Tern.

Royal Tern

Royal Tern

 

The pale eye of a Ring-billed Gull may not quite be ready for the intensity of the morning sun.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

 

Fish. It’s what’s for breakfast. For Ospreys.

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

 

One migrant enjoyed the insect bounty of the park. A Prairie Warbler all dressed in his bright yellow suit was hard to miss.

Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler

 

Commuter traffic was heavy along the canal as a White Ibis passes a Roseate Spoonbill gathering his breakfast in the fast food wade-thru lane.

Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis

Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis

 

Breeding plumage for a Roseate Spoonbill is a wonderful blend of subtle and outrageous colors.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

 

A little preening is in order before this Mourning Dove is completely ready to face her day.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

 

It’s not too early for mister Northern Cardinal to greet the day with song!

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

 

Pine Warblers breed in Florida, but we also see many during migration. I don’t know if this one is a resident or a visitor. I also don’t know if he was picking out seeds or bugs from this pod.

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

 

Tanning buddies. For now. Once the alligator is a bit older, he may recognize that sliders can be tasty. There are many who might encourage this behavior as Red-eared Sliders are not native to Florida but have multiplied in the wild due to the pet industry.

American Alligator, Red-eared Slider

American Alligator, Red-eared Slider

 

An immature Bald Eagle cruises over the lake hoping to spot a fish near the surface for an easy brunch.

Bald Eagle - Immature

Bald Eagle – Immature

 

Well, I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for but was extremely satisfied with what I did find. If you visit your own patch, we wish you success but try to be happy with whatever you’re offered. And if you happen to be visiting an okra patch – wear long sleeves and gloves!

 

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

 

See more birds at:   Paying Ready Attention   (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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