Posts Tagged With: gray squirrel

“Not Much To See In This Park”

Marsh Wrens are small. About 4-5 inches long (10-14 cm). Their brown, black and white plumage helps them hide perfectly among the reeds and rushes of a wetland. I love their pugnacious attitude, typical of the wrens. In our area, we only get to enjoy them during migration and I find it a challenge to produce a decent photograph of the little beauties. So I was happy that Gini spotted one and even happier as it flew to the base of an Alligator Lily less than 50 feet away. I could see the stems of the plant moving as the wren moved around nabbing insects non-stop. Double-checked the camera settings, focused on the moving stems – now, if she’ll just hop up a little bit …

I heard the crunching gravel as he pulled the car to my side of the road. He approached to within a few feet of where I stood (camera poised), got out, closed the car door – the pretty Marsh Wren flew to Argentina – “Hey! How’s it going?”

Gini says I was rude. I think she was being sarcastic but she isn’t familiar with that mode of expression so I’m not sure. The camera with that big lens was getting heavy anyhow so I was relieved to be able to finally drop it to my side. (See? Subtle sarcasm. It’s a gift.) “What a beautiful day”, I offered in what I thought was a pleasant chamber-of-commerce tone.

“Yessir, a nice day. But there’s not much to see in this park,” said the stranger. This, I think, is where my bride might have construed rudeness on my part, but, honestly, I was just attempting (admittedly, with difficulty) to be civil. “It depends on what you’re looking for”, I suggested. “Oh, I’m just here for the deer. But not many around. Only saw a few a long way off.”

“Well, good luck to you”. As we drove away, the clueless gentleman peered intently into the weeds trying to fathom what I might have seen in there, his camera at the ready in case, no doubt, a deer should suddenly spring from the muck.

Despite this brief encounter, our day was filled with enjoyment. Bright blue skies, clear air, cool temperatures and an amazing amount of nature activity. Flocks of dozens of American Goldfinch were feeding in the fields and a few Pine Warblers were mixed in with them. Killdeer and Common Ground Dove greeted us at the entrance gate. Red-shouldered Hawks and an American Kestrel performed sentry duty along the park road. Wintering Savannah and Chipping Sparrows hopped through areas of short grass rounding up herds of bugs. Blue-headed Vireos, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers scoured tree limbs and the underside of leaves for juicy morsels. Wading birds, woodpeckers, soaring vultures – sights and sounds to delight anyone who loves the natural world.

We even had cameo appearances of turtles, snakes, lizards, frogs, bugs, hairy things and (shhh – don’t say anything to “you-know-who”) — d-e-e-r!

Today’s excursion was to a familiar spot not far from the house, Colt Creek State Park. We keep finding new areas to explore within the park.

It was the kind of day that as we drove past the ranger station and headed home we both exhaled deeply and in unison. This. This is why we keep coming back.

 

A few images can’t do justice to what we experienced, but we’ll include them just the same. No, there is no photograph of a Marsh Wren anywhere to be found here. How rude of you to even ask.

 

A Red-shouldered Hawk spotted movement at the base of his perch tree. Evidently, it wasn’t something he wanted as he resumed staring at me urging me to be on my way.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Just past the entrance gate, a Killdeer darted through the weeds snapping up anything that moved.

Colt Creek State Park

 

At the edge of a swampy area, a Gray Squirrel found a cypress knee makes a nice dry spot to munch a mushroom.

Colt Creek State Park

 

The frilly white flowers of this bush identify it as a Groundsel Tree (Baccharis halimifolia). A pretty spot for a pretty Palm Warbler to perch.

Colt Creek State Park

 

It was a chilly morning (for Florida) and a little Blue-gray Gnatcatcher fluffed his feathers to the maximum in an effort to increase insulation.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Ruby-crowned Kinglets were very active throughout the park. They seem to never stand still. Another species we only see in winter.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Yet another migratory visitor, the Eastern Phoebe had just dove into the weeds, caught a beetle and swallowed it before I could raise the camera. A seed on his bill was all that remained of his snack.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Why did the caterpillar cross the road? To have his photograph taken, of course! I think this fellow is a Salt Marsh Caterpillar (Estigmene acrea) ?? Any help would be appreciated.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Let’s just agree to call the Turkey Vulture’s appearance “unique”. Whatever you think of his looks, they are an impressive bird and I, for one, appreciate the valuable cleanup service they provide.

Colt Creek State Park

 

In addition to the park’s namesake, Colt Creek, another small waterway, Gator Creek, flows through the park. I thought this rock was a nice metaphor for life. Like the swiftly flowing water, life speeds around us on all sides but Gini is my rock. Together, we are immovable.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Even MORE winter visitors! American Robins, North America’s largest thrush, seemed to be everywhere in some areas. In the trees and all over the ground. Active, noisy, beautiful.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Cold-blooded creatures find a warm spot when the weather turns cool. This gorgeous Bluestripe Garter snake wasn’t about to give up her place in the sun for some guy flailing on the ground a few feet away.

Colt Creek State Park

 

As the sun continued to warm the air, insects became active. Hungry birds were ready. A Savannah Sparrow stopped just long enough to give me a quick glance before scurrying after little hopping things in the weeds.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Sometimes, karma slaps me in the head. My sarcastic nature (shocking, I know!) is often answered with some of the same. I think that’s what happened here. After my encounter with the visitor who “just came for the deer”, I almost couldn’t NOT see deer the rest of the day. Gini and I had a quiet lunch in the car watching birds hopping about in oak trees. As I got out of the car, six deer were in a clearing behind us calmly munching their own lunch. Later, a doe gazed at me from behind a thick curtain of sedge grass. I could make out two fawns beside her. Later still, a young buck with new spike antlers skulked at the edge of the woods, wary of what kind of threat I might present.

Yes, I am convinced God has a sense of humor. In my case, it is often wrapped lovingly with a healthy dose of sarcasm.

Colt Creek State Park

Colt Creek State Park

 

Even if you go “just for the deer”, try to observe all of Nature’s wonders that surround us all each day. Gini would say “it’s just common sense” that the more we look – the more we see. It’s my harsh task to remind her that “common sense”, alas, just is not all that “common”.

 

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

 

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

Last night (1/20), we were treated to a total lunar eclipse. Just for you, I took a picture.

Yard

 

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Babies, Birds, Bugs

Our central Florida summer has provided flashes of childhood memories. Hot with regularly scheduled thunderstorms every day. As a kid, handling the heat was an easy task. Simply run around in the rain to keep cool. A drainage ditch full of water was even better! If there was a day with no rain, simply turn on the garden hose and make your own rain. Life was so much simpler when we had to manufacture our own entertainment.

Thank goodness I have matured. With daily temperatures reaching the high 90 degree (F) mark and thunder, lightning and heavy rain occurring by noon every day, I do what any sensible nature-loving adult would do. I take a plastic bag to keep my binoculars and camera dry!

I’ve been trying to become more like a “real” birder is supposed to be and have discovered I am apparently obligated to declare a local birding venue as “My Patch”. Research indicates I’m not actually supposed to go out and purchase “My Patch”, which therefore means it isn’t really my “My Patch”. Instead, “My Patch” is a place I go regularly to scratch that interminable itch caused from being infected with the “birding” virus.

The place nearest the front door to which we travel with some sort of regularity is the municipal park at Lake Parker. The city of Lakeland, Florida does a good job of maintaining this area and it provides a decent oasis for resident as well as migratory birds. Visiting on a weekend or holiday can be hazardous to one’s health due to the overwhelming crowds, but an early weekday morning can be very pleasant. As it was recently.

Many birds are very busy raising new families and, just like the rest of us, are discovering the joy of incessantly screaming babies demanding to be fed. As the adult wanders off to find food, junior discovers his feet can be used to go places, which is how the game “Hide-and-Seek” was invented. When Mama returns with food and finds the baby gone much hysteria ensues. There follows long lectures about the many evils lurking in the big bad world. Parenting is fun.

Herewith are a few images from a morning at “My Patch”.

 

Camouflage is not the strong suit of the Roseate Spoonbill. They are sort of pretty, though. The unusual shape of that bill helps filter nutrients as the bird swings it back and forth through the water.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

 

A Halloween Pennant is hard to miss with its bright orange color and striped wings.

Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina)

Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina)

 

This dragonfly was intent on following me along the lake shore. He would fly a few feet toward the lake, circle back and position himself right in front of my face. The Prince Baskettail is very aggressive about protecting “His Patch”!

Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps)

Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps)

 

One of those babies mentioned earlier has discovered those huge feet will take him all sorts of places! Hopefully, the young Common Gallinule will soon discover how handy those wings can be in the event of alligators, snakes and hawks. Mother will be along soon to explain it all.

Common Gallinule (Juvenile)

Common Gallinule (Juvenile)

 

Speaking of Mother. This Limpkin is hunting for an Apple Snail breakfast. Once secured, she patiently shows her youngster how to remove the operculum with that handy scissor-like bill which will allow the tasty meat to be extracted. As with kids everywhere, most of the instruction is forgotten once the morsel of escargot appears. “Do it again, Mom!”

Limpkin

Limpkin

Limpkin

Limpkin

 

More Mothers. The adult Purple Gallinule strains to see where Junior has gotten to. Ah, there he is, under a lily snatching bugs. Good for him! He’s learning!

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule (Juvenile)

Purple Gallinule (Juvenile)

 

The female Four-spotted Pennant has very subtle “spots” on her wings as opposed to the male which is a very dark dragonfly with distinct wing markings.

Four-spotted Pennant - Female/Immature (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant – Female/Immature (Brachymesia gravida)

 

This immature male Eastern Pondhawk started his adult life a bright green just like an adult female. Gradually, the green gives way to the powdery blue signifying a male.

Eastern Pondhawk - Male (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Eastern Pondhawk – Male (Erythemis simplicicollis)

 

Characteristic wing bars and shiny dark face identify this large dragonfly as a Bar-winged Skimmer.

Bar-winged Skimmer (Libellula axilena)

Bar-winged Skimmer (Libellula axilena)

 

Patience is a virtue. Just ask this Great Egret. After waiting and waiting and waiting…..he suddenly struck the water so fast one couldn’t follow the movement. His reward was a nice juicy tadpole.

Great Egret

Great Egret

Great Egret With Tadpole

Great Egret With Tadpole

 

Many of Florida’s water birds are similar in appearance. This all white bird is actually an immature Little Blue Heron. They remain white until their first spring and then begin to show some of the slate blue colors of an adult. A bill that appears to be two-toned, all yellowish legs and dusky wingtips help to distinguish this species from the Snowy Egret. All of the above plus size separate it from the larger all white Great Egret, also pictured below.

Little Blue Heron (Immature)

Little Blue Heron (Immature)

Great Egret

Great Egret

 

The Tricolored Heron is usually no problem to identify. It has gray-blue plumage overall above, a sort of purplish chest, a white stripe under its long neck and white underparts. It is the only dark heron in North America with light underparts.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

 

There were very few mammals active during this visit and the reason why was discovered when I spotted this Gray Squirrel on a coffee break.

Gray Squirrel

Gray Squirrel

 

 

It’s hot, it’s humid, it’s rainy. What else could you possibly be doing? Go find “Your Patch” and see how many birds, babies and bugs are waiting for you!

 

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

 

Additional Resources

Lake Parker Park

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

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