Posts Tagged With: great blue heron

Prairie Pause

“We’re not leaving before sunrise?” Gini had those raised eyebrows which signaled “I don’t believe you”. True, it was completely out of character and I had to explain in detail before she thought I might be serious.

The impeccable weatherman-who-is-never-mistaken had forecast a cool front moving in from the northwest and heading southeast across the state. My plan was to travel to the east side of huge Lake Kissimmee, about an hour-and-a-half from the house. For some time, I’ve wanted to capture one of those sunsets over the lake where the sky is “on fire” with reddish-orange-pink-purple high clouds lit from underneath by the sinking sun.

After a leisurely breakfast and a pot of coffee, we packed some cold chicken and fruit and meandered eastward. Okay, that’s not quite true. The first half of the trip required a harrowing adventure on the expressway toward the Empire of Disney and other assorted tourist magnets. The good news is that receiving a citation for driving above the speed limit is not possible along this stretch of road as one is unlikely to move the speedometer above ten miles-per-hour.

Once past the gridlock, we turned south and were soon actually meandering through pasture land owned by the same families for a couple hundred years. Early some mornings, it’s possible to spot the tall white images of rare Whooping Cranes at the distant edges of these fields. Plenty of deer, feral hogs and turkey feed here as well.

Our initial target was the vast Three Lakes and Prairie Lakes Wildlife Management Areas. Together they include over 70,000 acres (+28,000 Ha) of grass prairie, pine and hardwood uplands, freshwater lakes and marshes. The area was one of the last, large open range ranching in the United States and continued until 1949. The state acquired the property in 1974 in order to protect endangered flora and fauna as well as to preserve some of the last vestiges of Florida’s once vast grass prairies.

This is one of our favorite areas in Florida. Quiet, plenty of wildlife and wildflowers, great fishing and (shhhh!) not crowded.

The sky was encouraging! High clouds scudding across the open prairie promised a glorious sunset opportunity! We slowly worked our way through the back roads to time our arrival at the east shore of Lake Kissimmee just before sunset. The only spot for access is a public boat ramp with a private campground and small store. We had time to enjoy our late lunch/early supper and I found a spot to set up and wait for the magic moment.

Clouds. They move when pushed by wind.

About 30 minutes before sunset, the sky was almost clear. Sigh. Oh, well. A sunset at the lake is still special. Next time maybe a few pretty clouds will hang around.

We managed a few images in the afternoon with actual cloudy skies just to prove there HAD been some!

 

Cypress domes are stands of trees growing in a low place which usually stays wet year round.  The depression is lowest near the center of the dome and those trees grow more vigorously than the surrounding ones, thus creating the “dome” shape.

Three Lakes WMA

 

A large Bald Eagle’s nest has adorned this pine tree for years and has seen the birth of many new eagles. I don’t know if the nest has been used this year. It appeared unoccupied.

Three Lakes WMA

 

Gini called this a “cow tree” due to the pattern left from a fire. The texture of the burned outer bark and smooth inner bark was fascinating.

Three Lakes WMA

Three Lakes WMA

 

Wildlife activity began to increase as daylight began to decrease. A Great Blue Heron stalked a frog in the grass near the shore of Lake Kissimmee.

Joe Overstreet Landing

 

A Bald Eagle made a pass over my head in search of a fishy dinner along the shoreline.

Joe Overstreet Landing

 

After taking this shot, I couldn’t get Frank Sinatra out of my head. Flyyy Me To The Moon …..

Joe Overstreet Landing

 

Sunset over Lake Kissimmee. Almost clear skies.

Joe Overstreet Landing

Joe Overstreet Landing

 

We took “the long way” home which allowed us to avoid the Empire of Disney. Whether you like your sunsets with or without clouds, enjoy them as often as you can. And if possible, be with someone you love. That way, clouds just won’t matter.

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, History, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Commoner Among Royals

Holidays. Wonderful, family-oriented, food-filled and loving times of the year. Exhausting.

A final mailing of several dozen home-made Christmas cookies and fudge prompted a profound statement from my usually unfazed bride:  “Whew! I’m tired!” I asked her to put that in writing so I could drag it out next year before she began her annual Herculean effort to ensure everyone in North America had a Christmas cookie.

Our nature safaris and birding expeditions proceeded at a significantly reduced pace during this time. Last week we managed to spend a morning riding around with all the windows open to let in cooler-than-normal fresh air. Invigorating! A few stops at local lakes found many common birds which are too often overlooked by “serious” birders and photographers. Thank goodness I’ve never been considered “serious”. 

Along a canal, one of nature’s best hunters, the Great Blue Heron, patiently watches for signs of breakfast.

Lake Parker

 

Subtle shades of purple and blue blend perfectly to give the Little Blue Heron a distinct presence above the wetland.

Lake Parker

 

Normally associated with the coast, a few Caspian Terns have taken up residence around our local area. The large reddish-orange beak, dark head with smudgy forehead (non-breeding plumage) and somewhat dark primaries help identify this largest tern in the world.

Lake Parker

 

It would be hard to imagine Florida without the Osprey. Angler extraordinaire, dazzling master of flight, incredible good looks. (No, not me. I am not a pilot.)

Lake Parker

 

Another species usually found in more coastal areas, the Brown Pelican seems to like our local lakes and wetlands well enough to be a year-round resident.

Lake Parker

 

One of our more colorful citizens is the Purple Gallinule. In the right light, one can detect an amazing variety of hues. Even from a parting shot.

Lake Parker

Lake Parker 

 

The Limpkin is a specialist at locating large apple snails and extracting them from their shells. This one seemed intent on varying her diet and was stalking a grasshopper.

Lake Parker

 

Muddy feet provide a clue where this Tricolored Heron has been scratching up a snack. The brownish bands of feathers match the reeds where this wader likes to hide.

Lake Parker

 

Anhinga. Ancient-looking birds whose nickname of “snake bird” describes this agile swimmer’s habit of moving through the water with just head and neck visible, giving the impression of a snake. It is also known as a “water turkey” because of its overall shape and pattern of its tail feathers. During our short morning outing we counted over 40 of these large, ungainly-looking birds.

At sunrise birds begin leaving the roost to hunt.

Lake Parker

 

Although they perch in trees the approach flight looks uncontrolled.

Lake Parker

Lake Parker

 

It’s breeding season here for the Anhinga and this female is brooding a new batch of snake birds.

Lake Parker

 

As our new year begins, we reflect on the combination of small things in our lives which remind us how blessed we are each day. Not only do we have each other to love, we have what seems a boundless supply of natural treasures just beyond our front door. All of the birds in this post are quite abundant in our local area and, indeed, we take them for granted in our pursuit of something more exotic or “different”. Taking time to really observe our “common” residents and their beauty – I realized it is us who are the commoners in nature. How privileged we felt to be among the truly Royal inhabitants of the planet!

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

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