Posts Tagged With: killdeer

Accidental Fall

The only way to photograph within Florida’s state parks during the “golden hour” is to camp there the previous night. Opening time is 8:00 a.m. Our house is about 20 minutes from Colt Creek State Park. Camp out or miss the best light?

As we waited for the timed gate to open at precisely 8:00, Gini (who can actually hear) told me about the lovely chorus around us. White-eyed Vireo, an insistent Eastern Phoebe repeating his name, Northern Cardinals, American Crows and one of the local gang leaders, a Tufted Titmouse. The iron gate swung open and we forked over a couple of dollars to the congenial park ranger.

We made our way slowly along the park’s winding main road, noting a resident Red-shouldered Hawk, the methodical hammering of a Pileated Woodpecker and generally enjoying a beautiful morning outdoors. As we rounded a curve, a splash of red, orange and yellow slapped us in the face. This was unexpected!

Florida Sugar Maple, Red Maple and Bald Cypress on the edge of a swampy area were in full autumn display. Florida, it is often joked, has only two seasons:  green and brown. We knew, of course, certain areas could be quite colorful but it has been rare that we have observed this much color in one spot. I hiked down to the shore of the park’s main lake and was stunned at how much color was visible!

We made our way through the park, stopping to explore trails and creeks and ending up at the end of the road where we enjoyed our simple breakfast. Along the way we spotted a white-tailed deer buck with impressive antlers. Not far away were a doe and two fawns. Plenty of birds kept us busy with binoculars and I kept finding colorful trees and leaves to photograph.

It was a good day. Our hope had been to see a few birds but we were surprised by an impromptu display of riotous (for Florida) color! We returned two days later and all the color was gone. Timing is everything.

Technicolor brought to you by Mother Nature.

The park’s main lake looks great all dressed up!

White Ibises in a bright blue sky made a nice addition to a colorful day.

Covered in duckweed and algae, Colt Creek’s green surface blends in with the surrounding woods and disappears in the distance.

A Little Blue and a Tricolored Heron enjoy the view from the lake’s fishing pier.

Wandering around the edges of the swamp reveals many wonderful sights, such as this unique cypress stump.

Aware of our presence, but not wanting to interrupt his meal, a White-tailed deer has an impressive set of antlers.

Near the ranger station at the park’s entrance, a Killdeer hunts for insect snacks.

Standing water in a swampy spot reflects the bright sky and colorful leaves litter the bottom of the slough.

Mac Lake never looked better!

Who could resist exploring such an inviting trail? Not me.

I know many areas have spectacular autumnal displays and the little bit of color we discovered may not be impressive to those who live in such places. For a couple of mid-Florida natives, though, we were happily surprised by our little accidental fall.

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

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

Scouting For The Count

“I’ll be happy to help you do some scouting”, said Gini The Naive.

This year will mark the 118th year of the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. (Yes, as a matter of fact I WAS at the first count over a hundred years ago. Smart alecks.) At that time, a genius birder (okay, that’s redundant) had a novel idea. “Hey, how about we just COUNT the birds instead of seeing who can shoot the most?” A movement and a tradition were born. The data from each year’s count is compiled by Cornell University in New York and makes available a treasure trove of research material for scientists as they attempt to understand the status of our avian friends.

In order to help our team operate as efficiently as possible on the actual count day, I spent the prior week searching out known bird haunts and seeking new ones. Knowing which birds are present helps us concentrate on locating less common species. Part of this process involves listening for owls. They call when it’s dark outside. Therefore, we must be outdoors in potential owl habitat when it’s dark outside. Sunrise is about 7:00. The sky begins to lighten about 6:00. Yep, Gini The Naive deduced we needed to set the alarm clock really early! No complaints from her. Not even a whimper. That’s a good thing. She’s the one with the keen hearing.

After all was said and done, we had a very good official count day of birding and tallied a few more species than last year. The weather was great with a cool morning, warm day and gentle breeze. For me, highlights of this year’s efforts include:  a single Bufflehead (not common in our area), a flock of 18 Wild Turkey (unusual in our dense suburban environment), a relatively high number of Blue-headed Vireo and an immature Sharp-shinned Hawk (a winter visitor in small numbers).

Gini The Naive was, as expected, simply fantastic during scouting week as I took her to all the great birding locales:  the aforementioned pre-dawn owling forays, a cemetery, muddy marshes, dusty dirt roads and the ever-popular city dump. Once again, she proved she is, and shall ever be, Gini My Beloved!

Since you asked, I did take a couple of snapshots.


As the morning fog began to lift from the marsh it revealed one of the local fishermen already on the job. The Great Blue Heron paid no attention to my clumsy efforts.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland


A pair of Anhinga patiently wait for a bit of sunshine before they begin diving in the chilly water.

Lake Gwyn Park


Another hunter of the wetlands, a Great Egret, has his eye on a frog and doesn’t acknowledge my presence.

Lake Gwyn Park


Morning commute. A River Otter pushed up a wake under his chin as he headed for his office across the lake.

Banana Lake Park


I wasn’t sure if this Osprey was curious, territorial or ticked off.

Lake Gwyn Park


After watching a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker chase a Red-bellied Woodpecker around a clearing and in and out of the trees, the pair landed briefly on an oak before taking off on their game of tag again.

Crooked Lake WEA


A dapper looking Black-and-White Warbler probes a hole in a branch for breakfast.

Crooked Lake WEA


Golden Silk Orb Weavers craft very strong webs across paths to catch all manner of prey during the night – and occasional birders during the day who are constantly looking up instead of where they’re going!

Crooked Lake WEA


I don’t know if the feathers under the talons of this Red-shouldered Hawk are from preening or left over from a morning snack.

Lake Gwyn Park


This year I seem to have found more Blue-headed Vireos than in the past. That’s okay with me!

Crooked Lake WEA


Pine Warblers can vary from very drab to very bright. This is one of the brighter variety and I chased after him quite awhile before he sat still for a picture.

Crooked Lake WEA


Another bright yellow fellow, this Yellow-throated Warbler has found a hairy white caterpillar for brunch. Yum!

Crooked Lake WEA


North America’s smallest falcon, the American Kestrel, is quite colorful. I was lucky to find one that remained on a perch while I was less than a mile away.

Lake Streety Road


There I was, head up searching for warblers in the tree-tops, when I had the feeling I was being watched. One picture and this White-tailed buck sprang across the path in one leap and disappeared into the forest.

Gator Creek Reserve


A cold morning and a fluffed up Yellow-rumped Warbler. We don’t often get to see the bit of yellow in their crown.

Mount Olive Primitive Cemetery


Speaking of beautiful. The majestic Turkey Vulture. The other birds are beside themselves with envy.

Mount Olive Primitive Cemetery


During the winter, a few sparrows hang around and challenge us to identify them. Head pattern, diffuse streaks on the breast and a nice rufous wing patch tell us this is a Swamp Sparrow.Banana Lake Park


Soft mud is a magnet for shorebirds. This Killdeer characteristically ran a few steps, probed the mud, ran a few steps, probed. Fun to watch!Bartow Medical Center


A small stream in the middle of a pasture is not where I expected to spot a Bufflehead!

Rolling Woods Lane


The back of an Eastern Meadowlark blends perfectly with the dried grasses where they live. That bright yellow front and loud, clear song, however, make it impossible for it to hide!Rolling Woods Lane


One of those little brown birds again. This Savannah Sparrow walked (quickly) from one clump of grass to another in a field before I caught him in the open long enough for a photograph.

Rolling Woods Lane


Reaching for the latch to a corral gate, I spotted a Monarch Butterfly chrysalis. Every bit as beautiful as its contents.

Rolling Woods Lane


Winter migration brings us an influx of Eastern Phoebes.  These small flycatchers stay busy all day sallying forth from an exposed perch to capture any insect foolish enough to be out in the open.

Lake Hancock Tract


Not to be outdone by his Blue-headed cousin, this White-eyed Vireo sang and posed for several minutes.

Banana Lake Park


This is the closest I’ve been to a Sharp-shinned Hawk. They only visit during the winter and I normally see them as a brown blur as they speed after a little songbird in the woods.

Lake Hancock Tract



This year’s Christmas Bird Count was a success for our entire 50+ person effort, my own 5 member team and was immeasurably enhanced by the participation of the one and only Gini My Beloved. She and I wish each and every one of you the best Holiday Season ever!




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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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