Posts Tagged With: lake parker

None So Blind

“Wow! There’s not much here to photograph.”

The pleasant gentleman remarked on my “mighty big camera” and he had a point. He was one of our early migratory “snow birds”, from Michigan, he said. He and his wife had been wintering here for 18 years. Visiting this park during 18 years. Standing here by the boat launch for many of those 18 years. One can gaze across Lake Parker, an urban location, and see the massive coal-fired power plant, a large baseball stadium with several practice fields, commercial businesses (one with a particularly bright yellow roof), typically unattractive condominiums and on weekends a lake full of speeding boats and the abominations known as “jet skis”. Who would want to photograph any of THAT??

I knelt down and framed a beautiful White Peacock butterfly by the shoreline, wished the winter visitor a good day and wandered the pathways of Lake Parker Park for over two quiet hours. Along the way, I watched a marsh rabbit nibble a grassy breakfast still sparkling with dew drops. Purple Gallinules, resplendent in their violet and blue plumage and candy-corn beaks, have really big feet to help walk across water plants. Their babies are growing into teenagers and learning to forage on their own. Although a bit late in the season, a Red-winged Blackbird paused with a meal for newly hatched chicks, not wanting me to know where her nest was hidden. A young Red-bellied Woodpecker probed a cavity in a pine tree for termites or a beetle. Overhead, an Osprey clutched a catfish as she headed for a perch to enjoy an early morning meal. Northern Parulas trilled throughout the park. On the way back to the parking area, a last look at the boat ramp where I met the snowbird found a Limpkin prying open an apple snail so his young daughter could practice extracting it. Which she promptly did and swallowed it whole.

My morning walk was glorious. It was not yet too warm, there was plenty of humidity (it IS Florida!), the park was ALIVE as birds, insects and mammals went about the daily routine of survival. I was privileged to observe so much. My thoughts turned, as they invariably do, to my lover. She was ten minutes away, preparing brunch and I should have done what I know she would have upon encountering Mr. Michigan this morning. She would smile that smile which could disarm Atilla The Hun and say something like:  “Yes, there are some unattractive things to see here. But have you noticed what a beautiful green those reeds are? Or have you seen the Great Egret there, so white against that dark cypress? Oh, look! Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks flying over! Hear them whistle?” She would have converted him to a devout nature-lover on the spot. Yep. That’s what I shoulda done. But I am not nearly as brave a soul as her.

Despite what you may have heard from the Michigan Snowbird, here are a few images from a city park.

 

White Peacock  (Anartia jatrophae)

Lake Parker Park

 

Purple Gallinule (Adult and Immature)

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park

 

Cuban Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei) (Thank you, Dr. Peter May!)

Lake Parker Park

 

Red-winged Blackbird (Female)

Lake Parker Park

 

Northern Parula

Lake Parker Park

 

Marsh Rabbit

Lake Parker Park

 

Tricolored Heron

Lake Parker Park

 

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Immature)

Lake Parker Park

 

Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)

Lake Parker Park

 

Osprey

Lake Parker Park

 

Limpkin

Lake Parker Park

 

It was a good morning and served to remind me that I need to be more observant; of life, of those with deficient vision and of my own many shortcomings. We hope you have a local oasis where you can retreat and observe whatever the day may offer.

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Storm Dodging

My dad didn’t know I was using his long-handled minnow net to scrape along the bottom of the drainage ditch trying to catch crayfish. That changed when I hit an unforgiving root and bent the frame of the net. Fortunately, he was more forgiving than the root and a quick twist of the pliers and the net was as good as new. But I wouldn’t be using it in the drainage ditch anymore, he said.

That was in Miami, Florida about 60 years ago. At about that same time, a towheaded tomboy was busy trying to catch tadpoles in a drainage ditch near Tampa, Florida. Two kids, two drainage ditches, infinite curiosity about nature, 200 miles apart. Who knew fate would bring us together in a music room where love eventually blossomed and is still in full bloom.

Florida summers bring sudden and ferocious thunderstorms with raindrops the size of quarters, earth shaking rumbles and bright streaks of lightning hurled from inky skies. The only thing more frightening than the storm was what would happen to my rear end if my Mother had to call me indoors more than once! Although the storm would usually pass quickly, it was difficult to be patient. I knew the rain would add more water to the drainage ditches which could hold frogs, their thousands of tadpoles, turtles, crayfish and who knew what other wonders!

We are older now and much wiser, with enough sense to remain indoors when a severe storm is brewing —–

NOT!

Why, that’s when all the birds are busy hunting for a last minute meal before the rains begin! We simply MUST be out there with them!

Thus, so it was last Wednesday. About a week ago, as I was traveling to an appointment downtown, I thought I glimpsed a Snail Kite along the shore of Lake Parker. There was too much traffic to stop safely and I was running a bit late so confirmation would have to wait. Until Wednesday. Until gathering storm clouds motivated me to pile Gini and bins and camera into the truck and go hunting. Bingo! There she was, atop a small cypress tree. She didn’t like my slinking around trying to hide behind trees to get close enough for a photo, but she remained in the area and I snapped a few shots for the record and left quickly so she could continue hunting for her escargot lunch. Before the storm.

We decided to check out a couple of the public boat ramp areas on the south and east sides of the lake since the rain had not yet begun. At the south ramp, a pair of Royal Terns were busy criss-crossing the lake in front of us while a young Limpkin extracted an apple snail from its shell. Half a dozen Osprey appeared to be suspended in the sky as they faced into the stiffening wind of the coming storm.  At the east ramp, there are more trees and we found a group of 14 Yellow Warblers feeding voraciously. Along with these migrants were Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, a couple of Prairie Warblers and a Yellow-throated Warbler. I even got a rare glimpse of a migratory Northern Waterthrush, a bird usually heard but not often seen very well. A couple of woodpeckers and a vireo were scouring the branches of a large oak tree. Along a canal leading to the lake, the soft “chortle” of a Least Bittern led me to the spot where he slowly emerged for exactly one picture before he melted back into the reeds. A young alligator was totally unconcerned about any storms as he was way too busy demonstrating how to relax. In a protected spot, a dragon posed in the sunlight before the storm clouds rolled in.

Gini and I found a small barbeque place that sold us a couple of sandwiches and we parked on the shore of a small lake and enjoyed Nature’s show while we ate. The lake’s surface was whipped into whitecaps, the sky was black as night, thunder rolled, quarter-sized drops hit the windshield and we reminisced about running barefoot in a drainage ditch full of rain water. I am blessed.

Images from before the storm.

 

This lady started it all today. A Snail Kite, endangered due to loss of habitat throughout Florida but, happily, holding their own.

Lake Parker

Snail Kite

 

A Royal Tern enjoys the breeze before the storm rolls in.

Lake Parker

Royal Tern

 

A secretive Least Bittern. In the proper habitat, they are usually heard but prefer to remain deep in the reeds. (It is a smallish heron measuring only 11-14 inches (28-36 cm) in length.) Here is its soft chuckling call:  Least Bittern Call.

Lake Parker Park

Least Bittern

 

Yellow-throated Warblers breed in Florida but in fall we begin to see numbers of them as migrants head south for the winter.

Lake Parker Park

Yellow-throated Warbler

 

A Prairie Warbler can have very subtle or very vivid facial markings. This one is a bit in between the extremes. These birds don’t breed in our area and are only enjoyed during migration.

Lake Parker Park

Prairie Warbler

 

Another migrant, the Northern Waterthrush resembles a member of the thrush family (even bearing the name!) but is actually a warbler. It spends most of its time on the ground or low perches in boggy areas.

Lake Parker Park

Northern Waterthrush

 

This Red-bellied Woodpecker is likely a first-year bird transitioning into adult plumage. Thus the “dirty” face.

Lake Parker Park

Red-bellied Woodpecker

 

Small Downy Woodpeckers are common in our area. This female is examining a lichen-covered branch hoping to find a snack.

Lake Parker Park

Downy Woodpecker

 

A Yellow-throated Vireo stopped hunting for a moment to gaze down at the old guy gazing up. This species breeds in our area so don’t know if this is a local or a fall visitor.

Lake Parker Park

Yellow-throated Vireo

 

When we drove up to the east side boat ramp area, before we got out of the truck, a gang of Yellow Warblers was very actively feeding in trees adjacent to the parking lot. It was interesting that within the group we spotted brightly colored males, the more subtly hued females and some almost gray looking immature birds.

Lake Parker Park

Yellow Warbler

 

Storms hold no fear for a dragon! Well, I imagine once the wind and rain begin, this dragon will seek shelter. This is a Four-spotted Pennant and is a young female. As she matures, the spots on each wing will become darker. The bright white stigmas on each wing leading edge and the slender abdomen are diagnostic for this species.

Lake Crago Park

Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida) – Female

Lake Crago Park

Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida) – Female

 

“Storm? What storm?” Typical alligator attitude.

East Lake Parker

American Alligator

 

We love living in the Sunshine State with its clear bright blue skies most of the year. But when the storms arrive, we still don’t mind dodging the raindrops to find a few birds. And if we happen to spot a drainage ditch full of water, well, these shoes and socks can disappear pretty quick!

 

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

 

 

 

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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