Posts Tagged With: long-tailed skipper

Fall Has Fell

“Ooohhh!” “Aaahhh!”

That’s an exact quote from our first sighting of a northeastern American forest in a riot of autumn color. Gini and I are native Floridians and as such we only knew two seasons:  green and brown. Our marriage some 48 years ago began a journey which has taken us many places and we have been fortunate to have experienced a world full of beauty. The forest near Syracuse, New York that fall day is indelibly etched in our mind’s album of special memories. Who knew so many different colors could be found on trees?

As our current year transitions from “green” to “brown”, we realized Mother Nature provides us with a sense of the colorful autumn our northern neighbors enjoy each year. The miracle of avian migration brings a myriad of colors fluttering on the wind’s breath to alight in our trees, on our lakes and along our roadsides and all we have to do is take the time to observe. Our time for exploring this year has been very limited but we are now almost back to what we think is “normal” and are attempting to make up for lost time.

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been out and about and have been blessed with extraordinarily pleasant weather. Cool mornings, bright blue skies and balmy afternoons. A little water, egg salad sandwiches and fresh oranges are tossed into the truck along with about 500 pounds of optics and off we go! Cocooned in the vehicle with Gini as we re-discover old haunts and search for new seldom-traveled roads is the best life could offer. How lucky I am!!

Ride with us for awhile and enjoy a little fall birding in central Florida’s forests, marshes, lakes and fields.

 

A Snowy Egret concentrates on a potential meal hiding under the surface. As with many wading birds, the egret stirs the mud with a foot and hopes something delicious will appear.

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

Dagger-like beaks help Anhingas spear a fish dinner. In this case, the Anhinga is helping to rid Florida’s waters of an invasive catfish species. Suckermouth armored catfish, Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus, were likely introduced by escapes from tropical fish farms and aquarium owners dumping unwanted individuals into nearby waters. The overall impact of the species is unknown but in some areas it has disrupted native fish populations. Also, their nesting habit of burrowing into banks has caused siltation and erosion.

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

Announcing his presence to the entire marsh, a Tricolored Heron slowly flaps his way to a likely feeding spot.

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

One of the lakes near our house, Lake Parker, has a small population of Caspian and Royal Terns most of the year. This Royal Tern is distinguished from the similar Caspian by a  yellow-orange beak (as opposed to the red of the Caspian), a white forehead during non-breeding season (the Caspian has black or at least gray smudges) and the underside of the primaries are light (the Caspian’s are dark).

Lake Parker

 

Our area maintains a robust population of Bald Eagles all year. During fall and winter migration, the eagle population soars with winter visitors. Hard to tell if this is a native or “snow bird”, but he/she was curious about what I was up to.

Sam Keen Road

 

Fish Hawk is what many folks call the Osprey. It’s a very apt name as they are excellent at securing a finny feast for themselves and their families.

East Lake Parker

 

Our mild weather allows many insects to breed multiple times during the year. The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail gathering nectar from a Pickerelweed bloom just adds another dimension of color to our day.

Avon Park Cutoff Road Sod Fields

 

This European Starling is quite comfortable in a woodpecker cavity, at least until spring when woodpeckers will likely drive them from the area. All of the starlings in North America apparently descend from 100 individuals which were released in New York’s Central Park in the 1890’s. It seems a group of devoted Shakespeare fans wanted Americans to enjoy the birds mentioned in all of Shakespeare’s plays. Now there are estimated to be over 200 million European Starlings in North America and NOT everyone is overjoyed with this result! (Attempts to release other species mentioned by Shakespeare were not successful.)

Avon Park Cutoff Road Sod Fields

 

At the edge of a large commercial sod field which can hold large numbers of shorebirds during migration, a quartet of Lesser Yellowlegs finds shelter and nice, soft mud for probing along a small pond.

Avon Park Cutoff Road Sod Fields

 

During the past several days, Eastern Phoebes have begun to appear on almost every fence wire, tree snag and even our roadside mail box. They do not breed in our area and it’s a joy to see the sleek little flycatchers with their constantly pumping tails.

Lake Gwyn Park

 

The male Common Yellowthroat is a noisy, pugnacious and brightly adorned resident. The more subtly hued and demure female can easily be overlooked. Thankfully, this little lady posed for a moment before returning to the weedy undergrowth.

Cox Road

 

“Drink-your-tea.” The Eastern Towhee’s clear call resounds from all around us as we slowly drive along a dirt road with an orange grove on one side and a field of scrub oak on the other.

Eastern Towhee Call

Cox Road

 

Another butterfly taking advantage of Florida’s version of autumn, a Long-tailed Skipper.

Lake Gwyn Park

 

The female Summer Tanager is not as immediately recognizable as the all-red male, but she has a beauty all her own.

Lake Parker Park

 

We may not have bright yellow, red and orange leaves during the fall, but it sure seems colorful when we spot something like this Prairie Warbler!

Sam Keen Road

 

One of the most numerous warblers during fall migration is the Palm Warbler. The little birds with the constantly bobbing tail seems to be everywhere once they arrive.

Tenoroc-Bridgewater

 

Although the Pine Warbler is a year-round resident here, fall migrants swell the population significantly. These tree-top hunters can range from bright yellow to almost drab individuals. The first image is likely an adult male while the second may be a first-year female.

Lake Gwyn Park

Lake Parker Park

 

In its fall plumage, the Blackpoll Warbler is quite similar to the Pine Warbler. One helpful identifying feature is the Blackpoll’s yellow or orange feet. Some birds may have dark feet on the top, but the souls will always appear yellow or orange.

Gator Creek Reserve

 

Who is watching whom? A Yellow-throated Warbler contributes is bright black, white and yellow to our autumn outing.

Lake Parker Park

 

Gang leader. It seems whenever I hear a Tufted Titmouse calling, there will be a gaggle of other birds hanging around.

Lake Parker Park

 

We have a small population of Pied-billed Grebes which breed locally but the winter brings a ton of these little cuties. Yesterday, I counted 25 in one group hiding amongst bullrushes in a marsh.

East Lake Parker

 

A newly developed county park (Lake Gwyn near Winter Haven) has been littered with Apple Snail shells each time I’ve visited. One recent morning there were 14 Limpkins and five Snail Kites enjoying the buffet! I’m pretty sure the kites nested there this past spring and we look forward to monitoring their efforts this coming year.

Lake Gwyn Park

 

Near Lake Kissimmee in eastern Polk County, a drive along a road adjacent to a cattle ranch led to an encounter with two young Crested Caracara. They were not bothered by our presence and gave us that typical “ho-hum” look of disdain they apparently learn early in life.

Sam Keen Road

 

Although it’s autumn and the end of the year is rapidly approaching, nature continues to be in a constant state of renewal. At Lake Gwyn park where I found the Snail Kite above, a brand new family of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks appeared from behind an island. A proud Mom and Dad surrounded their group of ducklings (plus one straggler) all decked out in their little “bumble-bee” suits. More fall colors added to our Florida autumn album!

Lake Gwyn Park

 

Thank you for joining us as we get back into a birding routine. Even though you might not have a forest full of changing colors to enjoy, I suspect there are some colorful bundles of feathers not too far from your window. Go take a look.

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

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

New Wetlands Survey – Part Two

(This is a follow-up report on a “new” wetlands being developed.  See the report of our initial visit in the post, “I, The Beholder“.)

 

Hello.  My name is Wally and I’m a curmudgeon and it’s been eight days since I last curmudged.  At least, I feel that way at times.  When a salesman arrives at the door ready to deliver his polished presentation, I normally cut them off with a curt “not interested” followed by a quick shutting of the door.  Same with phone calls.  The poor souls never get a chance to read more than a sentence of their “surefire sale” script.  The dictionary defines curmudgeon as:  “a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man”.  Yep.  That’s me once in awhile.  Especially the “usually old” part.  I’m trying to improve.  That’s why Gini usually handles our public relations department.

Of course, one does not dare NOT answer the door.  It might be opportunity!  Thus it was recently.  Well, to be honest, opportunity didn’t actually knock at the door.  It emailed.  I was invited to participate in a second survey of bird life at a wetlands being developed to see if there was much change from our first endeavor in September.  (Maybe I’m not a lost cause yet – these folks KNOW me and actually invited me back!)  I jumped at the chance.  The area is not yet open to the public and this would be a rare opportunity to observe a relatively undisturbed environment.  There are three man-made “cells” which have been planted with natural-filtering vegetation.  The cells are dug to varying depths  allowing for shallow water waders as well as deeper water diving birds.  Water is pumped from an adjacent large lake, held for a time in one cell while natural filtration occurs, pumped to a second and then third cell where the process is repeated.  The cleaned water is then pumped into a creek which flows into a river which flows to the Gulf of Mexico.  Man imitating nature trying to reverse the pollution man caused.  A noble effort.

We met at dawn and by mid-afternoon had circumnavigated the area and ended with a very impressive tally of birds enjoying this wonderful “new” wetlands.  The total species count was 96.  Included in the count:  45 Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, over 400 Blue-winged Teal, 50 Northern Shoveler, 25 Wood Stork, 100 American White Pelican, 110 Great Egret, over 160 Snowy Egret, 350 Glossy Ibis, 11 Sora (a conservative count, mostly heard), over 200 American Coot, over two dozen Black-Necked Stilt, over 20 American Avocet, 20 Lesser Yellowlegs, 40 Long-billed Dowitcher, an uncommon inland Dunlin, 120 Least Sandpiper, 70 Cattle Egret.  Among Passerines were: Black and White Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Palm Warbler, Pine Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow and Swamp Sparrow.  Representing the Raptors:  Osprey, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Kestrel and a Barred Owl.

Whew!  No wonder I went home tired!

Once complete, this will be an outstanding venue for the public to enjoy a day in nature and, hopefully, realize how important it is to preserve such places.

Please enjoy a few images of our day.

 

American Avocets and Long-billed Dowitchers busily probed the shallow water for breakfast.

American Avocet, Long-billed Dowitcher

American Avocet, Long-billed Dowitcher

 

Least Sandpipers seem to fly as a single unit, responding to some unseen signal as they wheel, glide and land together.

Least Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper

 

A few Blue-winged Teal look for a spot of open water among the grass to settle down.

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal

 

There was a nice variety of winged creatures other than birds, too, such as this Four-Spotted Pennant.

Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida)

 

Throughout the day, Osprey let us know the fish population in the newly created ponds was quite robust.

Osprey

Osprey

 

A flock of White Ibis in the bright blue sky circled for awhile trying to find a “vacant” parking spot in which to forage.

White Ibis

White Ibis

 

Scarlet Skimmers brightened up the landscape as these large dragonflies hunted for smaller prey.

Scarlet Skimmer (Crocothemis servilia)

Scarlet Skimmer (Crocothemis servilia)

 

The air seemed to be filled with birds all morning.  A small group of American Avocets move to a less crowded shallow sand bar.

American Avocet

American Avocet

 

This young Red-shouldered Hawk seemed to be still a bit sleepy as the rising sun reminded him it was time to get busy.

Red-shouldered Hawk (Immature)

Red-shouldered Hawk (Immature)

 

A Long-tailed Skipper probes the pretty flower of an invasive nuisance plant, Ceaser’s Weed (Urena lobata).

Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus)

Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus)

 

The bright male Roseate Skimmer seems like a neon advertisement for Dragonfly makeup.  The female is not nearly as gaudy looking.

Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) - Male

Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) – Male

Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) - Female

Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) – Female

 

A pair of Long-billed Dowitchers show their beautiful plumage, including the characteristic white wedge on their backs.  (The Short-billed Dowitcher also has this wedge.)

Long-billed Dowitcher

Long-billed Dowitcher

 

We were fortunate to spot an American Bittern.  This one shows why they’re easily overlooked.  When sensing a threat, they point their bills skyward and “freeze”.  This position, along with their striped plumage, allows them to blend in nicely with the surrounding grass.  They’ve even been known to sway if it’s windy in synchronization with the grass to lessen their chances of being seen.

American Bittern

American Bittern

 

The female Eastern Pondhawk is really bright green and the male is a more subdued powder blue.

Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis)

 

I believe this is a member of the Baskettail species, possibly Epitheca?  Any help in a correct identification would be very much appreciated.

Baskettail sp. (?) (Epitheca ?)

Baskettail sp. (?) (Epitheca ?)

 

The Barred Owl is a denizen of the swampy woods and it’s not unusual to see them in the daytime.  This one was very alert to our presence but didn’t flush.  He appeared to keep his right eye partially closed, due, I think, to the strong sunlight coming from that direction.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

 

 

Although I may continue to have my curmudgeonly moments, I hope I’ll still at least answer the door just in case another opportunity comes to call.

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 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 56 Comments

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