Posts Tagged With: marsh rabbit

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

Spring Comes Early To The Marsh

Snow is beautiful.

Having lived for a time in upstate New York and Europe, we came to appreciate the soft flakes falling on our upturned faces, the very special stillness of a forest blanketed in snow and the breathtaking scenery of a mountain top capped in pure white.  Our romantic notion of snow may have been influenced by the fact that we knew our association with it would be temporary.  We are both natives of Florida and it is within our DNA to require frequent infusions of “S3″ (sun-sand-salt).  Our return to the state of our birth was celebrated by disposing of all footwear and the trimming of long pants to create a wardrobe of only shorts and T-shirts.

Yesterday morning began with a light fog and when I eased onto the trail leading to the marsh before sunrise the air temperature was 65 F (18.3 C).  Three hours later it was 80 F (26.7 C).  This is the way February should be.  I no longer reminisce about snow.

I have written about the Circle B Bar Reserve before and shall do so again.  It is near the house and is an absolute wonderland for nature lovers.  We hope those who may be wishing for warmer times will take heart at viewing some of our wildlife preparing for spring.

Good numbers of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks have spent the winter here and this flock heads across the marsh in the morning fog.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

All sorts of wildlife enjoy the nutrient rich waters and surrounding environment of the marsh.  A family of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks dine while an adult is on constant watch.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

As the dawn sky begins to brighten, the fog lifts and the local residents set about the never-ending task of surviving another day.  A secretive Sora furtively searches for seeds and small water animals.  These birds are more often heard than seen.

Sora

Sora

The Green Heron is a master hunter and can uncoil his long neck to snag unsuspecting fish and insects.

Green Heron

Green Heron

A Tricolored Heron appears to enjoy a moment of morning sunlight before beginning his hunt for groceries.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

Snowy Egrets are in breeding plumage and seem to know how handsome they look.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Larger cousins of the Snowy, the Great Egret is also in full breeding plumage.  The bright green lores and long plumes are hard to miss on this large wading bird.

Great Egret

Great Egret

On the opposite end of beautiful (to which I can relate) is the Wood Stork.  They are equal opportunity diners and don’t mind trying anything they can get into that long beak.  It’s good to see them breeding here as they remain a threatened species in Florida.  Their traditional nesting areas in the Everglades, further south, have not been productive in recent years.

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

A young Limpkin is almost hidden in the tall weeds along the lake shore as he prepares to enjoy escargot for breakfast.  The Apple Snail is plentiful here and there is a large Limpkin population as a result.

Limpkin

Limpkin

Think Pink!  The marsh was full of Roseate Spoonbills.  These birds are beautiful and odd at the same time.  It’s hard not to marvel at their fantastic colors, but the head with no feathers and the large spatulate bill cause us to look twice.  They use their unique bills to sweep back and forth through shallow water for fish, crustaceans and insects.  Special nerve endings in the bill sense when they locate something and cause the bill to snap shut.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Ospreys are nesting just about anywhere in central Florida that is near water.  This one is out early scouting for a fish lounging too near the water’s surface.

Osprey

Osprey

A female Red-winged Blackbird perches behind a spider web curtain.  Moments later, she sprang to the ground and clamped her beak around a large dragonfly.  She was soon harassed by other birds and she escaped to some dense underbrush to consume her prize in private.

Red-winged Blackbird (Female)

Red-winged Blackbird (Female)

Red-winged Blackbird (Female)

Red-winged Blackbird (Female)

Springtime in Florida signals the start of Alligator courting rituals.  The males swim out into open water and raise their heads and tails above the surface.  They then vibrate their backs which often causes the surface of the water to ripple.  All of this is accompanied by the ‘gator sounding off with a deep bellowing which is supposed to be attractive to any female in hearing distance. (A lake full of bellowing alligators at night can be a very interesting experience!)

American Alligator

American Alligator

American Alligator

American Alligator

Although they are gorgeous, even Roseate Spoonbills have the occasional tiff.  It seems the one flying in objected to another occupying a particular feeding spot.  The interloper was loud and showy, but was driven off when the other bird snapped at his behind and used that long bill to push the bully out of there!

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Once the sun was up higher, turtles occupied every snag in the place to work on their tans.  Their backs are covered in the green Duckweed which is so prevalent throughout the marsh.

Turtle (Cooter?)

Turtle (Cooter?)

Turtle (Cooter?)

Turtle (Cooter?)

The particular trail I started down is named “Marsh Rabbit Run”.  This is the first time I have seen an actual Marsh Rabbit on this trail!  (At his feet are empty Apple Snail shells which the Limpkins like so much.)

Marsh Rabbit

Marsh Rabbit

Pink birds notwithstanding, the Purple Gallinule knows he is also good looking, but finds it hard to be inconspicuous in a marsh full of brown reeds.

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

With such an abundance of creatures in this environment, conflict is inevitable.  Here, a Crow and a White Ibis dispute who can occupy this prime piece of real estate.

American Crow, White Ibis

American Crow, White Ibis

The following is a series showing how the Roseate Spoonbills use that bill to sift through the water and yell at each other.  It’s also a chance to highlight their brilliant plumage which really brightens up a marsh.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

It was time to go home and get some breakfast of my own.  As I headed to the truck, a mixed flock of Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis and Snowy Egrets took off in the distance.

Mixed Flock

Mixed Flock

Nope.  I don’t miss snow at all.  Not even a little bit.

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

Additional Resources:

Circle B Bar Reserve

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

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