Posts Tagged With: northern cardinal

Sabbatical Ends – Summer Begins

It was June. The calendar announced summer was about to begin. June in Florida is hot and muggy. June in Georgia is hot and muggy.

There is a reason that makers of household cleaning products advertise “fresh pine scent” on labels. Likewise, one out of ten automobiles sport, hanging from the rear-view mirror, a dark green lump of cardboard cut into what an urban-dwelling marketer thinks a tree should look like and infused with what an aroma specialist imagines a cardboard pine tree should smell like.

As we turned from the four-lane highway onto a rural lane cutting through the heart of agricultural central Georgia, we slowed to a saner speed, opened the windows and enjoyed the fresh air, the unmistakable sensation of earth recently tilled and, yes, the resinous tang unique to members of the Pinus genus. No lump of cardboard or detergent could ever capture that essence.

Our journey was now of familiar places. We had developed a rhythm of sorts. Leave just before sunrise, breakfast on the Gulf of Mexico coast, ramble northward through fishing towns (trying to ignore the tourist advertising), marvel at antebellum architecture, gawk at huge farming operations, enjoy our barbeque lunch along the high-water raging Flint River and open all the windows to gulp deeply of the perfume of the south produced by tall conifers just for us. By mid-afternoon we are here, unhooking the cable across the drive, scanning the trees for birds, thankful we will soon be out of the car for a couple of days.

Early June birds are busy mating, nesting, raising young, constantly searching for food. The migrants have departed to do all of the above further north. It’s a busy time in the woods and fields for all living things. Exploring is a pleasure!

Our first night coincides with the full moon. Early native Americans referred to the June full moon as the Strawberry Moon, likely because it came at a time of harvest. In other parts of the world it has been called Honey or Full Rose Moon. Whatever name you ascribe, on this night it was pretty spectacular. The coyotes thought so, too, based on their singing. The clear morning air didn’t seem that humid, but my camera lens proved otherwise as I couldn’t use it for the first half hour despite constant wiping. A very heavy dew contributed to several pounds of water added to my pant legs but, thankfully, my boots resisted the dampness. Dry feet are a true blessing when hiking.

We enjoyed our visit with family again and returned home refreshed and thankful for such an enriching experience. Nature provided endless opportunities for discovery and we hope you don’t mind if we share a small sample of our observations.

 

Strawberry Moon. Astronomical trivia:  At this time, the moon appears “smaller” than other times as it’s at its farthest orbit from the earth.

Early County

 

A male Field Sparrow uses the top of a young Longleaf Pine to show off his virtuoso voice in the hope a female likes what she hears.

Early County

 

The path behind the barn leads through old-growth pines to an area of hardwood trees and eventually an open field.

Early County

 

At a back yard feeder, a male House Finch tries to bully his way around to getting all the seed for himself. Good luck with that! There are ten feeders in the yard – plenty for all.

Early County

 

Ladybugs (ladybird beetles) are hard to miss in their shiny red and black cloaks.

Early County

 

Year-around residents, Eastern Bluebirds have already mated and are busily bringing bugs to a nesting box full of hungry two-week old chicks.

Early County

 

I rounded a path and startled a White-tailed Deer. The doe stared at me for about five minutes before she decided discretion was the better part of valor and bolted across the cotton field into the safety of the woods.

Early County

 

Northern Cardinals were abundant and their clear calls echoed around the property every day.

Early County

 

Orb-weaver spiders are master engineers and their strong webs strung across a path during the night yield a good supply of nutritious insects every morning.

Early County

 

A male Northern Bobwhite is almost hidden in tall grass. Behind him was his harem of four females. Soon there will be small fluffy quail all over this area.

Early County

 

Passiflora incarnata, Passion Flower, makes a walk through the pine grove undergrowth a visually stunning experience.

Early County

 

Singing from the very top of a large Bay Tree, a male Brown Thrasher was very unhappy I was interrupting his serenade to a nearby female. I snapped a quick portrait and hustled on down the path.

Early County

 

This is the time of year for fresh blackberries! Getting to them before the birds and animals is nearly impossible.

Early County

 

Two of the top finalists for best vocals are the Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak. I was very lucky to have one of each appear in the treetops within 50 feet of one another – and me!

Early County

Early County

 

Some of the most interesting life forms can be found right at your feet – literally! A fungi extravaganza.

Early County

Early County

Early County

Early County

Early County

Early County

Early County

Early County

Early County

Early County

Early County

 

What a difference a day makes! The first photo above of a bright, colorful moon was followed the next evening by moonrise as a cool weather front approached bringing dark clouds drifting across the sky offering only fleeting glimpses of the lunar orb.

Early County

 

Our sabbatical ended but our visits will continue. All of us need the respite provided by an island of solace such as we have been fortunate to find. If you are able, such as I was, to benefit from the company of your very best friend in life, then you are indeed blessed.

 

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

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

Report From The Patch

Grandma Jones was an evil woman. Standing barely five feet tall she looked quite harmless, especially when standing alongside Grandpa who was well over six feet in height. Together, they resembled Grant Wood’s painting, “American Gothic”, only she was much smaller than her female counterpart. Of course, I don’t believe she had an actual mean bone within her diminutive frame, but when I was a kid, I would have sworn otherwise. My Dad worked as a carpenter in Miami when he and Mother started a family. He was raised on a farm north of Pensacola in Florida’s panhandle where, along with nine brothers and sisters, he learned the value of hard work. We always looked forward to visiting our grandparents’ farm because we knew there would be adventure galore.

City kids. We were ripe for learning many lessons.

Banty chickens (Bantam) roosted in various spots around the farm. Grandpa had built them a nice shelter which they never set claw into. They preferred to roost in trees and lay eggs on the porch, by the old syrup press, on feed sacks or in the seat of Grandpa’s tractor. “Go gather as many eggs as you can find”, Grandma said, giving hints on where to search. Oh, boy! An egg hunt! What fun! If you are not familiar with the breed, let’s just say Banty chickens can be, uhhh, “aggressive”. The roosters have wicked spurs on their legs and I carried a wicked scar on my ankle for years after gathering eggs for Grandma. “Take this sandwich to Grandpa”, Grandma said, directing me to the watermelon field and advising the best route was through the pasture just outside the kitchen door. Oh, boy! Fresh watermelon was sure to be my reward! A very large, very fast red bull taught me the key to winning future track contests was pure speed. Another scar was added to my early collection of wounds. This time on my back as I dove through the barbed wire fence to reach safety. “Let’s go to the okra patch”, said the little woman in the witch’s hat riding a straw broom. I was on to her game. “I think I hear Mother calling me”, I quickly responded. “I’ll go help you pick a basket full for supper”. The witch morphed back into the small woman in a gingham apron with a kindly face. We carried a basket and she showed me how to use a sharp knife to cut the pods from the stalks and how to pick the best looking okra. I was so proud to be able to contribute to the night’s meal. My wonderful Grandmother even praised my okra picking skill at the supper table for all to hear. Maybe I had been wrong about her. It’s the little details we sometimes don’t notice until too late. For instance, I never noticed my sweet Grandma was wearing a long-sleeved shirt and cotton gloves as we gathered okra. If you’ve never picked okra, you may not be aware the plants are covered with hairy stems which can cause a little irritation when it contacts human skin. My inflamed red arms burned and itched for days despite frequent applications of calamine lotion. Suspicion confirmed. That little woman was to be avoided at all costs! On the other hand, she did keep me supplied with warm biscuits stuffed with fresh pear preserves ….

Speaking of okra patches, I visited my birding patch recently in the hope of discovering hundreds of exotic migratory species stopping to rest on their journey northward. Once again, I didn’t find what I was looking for but was totally satisfied with what I did find. One definition of patch: “a small piece, part, or section, especially that which differs from or contrasts with the whole.”

That pretty well sums up Lake Parker Park, a fairly typical urban park on the shore of a lake and with lots of picnic shelters, jogging paths, tennis courts, soccer fields, a boat ramp and (“that which differs”) – a whole bunch of birds. I take it for granted (again) that I’ll see 40 or 50 species every time I visit and have yet to be disappointed. On this day, nothing really unusual was sighted but it was a day full of color. From the orange of the sky at sunrise, to the whites, yellows, pinks, grays, browns and reds of the birds, it was a totally enjoyable and relaxing morning. Wish you had been there.

Some images of the day are on the way.

 

Rising above the surface of the lake, a Forster’s Tern and the Sun greet me when I first arrive.

Forster's Tern

Forster’s Tern

 

Reflections of the sunrise bounce off the water to light the underside of a Royal Tern.

Royal Tern

Royal Tern

 

The pale eye of a Ring-billed Gull may not quite be ready for the intensity of the morning sun.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

 

Fish. It’s what’s for breakfast. For Ospreys.

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

 

One migrant enjoyed the insect bounty of the park. A Prairie Warbler all dressed in his bright yellow suit was hard to miss.

Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler

 

Commuter traffic was heavy along the canal as a White Ibis passes a Roseate Spoonbill gathering his breakfast in the fast food wade-thru lane.

Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis

Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis

 

Breeding plumage for a Roseate Spoonbill is a wonderful blend of subtle and outrageous colors.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

 

A little preening is in order before this Mourning Dove is completely ready to face her day.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

 

It’s not too early for mister Northern Cardinal to greet the day with song!

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

 

Pine Warblers breed in Florida, but we also see many during migration. I don’t know if this one is a resident or a visitor. I also don’t know if he was picking out seeds or bugs from this pod.

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

 

Tanning buddies. For now. Once the alligator is a bit older, he may recognize that sliders can be tasty. There are many who might encourage this behavior as Red-eared Sliders are not native to Florida but have multiplied in the wild due to the pet industry.

American Alligator, Red-eared Slider

American Alligator, Red-eared Slider

 

An immature Bald Eagle cruises over the lake hoping to spot a fish near the surface for an easy brunch.

Bald Eagle - Immature

Bald Eagle – Immature

 

Well, I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for but was extremely satisfied with what I did find. If you visit your own patch, we wish you success but try to be happy with whatever you’re offered. And if you happen to be visiting an okra patch – wear long sleeves and gloves!

 

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, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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