Posts Tagged With: overstreet landing

Lunch And A Matinee

Human beings like to be entertained.  Cave men whiled away the time between hunting and gathering by covering the walls of their homes with drawings.  Plays were staged to take our minds off the troubles of the day.  “Moving pictures” transformed entire societies and new industries were developed to satiate our ever-increasing desire for diversion.  If you question whether we are addicted to being entertained, try unplugging the televisions and computers in all our homes for a few hours and see how quickly rioting in the streets will begin.

Fortunately, I married wisely.  Gini is as easily entertained by the song of an Eastern Meadowlark as she would be by attending an orchestral performance of Mozart’s greatest hits.  We seem to find so much in Nature at which to marvel, it just doesn’t matter if we’re missing a favorite television show.  Besides, that’s why recording was invented!

Well, we lollygagged all morning on Peavine Trail (see our previous post “Happiness Is A Dirt Road”) and it was already time for lunch.  We drove to Overstreet Landing on the eastern shore of Lake Kissimmee which is always a treat because to get there you have to travel Overstreet Road.  This gives us the opportunity to view vast pastures, grasslands and sod farms.  The open area is richly populated with Sandhill Cranes, Eastern Meadowlarks, American Kestrels, Bald Eagles, Wild Turkeys, Northern Bobwhites, White and Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret and soaring Vultures.  With the fall migration, we also saw Savannah Sparrows, Palm Warblers and a Northern Harrier.

When we arrived at the shore of the lake, we parked under the welcoming branches of an oak tree, opened all the windows and doors of the truck so we could enjoy the breeze coming off the lake and prepared to enjoy our sandwiches with an unparalleled view of premier lake, prairie and grassland habitat.  We were soon joined by a Turkey Vulture who brought his own lunch of a decaying catfish carcass and settled on a fence post not far from us.  All present enjoyed a fine meal, peace and quiet.

After lunch, we spotted a Snail Kite in the distance hovering over the grass in the lake looking for the Apple Snail which makes up its diet almost exclusively.  A large flock of Cattle Egret flew in front of us, a Little Blue Heron hunted stealthily in the shallows and a group of four Wilson’s Snipe sprang into the air, startled by an incoming boat.

We drove a short distance to the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area and poked slowly along the rough dirt roads through scrub woods, long-leaf pines, palmetto, cypress domes* (see “Additional Resources”) and a long stretch of dry grass prairie.  Along the way, we tallied 40 species of birds and even found a few fall warblers:  Palm, Pine, Prairie, Yellow-throated and Yellow-rumped.  A creek crossing produced a pair of Wood Ducks, Snowy and Great Egrets, Tricolored and Great Blue Herons and a Limpkin.  We found several American Kestrels and Eastern Phoebes taking advantage of millions of insects.  A lone pine tree in the prairie contained a large nest used by Bald Eagles last year to raise a family.  It seemed empty, but may be taken over soon by a Great Horned Owl.  We’ll check next month.

As the sun began to cast long shadows, we turned onto the paved road and spotted a group of Wild Turkeys, the strong light showing off the iridescence of their plumage.  The evening sky displayed colors no artist could duplicate.  As the curtain of night began to lower on our day, hundreds of Glossy Ibis headed to their roost.  We did the same.

We didn’t get a lot of useable photographs due to the time of day and position of the sun but here are a few images which may give you a flavor of our afternoon.

Our lunch guest.  The portion of the brain which detects smell is relatively large in the Turkey Vulture and they can detect carrion below a forest canopy.  And they’re so cute.  Besides who can argue with such an elegant scientific name?  Cathartes auraroughly translated as “Golden Purifier”!

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

 

The lakeside venue for our picnic included a panorama of lake, marsh, grassland, cattle egrets in flight – oh, yes – and a contented vulture.

Cattle Egret, Turkey Vulture

Cattle Egret, Turkey Vulture

 

A stealthy approach will yield results for this very patient Little Blue Heron.

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

 

These pretty white blossoms are called Short Leaf Rose Gentian.  Stars scattered along our path.

Short Leaf Rose Gentian (Sabatia brevifolia)

Short Leaf Rose Gentian (Sabatia brevifolia)

 

Very small but very attractive is the Southern Fleabane.  (Please let me know if this is a different species.)

Southern Fleabane (Erigeron quercifolius) (?)

Southern Fleabane (Erigeron quercifolius) (?)

Our matinee was in living technicolor.  A Cloudless Sulphur extracting sweet nectar from Britton’s Wild Petunia.  Unfortunately, this is a very prolific invasive plant which has been vigorously marketed by nurseries as a “Mexican Petunia” and is driving out native plants throughout the region.

Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) on Britton's Wild Petunia (Ruellia simplex) - "Mexican Petunia" - Invasive Plant

Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) on Britton’s Wild Petunia (Ruellia simplex) – “Mexican Petunia” – Invasive Plant

A lone pine tree in the prairie made a fine place for Bald Eagles to nest last year.

Bald Eagle Nest

Bald Eagle Nest

My camera lens will get dirty from time to time, but in this case, all the specks are flying insects.  Which is precisely why this happy Eastern Phoebe is perched in this location!

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Limpkins always remind me of something almost prehistoric, especially their calls to each other at dawn and dusk.  (Hear their call:  http://www.xeno-canto.org/102268.)  These birds have especially designed bills for opening Apple Snails and extracting the meat.

Limpkin

Limpkin

An example of the type of dry grass prairie which once stretched across a large part of Florida.

Prairie

Prairie

Cypress domes dot this area and provide refuge for an amazing variety of wildlife.  *(See Additional Resources.)

Cypress Dome

Cypress Dome

A Northern Mockingbird bid us farewell as we prepared to head home.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Wild Turkeys are highlighted in the strong light of the setting sun.

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

Nature provides the ultimate in “wide-screen” entertainment!

Prairie Sunset

Prairie Sunset

Glossy Ibis heading to a roost just after sunset.

Prairie Sunset

Prairie Sunset

We enjoy entertainment just as much as anyone.  It’s just that all the best stuff seems to be beyond the reach of an extension cord.  And when the power goes off, we won’t be all that upset.

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

Additional Resources:

Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area and Prairie Lakes Unit

(NOTE:  If you visit the Three Lakes WMA, check their website listed above for hunting dates.  If you venture afield during scheduled hunting times, be careful and wear an orange vest!  Be safe!)

*Cypress domes are stands of trees growing in a low place which usually stays wet year round.  The depression is lowest near the center of the dome and those trees grow more vigorously than the surrounding ones, thus creating the “dome” shape.

See more birds at:   Paying Ready Attention   (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Wildflowers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 65 Comments

Kissimmee Sunrise

Sunrise

Bald Eagle

Red-shouldered Hawk

American Kestrel

Turkey

Palm Warbler

 

(Check out “Lake Kissimmee Area – November 2012” in the Gallery for additional images of today’s trip.)

Anticipation is defined in several dictionaries as:  “the act of looking forward; especially: pleasurable expectation”.  On Thursday night, Gini and I made plans to visit a new park and re-visit some familiar areas around Lake Kissimmee.  I had difficulty falling asleep due to anticipation of the coming day.  I used to have the same problem as a child when a fishing trip was in the offing.  (Okay, I still have the same problem, and, yes, I know I’m still a child emotionally!)

We crawled out of bed at O-Dark Thirty and decided it was definitely too early for breakfast.  We downed a glass of liquid sunshine (orange juice for those who may be unfamiliar with Florida-speak), loaded the truck and motored east in the inky blackness.  It was quite cool so I actually had to take a jacket and included a blanket in case The Boss got chilled while guarding the truck later.  A brief stop for a large coffee and hot chocolate and we made it to Lake Kissimmee just as the sun was breaking the horizon.

It’s as if Nature’s alarm clock sounded.  Birds seemed to suddenly be everywhere.  An adult and juvenile bald eagle were overhead.  Limpkins were calling across the grass beds announcing that snails were abundant.  Coots, moorhens and gallinules chattered and grunted from the lily pads.  A flock of smallish ducks, probably Teal, whizzed past in the fast lane of the sky.  In the distance, Sandhill Cranes trumpeted their arrival.  A breeze sprang up and I realized it was cold out here at the edge of the day.

My beautiful Navigator handed me the hot coffee and together we watched a new morning begin.  I had only taken a couple of sips when an Eastern Phoebe took up a lookout position atop a fence post in front of the truck.  Well, how could I NOT take his picture?  Three sips of coffee later, a Red-shouldered Hawk materialized from the lakeside grass and staked his claim on another nearby fence post.  I sure drink a lot of cold coffee.

We were enjoying a Polk County park that opened late last year.  Coleman Landing is on the southwest shore of Lake Kissimmee and although small, it offers three very nice boat ramps, lots of picnic tables and pavilions, rest rooms (portable type) and an information kiosk.  While here, we photographed the Phoebe, Red-shouldered Hawk, turkeys, fox squirrel and American Kestrel.  Oh, and the sun coming up.

On the back roads near the lake, we found a Bald Eagle perched on a tall utility pole and another Red-shouldered Hawk on a utility line.  We drove to the southeastern side of the lake and explored Three-Lakes Wildlife Management Area and the adjacent Prairie Lakes Unit.  Part of this area is a “dry prairie”, with lots of palmetto, grass, sand and a few scrub oak trees.  When one finds a source of water out here, it’s usually crowded.  We found one where “white” was the color of the day.  Lots of Great Egrets and White Ibises.

A favorite launching area for fishing is on the east side of Lake Kissimmee at the end of Joe Overstreet Landing Road.  It’s also a good birding area.  Today we saw more eagles, lots of water fowl, Palm Warblers galore, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Loggerhead Shrikes, American Kestrels and the very common winter migrant for the area – the Snowbird.  (Snowbirds are extremely welcome and we try to feed them well during their stay as they prepare for the return trip to much colder climates.)  We recognized the Snowbirds by their plumage – short pants and short-sleeved shirts – as they were boarding an air boat for a tour of the lake.  Since the air temperature was below 60 degrees (F), we knew that no native species would attempt such a feat without having first girded themselves in full winter down.

I made one side trip on a trail within the Three Lakes WMA and was fortunate to find a Barred Owl watching me from a large oak tree.  What a magnificent creature!  How amazing to watch as it glided through the thick understory of the swamp on wings spanning almost four feet.  This one never made a sound but its cry is one of my very favorite in the wild.  (Listen to it here:  Barred Owl Call.)

 

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

 

(NOTE:  If you visit the Three Lakes WMA, check their website listed below for hunting dates.  If you venture afield during scheduled hunting times, be careful and wear an orange vest!  Be safe!)

 

We made it home late in the day, tired but quite content.  How blessed we are to be able to visit such wild places and see so many different wonders and still sleep in our own bed at night.  I’m waiting in eager anticipation of our next adventure!

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

 

Additional Resources:

Coleman Landing

Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area and Prairie Lakes Unit

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

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