Posts Tagged With: purple gallinule

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

Close Enough For Comfort

I should go birding or photographing every day. Alas, the requirements of everyday life simply prohibit such a luxury. Okay, that and the fact that I’m lazy by nature and can’t bring myself to leave the house at the totally unrealistic hour the sun decides to arise each day.

But if I wanted to make a short drive to a decent spot for birds and scenery, I could do so, thanks to my city’s thoughtfulness in providing a very nice park less than ten minutes from the house. Our city is not huge (a little over 100,000 population) but has included a good number of urban parks in its past and future planning. The one near our house, Lake Parker Park, is a very nice oasis surrounded by development. As you near the park entrance, you drive past a large baseball complex, winter home to a professional team. Just outside the park’s southern boundary is a fire department operations center which is quite loud on training days, not to mention smoky. Near the park’s northern entrance is a state police headquarters where driving tests are administered. Directly across the lake from the park one can view a picturesque coal-fired power plant complex.

Having said all of that, one can arrive as the park opens at dawn and spend a lovely hour or two of relative calm and quiet before the city awakens. Within the park are groves of huge oak trees, a sprinkling of pines and three different spots where mulberry trees provide ripe fruit each year. There are soccer fields which offer foraging areas for Killdeer and Mourning Dove and the tall light support structures provide ideal nesting platforms for Osprey and Great Horned Owls. The lake shoreline, a canal, a pond and small wetland all offer appealing habitat and feeding spots for a very diverse selection of birds.

Spring and fall migrants can make for exciting birding with the potential for a rare species always possible. Many northern visitors spend the entire winter within the park and the relatively confined area makes spotting them much more likely than at some other popular birding locales.

Now that summer is here, the park is a great place to find breeding birds. Water birds compete for prime nesting trees along the lake’s edge and woodland species enjoy the large populations of insects found near the water.

A few days ago, I managed to stumble out of bed early enough to go to the park in order to photograph a beautiful sunrise. Mother Nature provided a blanket of early morning fog for me to enjoy instead. Sigh. It was still a lovely morning and I even found a few cooperative birds, including a bit of a rarity which has been frequenting the park the past few weeks.

Patch:  Lake Parker Park

A blessing in disguise. Although the fog didn’t permit a photograph of a pretty sunrise, it does obscure the not-so-beautiful power plant across the lake.

Lake Parker Park

 

A local fisherman patiently waits for the fog to lift. Actually, the Great Blue Heron hunts just fine no matter the conditions.

Lake Parker Park

 

It’s difficult to find models willing to get up early and sit in the top of a cypress tree in the mist at dawn, but, fortunately for me, the Anhinga is beautiful (!) and works cheap. Gini suggested a bit less eye make-up but, hey, “cheap” was the key word.

Lake Parker

 

One of the more colorful residents of the park are Purple Gallinules. They are here all year and these chicks are probably about a month old.

Lake Parker

 

With abundant water and water-loving vegetation, insect life is prolific here. Some of the bugs are very attractive, such as this male Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis). The immature male begins life the same bright green as the female and then turns this characteristic powder blue. This color change can involve as many as 17 distinct color stages over a 2-3 week period.

Lake Parker Park

 

The smallest of North America’s herons, the Least Bittern (length: 13 inches, wingspan: 17 inches), is not often seen due to its size, coloration and “bittern” habit of holding still with its head pointed skyward to avoid detection within dense reeds. This one was hungry. He fixed his gaze on an unseen prey just beneath the surface, stretched his long neck and dove completely underwater for his breakfast snack.

Lake Parker

Lake Parker

Lake Parker

 

The Snail Kite population within Florida is estimated at less than 1,000 individuals. This is down from about 3500 in the late 1990’s. The decline is likely due to human development affecting the bird’s primary food source, the Florida Apple Snail. Accidental introduction of invasive apple snails from South America has recently provided a boost to the kite’s food supply. In the past five years, the kite population has increased slightly. The species still faces huge challenges as habitat loss still occurs. Also, nature provides its own issues. Last year, Hurricane Irma swept across Florida and in its wake biologists determined virtually all Snail Kite nests (over 40) on Lake Okeechobee in the south were destroyed. I felt fortunate to be able to observe this beautiful male catch and eat breakfast the other day.

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park

 

Another local patch for which I am very thankful! Be better than I am when it comes to getting out of bed to go visit your own special spot.

 

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

 

Additional Information

Lake Parker Park

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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