Posts Tagged With: red-shouldered hawk

Patching Things Up

“The greater effort you expend the more rewarding will be your results.” I’m sure they didn’t use those words, but our parents made certain we understood the concept. Their parents drilled it into them that hard work would provide what they need to survive. Thanks to my genius in marrying well, Gini was successful in raising our two children with those same values. We are infinitely proud to see those traits being passed along to grandchildren.

Birders exhibit similar behavior. If we drive for hours, hack through the bush with our machete, tip-toe across the swamp on the snouts of alligators, fight off hordes of malaria-carrying mosquitoes and arrive in a clearing just as the sun is about to peek above the horizon – well, naturally we will be amply compensated for all that effort by having the best day ever of birding, replete with a diverse number of rarities never before observed by mortal bird-watchers!

You get the idea.

In all our fervor to explore distant venues and chase those elusive “lifers”, it’s easy to forget about what’s close to home. Our “Patch”. Sure, it may not produce some exotic sighting or allow one to tick off a hundred species in half an hour, but it’s just ten minutes away. No machete needed.

I arrived at Lake Parker Park just as the sun was about to peek above the horizon (that sounds familiar) and the moon was sinking in the western sky. I’ve developed a loosely defined pattern over the years in which I check the reeds near the boat ramp first for Least Bitterns, hike north along the shoreline, follow a canal westward, check the big oak trees in the open park area, peek into the shallow pond by the soccer fields, scan the soccer fields for ground-feeders, check the tall light supports for raptors, probe a row of mulberry trees and then back to the parking lot. A couple of miles, a couple of hours.

Sometimes, as with birding anywhere, there are surprises. Always, there is satisfaction.

 

I was glad a hand-held shot with the 600mm lens produced a passable image of a not-quite-full moon as it neared the horizon.

Lake Parker Park

 

As fall migration ramps up, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher forms into groups, sometimes with other species, and it is common to see several in one trip. (Today’s total was 28.)

Lake Parker Park

 

Like an old friend returning home, the tail-pumping Palm Warbler began arriving in small numbers last week. Soon, they will be everywhere and birders will be exclaiming: “Uhh, just another Palm!” Although easily dismissed due to their profusion and relatively plain appearance, they are among my favorite birds.

Lake Parker Park

 

An Anhinga dries its wings before another plunge into the lake for more breakfast.

Lake Parker Park

 

Similar to the Palm Warbler, the Eastern Phoebe (also a tail-pumper) is returning to the area and is a welcome sight. Many of these small flycatchers will remain here all winter while most of their relatives will continue on to South America.

Lake Parker Park

 

A year-round resident, the Red-shouldered Hawk is our most abundant raptor. This one was very upset that I passed under HER tree. She circled me three times yelling the whole time before returning to the same branch once I had moved along.

Lake Parker Park

 

Like soldiers on a mission, a group of White Ibis marched across the park lawn constantly probing the soft ground.

Lake Parker Park

 

Male American Redstarts are hard to miss with their inky black feathers highlighted with bright orange. The female is more subdued in her gray cloak with tasteful yellow markings.

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park

 

Whoa! Something different! This was only the third time I’ve seen a Black-throated Blue Warbler. A handsome male who finally remained still long enough for a snapshot.

Lake Parker Park

 

In past years, it has been uncommon to see very many Magnolia Warblers. This season, quite a few have been reported around the county. I was happy to catch a glimpse of this colorful migrant.

Lake Parker Park

 

Although not uncommon, it is always a treat to see the colorful male Northern Parula. As winter progresses, they will disappear until spring.

Lake Parker Park

 

A nice walk, a beautiful morning, lots of bird activity, fresh migrants, old friends. All only ten minutes from the front door. As you plan your next birding adventure up the peak of Mt. Fuji, don’t forget your local patch!

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Watch Out For Falling Birds !

The miracle of bird migration is typically portrayed by images of thousands of ducks and geese filling the skies with noisy quacking and honking as they lift off from northern climes headed for the warmth of tropical locations each autumn. If one is fortunate enough to observe flights of such large numbers of birds it is truly awe-inspiring.

There is another aspect of avian migration not well known to “non-birders”. It involves stealthy little feathered jewels who travel mostly at night and may never be seen by human eyes as they complete their annual journey of survival. Small songbirds begin showing up here in central Florida in late summer and even though they may travel in groups it is not unusual for them to escape unnoticed as they make their way south.

We sometimes describe Florida as having two seasons – green and brown. The sub-tropical climate is perfect for billions of insects to breed and bird migration is timed to perfectly coincide with the peak of the bug birth bonanza. With little fanfare, warblers and other woodland birds arrive in dribs and drabs surprisingly ahead of what the calendar says is the first “official” day of autumn.

So here we were, the last week of August, trudging along a sandy path at dawn already soaked due to high humidity, craning our necks to see what that movement is in the very tops of the tallest trees in the area. (Aren’t there perfectly good bugs in the lower branches?) By noon, a serious case of “warbler neck” would be making itself felt.

Today we were exploring Tenoroc Public Use Area, which was formerly a vast phosphate mining operation in Polk County. As the minerals were extracted to the maximum extent possible, the land was eventually sold to the state and private parties. An effort began to reclaim the mining pits, restore the land to a more natural ecology and develop an area which has become a premier destination for fishermen. Largemouth Bass grow well in the deep waters of the pits and careful management has made the area very popular for those seeking a “trophy”. All bass must be returned to the water immediately so the gene pool is kept intact.

Mining operations ceased here over 50 years ago, and the reclamation process by humans as well as natural forces has been impressive. In addition to great fishing, the diverse habitat has resulted in the area being a “gateway” for birding. The large number of lakes (former mining pits), wetlands, open grasslands, hardwood and pine forests – make this a very rewarding place to visit for a casual walk or serious day of birding.

It was early in the year to be expecting a very large number of migrants but we were pleasantly surprised by the diversity of what we did find. By noon we had observed 50 species of birds.

(Some individual totals which are more than one would expect on a “normal” day here: 10 Red-bellied Woodpecker, 8 Downy Woodpecker, 10 Prairie Warbler, 8 Yellow-throated Warbler, 5 Black-and-White Warbler, 5 Ovenbird, 12 Tufted Titmouse, 13 Northern Cardinal, 9 Carolina Wren, 26 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, 27 Northern Parula.)

So although the calendar (and thermometer!) says it is “summer” – fall migration is under way!

 

Tenoroc FMA

Great Crested Flycatcher

Tenoroc FMA

Downy Woodpecker

Tenoroc FMA

Prairie Warbler

Tenoroc FMA

Yellow-throated Warbler

Tenoroc FMA

Red-shouldered Hawk

Tenoroc FMA

Carolina Chickadee

Tenoroc FMA

Ovenbird

Tenoroc FMA

Tufted Titmouse

Tenoroc FMA

Northern Parula

Tenoroc FMA

Carolina Wren

Tenoroc FMA

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

The sleek yellow and blue Prothonotary Warbler has long been a “nemesis” bird for me, escaping my lens too often.

Tenoroc FMA

Prothonotary Warbler

Tenoroc FMA

Black-and-white Warbler

Tenoroc FMA

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

 

Swallow-tailed Kites breed in Florida, migrate to South America and return in mid-February. This bird should have left the state a couple of weeks ago!

Tenoroc FMA

Swallow-tailed Kite

 

Not a migrant nor a warbler. Just beautiful to look at.

Tenoroc FMA

Black Vulture

 

When you visit Tenoroc, be certain to check in at the ranger station. It’s a big area and they try to keep track of all their visitors.

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

 

Additional Information

Tenoroc Public Use Area

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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