Posts Tagged With: spiders

Making A List, Checking It Twice

At this time of year, many of us have a full plate of activities on the tables of our lives.  For us, everything revolves around family.  Although our children now have children of their own, we worry about how they’re doing and experience more than our fair share of angst over not being with them all at this wonderful time of year.  (Okay, we have angst about that all year long!)  There is baking, shopping, wrapping, mailing, decorating and a myriad of other chores which must be done.  Accordingly, when I received a call to visit a newly opened conservation area to check out the birding potential, I responded maturely and appropriately.  “What time?”

The new area is just southeast of Orlando near the town of Kissimmee.  It’s called Twin Oaks Conservation Area and is located on Macy Island Road on the northeast side of Lake Tohopekaliga.  It’s a very pretty area with picnic pavilions, fishing pier, separate observation pier, hiking trail, equestrian trail and modern restrooms.  Its position on the lake is a spot known as Goblet’s Cove which provides a fairly large protected area inviting to waterfowl.  The park consists of just under 400 acres and offers a large grassland area, lake and lakefront, wetlands and a stand of hardwood trees.

We spent a couple of hours here and without too much effort tallied 50 species of birds.  On the lake were Blue-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Pied-billed Grebe and an estimated 3500 American Coot.  Sandhill Cranes were trumpeting almost non-stop from before sunrise until we left almost three hours later.  Savannah Sparrows were abundant in the tall grass where we also found Swamp Sparrows, House Wrens, Sedge Wrens and Eastern Meadowlarks.  With all the open water and grassland, raptors were prevalent and included two endangered Snail Kites, four Bald Eagles, two migratory Northern Harriers, American Kestrels, a Red-shouldered Hawk and a Cooper’s Hawk.  Limpkins were active along the shoreline trying to get to the large Apple Snails before the Snail Kites found them.  In the oak trees we found warblers and vireos.  It was a pleasant place and we’ll be returning soon.

On the way home, we stopped briefly at several small parks and found interesting birds and wildlife at each place.  I’ve added a link to some of the spots we visited below under “Additional Information“.

The following images will give you a small idea of our exploration.

 

Sunrises are always special and this one was no exception.  A light fog hugged the ground as Sandhill Cranes began moving from their nightly roosts to the grasslands to feed, trumpeting loudly along the way.

Sunrise

Sunrise

 

Goblet’s Cove and the fishing pier, complete with fishermen!  All of that grass was full of sparrows.

Goblet's Cove

Goblet’s Cove

 

I’ve been working on getting decent images of sparrows but have not yet been successful.  In the meantime, this Swamp Sparrow shows his distinctive dark back streaks before disappearing into the thick grass.

Swamp Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

 

A trio of Sandhill Cranes head to where the bugs are, “talking” to each other during the commute.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

 

These Savannah Sparrows posed briefly before doing that disappearing trick thing.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

 

I apologize for such a poor image, but this Blue-headed Vireo was a life bird for me.  Yes, it’s also on my list of “get a good picture” birds.

Blue-headed Vireo

Blue-headed Vireo

 

Indian Blanket, Firewheel, Gaillardia.  Call them anything you like.  They’re simply beautiful.

Indian Blanket or Firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella)

Indian Blanket or Firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella)

 

Bumble Bees sounded like small airplanes as they buzzed among the flowers of the grassland.

Bumble Bee (Bombus sp.)

Bumble Bee (Bombus sp.)

 

Although common in our area, the Red-bellied Woodpecker is a handsome bird and very efficient at gathering insects.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

 

Two spiders of the orb weaver family which specialize in entangling unsuspecting hikers in sticky webs.  They love to string their artful creations across paths and are very successful at trapping a large number of insects during the night.  The Golden Silk spider is the larger member of this family but the Arrowshaped Orbweaver, although much smaller, is no slouch when it comes to coloration.

Golden Silk Spider (Nephila clavipes)

Golden Silk Spider (Nephila clavipes)

Arrowshaped Orbweaver (Micrathena sagittata)

Arrowshaped Orbweaver (Micrathena sagittata)

 

The invasive Eurasian Collared-Dove is as beautiful as it is prolific.  This species was introduced in the Bahamas in the 1970’s when a few birds escaped a pet shop during a burglary.  A few other birds were released on the island of Guadeloupe due to an impending volcanic eruption.  Some of the above birds made it to Florida in the 1980’s and the species has now colonized in most of North America.

Eurasian Collared Dove

Eurasian Collared Dove

 

Stink bugs thrive in most parts of the world.  I think this one is a Rough Stink Bug but would appreciate a correct identification.

Rough Stink Bug (Brochymena sp.) - ?

Rough Stink Bug (Brochymena sp.) – ?

 

A Black-and-White Warbler enjoys a bug of his own.

Black and White Warbler

Black and White Warbler

 

This lime-green larva is that of a Pine Sawfly (not certain of the exact species).  Although it resembles a caterpillar, it’s actually a member of the same order to which ants, bees and wasps belong (Hymenoptera).  The adult resembles a wasp but doesn’t have the narrow abdomen.  These insects can do a lot of damage to pine trees.

Pine Sawfly (Neodiprion) - (?)

Pine Sawfly (Neodiprion) – (?)

 

Yes, yet another photograph of an alligator.  (YOU try saying no to one!)

American Alligator

American Alligator

 

This five-foot beauty is a Florida Banded Water Snake.  They are not venomous but can give you pause when you step over a log and one scoots between your boots.

Florida Banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris)

Florida Banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris)

 

Orchids are among the most showy of flowers on the planet.  Most orchids, that is.  This subtly colored species is a Florida native and is found on the floor of pine forests.  They produce an odor at night which is very attractive to moths, thus increasing the odds of successful pollination.

Toothpetal False Rein Orchid (Habenaria floribunda)

Toothpetal False Rein Orchid (Habenaria floribunda)

 

A Poem –

It can be nice to wander and roam,

It’s nicer still, to be back home.

I have my list of chores and I’m checking it twice;

If all was done it sure would be nice.

When the holiday pressure starts to get you down,

Grab your bird book and get out of town!

 

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

 

Additional Information

Twin Oaks Conservation Area

Lakefront and Brinson Parks (This link is for fishing enthusiasts but provides good information and a map.  Birding can be very good all along this area and is sometimes a good place from which to observe endangered Snail Kites feeding.)

Osceola County Schools Environmental Study Center

Reedy Creek Management Area

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Wildflowers, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Lakeside

Osprey

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Great Blue Heron

(This trip was made July 26, 2012.)

The air is heavy with humidity this morning but the stars are bright in the pre-dawn sky.  Our late-summer weather pattern has made a shift to only very scattered thunderstorms in the late afternoon.  If the past is any indication, the rains will soon begin earlier in the day and be gone before sunset.  All the rain over the past few weeks has resulted in the shore of Lake Hancock bursting its banks with high water while streams and run-off from the marshes continue to flow with force into the lake.  How blessed I am to witness the ongoing cycle of surface water, evaporation, rain, flooding, seeping, percolation, filtration…..and on this day, my own small contribution of what seemed like gallon buckets of perspiration.

Walking to the lake through low-lying fields reminded me why I need to hone my sense of fashion a bit more.  Basic black shirt equals “skeeter magnet”.  Big ones.  The ones that take your hat right off your head, throw it on the ground and kick you when you bend over to pick it up.  The laugh of the skeeter in the swamp is a truly chilling sound.  Once I reached the lakeshore path, a breeze sprang up with the rising sun and the bullying bugs disappeared.

This particular path is built up a little in elevation and all along its length there were drag marks in the mud and the grass was pressed down where alligators moved during the night between the marsh and the lake.  Trees here are larger.  Cypress, oak, bay and a host of others unknown to me.  Spanish moss provides hiding places for all manner of critters and its wispy soft gray character set the stage for a morning of adventure.

It’s almost August and a small flock of warblers is overhead cheeping noisily as they search for trees full of protein-laden insects.  This will be an excellent place to search for migrating birds in the next couple of months.  Deep-throated booms abound as the frog community announces a new day.  When I’m able to track down one of these amphibians, I’m always amazed at how small they can be to make such a “large” noise!  Overhead, the sky is beginning to resemble a commuter corridor as herons, egrets, spoonbills, ducks and storks transit to the marsh to stake out a feeding area.

In two hours, I saw four other humans.  Three were the jogging kind and I gave them a wider berth than I did the alligators.  Unpredictable species, joggers.  The other human was walking to try and stay limber as the onslaught of age, arthritis and scalpels had taken a toll on his agility.  We agreed it was a great morning to be … well, anywhere!  I took a very deep breath as he continued down the path, with a sobering thought about my own mortality.  No philosophy!  There are birds in them there trees, weeds and water!

Fish for breakfast!!  No wonder I love the Osprey!  When the path revealed a view of the marsh, I counted at least half a dozen trees with two to six Ospreys in each tree.  Most were munching “fish and grits”, without the grits.  (Can you tell I didn’t have breakfast yet?)  An Anhinga perched expectantly on a limb over a canal patiently hoping for a morning snack.  His other name is Snake Bird, due to his method of swimming with his whole body submerged and only his thin neck and spear-like beak above the surface.  No matter where you see her, the Black-bellied Whistling Duck always seems like she just visited the salon.  Every feather in place, eye-liner perfectly applied and bill polished to perfection.  Anyone who has taken an early morning walk in the woods during summertime in the Southeast has likely had a face full of spider web more than once.  The usual suspect is a member of the Nephila genus.  Their web can span two to four feet and is sticky so once you get it in your hair it seems like you can feel it all day.  The Golden-silk spider is a beautiful representative of its family.

Some birds do not appear to be built to sit on a tree limb.  The Great Blue Heron is one of these.  Stately and aloof in the water or on the marsh, he appears ungainly in a tree.  No matter where we encounter him, though, he’s an impressive creature.  Woodpeckers are often heard but not always seen.  I had already heard the brief, intermittent drumming of several Red-bellied woodpeckers and the precise-sounding longer drum of a Downy.  The Pileated Woodpecker sounded more like an axe striking a limb with pauses between “thwacks”.  When I saw her, I discovered the reason for the pauses.  She had found a “vein” of bugs in the limb and as she tore off a bit of bark she was slurping them up as fast as she could.  The large trees by the lake began to give way to the marsh and a sentinel stood guard at the top of a Cypress, staring at me as I passed.  I’m pretty sure the Red-shouldered Hawk was gauging whether he could carry me all the way back to his nest.  Thank goodness I wasn’t one of those lean, lanky jogging kind.  Come to think of it, I never did see them again……….?

Red-Shouldered Hawk

The path abruptly turned 90 degrees and I was between the marsh and the parking lot.  The sun was hot.  A swig of cold water was refreshing and I had a spring in my step as I approached the truck.  Well, maybe it wasn’t the water that quickened my pace.  My beautiful date for breakfast was patiently waiting in the passenger seat and our day was off to a really wonderful beginning.

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

Check out “Circle B Bar Reserve – July” in the Gallery for more images.

Additional Resources:

Circle B Bar Reserve

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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