Posts Tagged With: spotted sandpiper

Reclamation Exclamation

I never learned to curse properly. Even today I can’t seem to exhale expletives as smoothly as most five-year olds. If an inappropriate utterance does happen to escape my lips it seems to hang in the air while my sweet Gini’s mouth gradually opens wider and wider and her coffee-with-cream brown eyes become twice their normal size under eyebrows which are arching toward the sky. I blame my parents. I don’t recall them ever cussing. Plenty of my peers were expert in the art of foul-mouthed oratory. A military career exposed me daily to an entire sub-language of obscenity I never knew existed. Oh well. I may be too far gone to learn new habits at this point so I’ll just continue to struggle along living with the shame of remaining verbally deficient.

“Look at that crane!” Gini said she couldn’t see it. “How can you miss THAT??” She still didn’t spot it. Then it dawned on me she thought I meant one of our Florida Sandhill Cranes. “The walking crane.” Oh, she said, obviously disappointed. The “walking crane” is a common sight in west central Florida where phosphate mining is common. These behemoths are so large they can’t move easily from one spot to another as they are too heavy to be mounted on wheels or a track system like other cranes. They use a unique cam system which raises the whole crane up and moves it slightly forward on specially designed “feet”. It won’t win any speed contests. Most folks who love nature despise the idea of phosphate mining on several different levels, not the least of which is the destruction of native habitat for profit. It’s easy to hate big, faceless corporations who strip our land of its resources for nothing more than unabashed greed.

Gosh, I wish I knew how to curse.

On the other hand…..

Without the fertilizer which comes from the phosphate mined here, many areas of our planet would experience famine. Without the jobs created by the phosphate industry in Florida, many families would be destitute and have to rely on government support to survive. I’m not defending big business, but there are many sides to issues which may at first glance seem all negative. I grew up in this area and mining was a part of the landscape. As an ignorant teenager (yeah, I know, redundant term), I enjoyed many hours of really productive fishing in reclaimed phosphate pits. Today, we still enjoy great fishing and now some of our best birding occurs in areas which were mined and have been restored by the big, bad corporate cabals.

One such reclaimed mining area has become a favorite destination. Hardee Lakes Park near Bowling Green, Florida. It’s only an hour’s drive from the house and offers four lakes and 1150 acres of hardwood forest, swamp and pine woods. The park has recently been renovated to include an improved camping area with modern showers and it is now open every day of the week beginning at 0700. Our recent visit produced 52 species of birds. The four lakes are all former phosphate pits which means they are deep and have almost no shallow water near the shoreline. Accordingly, there are not many wading or shore birds found here. Most of Florida’s natural lakes are like shallow bowls, gradually declining to maximum depths of only four to eight feet. Phosphate pits may be 20-40 feet deep or deeper. During the day we saw over two dozen White-tailed Deer, Sherman’s Fox Squirrel (a species of special concern), Gopher Tortoises, a few migratory warblers, four Black Terns (first time we’ve seen them here), Northern Bobwhite sneaking through the forest and we heard calling Barred Owls. We enjoyed lunch at one of the picnic tables on the shore of a lake and reluctantly headed home after a very relaxing morning. In over five hours in the park, we encountered exactly one (1) other human being, a park ranger. Our kind of park.

 

We saw quite a few White-tailed Deer in the park today. These deer can become almost tame in parks which have a lot of campers who mistakenly think they’re “helping” deer by feeding them (usually marshmallows and cookies). These deer were quite wary and wild.

An alert buck.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

 

A watchful doe.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

 

A carefree fawn.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

 

Although I mentioned not many shorebirds due to no shallow water, this Spotted Sandpiper enjoyed hunting for breakfast along an artificial “beach”.

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

 

The four lakes offer good fishing for humans but the birds have discovered it’s productive for them, too. Forster’s Terns are already in their non-breeding plumage. We were surprised to find four Black Terns this morning. They’re not rare in this area, but neither are they common.

Forster's Tern

Forster’s Tern

Black Tern

Black Tern

 

On a boardwalk through a hardwood swamp area, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was busy chasing insects. He picked up a piece of grass, contorted his body to get a better look at me and flew to the safety of a tree to ponder if I was a threat.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

 

This Red-shouldered Hawk loudly objected to my presence. She must have been about to capture a meal when I came around a bend in the path because she remained on her perch instead of flying away.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

 

Mr. and Mrs. Northern Bobwhite scurry across the path. These birds are normally in more grassy areas but may have been headed to the lake for a drink/bath.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

 

Along the lake shores, American Lotus were in bloom providing a nice splash of color. The spent seed pods are sought after by florists to include in arrangements. Almost all parts of the plant are edible and were used extensively in Native American dishes.

American Lotus

American Lotus

American Lotus

American Lotus

 

The male Eastern Pondhawk is powdery blue when mature. Immature males are green and resemble the adult female.

Eastern Pondhawk - Male (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Eastern Pondhawk – Male (Erythemis simplicicollis)

 

Female Four-spotted Pennants are more brown and have more subtle wing spots than the dark males.

Four-spotted Pennant - Female  (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant – Female (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant - Male  (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant – Male (Brachymesia gravida)

 

On the way home, we counted 13 Wild Turkeys in one flock on the south side of the road and less than a quarter mile later we spotted a group of 14 on the north side of the road. And we’re pretty sure they were talking about us……

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

 

There may be plenty to curse about in our world, but perhaps in our exploration of Nature we can reclaim our ability to exclaim how wonderful it can be!

 

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

 

Additional Information:

Hardee Lakes Park

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

Ever Have That Dream Where You’re Falling?

Naive. I think that’s the best word to describe us. When we were young, of course. Now that Gini and I are all grown up, we are quite sophisticated, worldly and wise. Well, Gini is wise. I’m just along for the ride. After a whirlwind wedding squeezed in between military assignments, these two Florida native kids pointed a fully loaded station wagon north and our continuing trip has been glorious!

Growing up in central Florida, we enjoyed the changing of the seasons to the fullest. The green of Spring, the green of Summer, the green of Autumn and the mostly brown of Winter. Ahh, Nature’s infinite variety. Thus, in the Spring of our marriage traveling from Florida to Syracuse, New York, we were quite perplexed during a roadside picnic in western Pennsylvania. The setting was gorgeous. Forest on all sides and a fast-running stream of clear water by our table. Gini gazed upstream and asked about all that white foam along the shoreline? At that time, I still had nimble legs and an intrepid (read: “not necessarily the sharpest tool in the shed”) nature. I scrambled down a bank of wet, slippery leaves, scampered across boulders, investigated thoroughly and reported back to my new commander-in-chief (yes, she still makes me call her that). “It’s snow.” Our first encounter with the white stuff of northern legends. We looked at each other and blinked. “In March?” Of course, back home, waaaaay to the south, it was still 90+ degrees (F) and 100% humidity. Since then, we’ve experienced changing seasons in several parts of the planet and marveled at Nature’s beauty.

Fast forward a whole bunch of years. We really love all the places we have lived and each has its own beauty. I think the most pleasant surprise for us was discovering the kindness of the human race. It still fuels our hope for this world. Once settled back in our central Florida landscape, we again became accustomed to the local “changing” of the seasons. Usually, the calendar is the only way we know what time of year it is as Mother Nature doesn’t give us a lot of hints here in the Sunshine State.

One little hint she does provide – our bird watching changes. That’s happening now and it makes routine birding forays a bit more exciting. There is an expectant feeling that today you might see a flash of color belonging to a seldom seen warbler or a flock of brown shorebirds hunched over feeding in a sod field or a raft of ducks floating on a usually barren lake surface. Hooray! Fall is here!

Our local park at Lake Parker didn’t provide a plethora of passing migrants, but we found a few visitors enjoying the tree-top buffet. In our listing of 54 species were migratory Yellow Warblers, Northern Parula, Yellow-throated Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and a Spotted Sandpiper. The coming weeks will be fun!

Here are a few images of regulars, visitors, non-avian fauna and one red flower to begin the day.

 

The bright Scarletcreeper is a native vine which certainly adds some nice color to the landscape.

Scarletcreeper  (Ipomoea hederifolia)

Scarletcreeper (Ipomoea hederifolia)

 

This Eastern Gray Squirrel had just visited the local home supply store for his living room remodeling project. He didn’t have time to stop and talk.

Gray Squirrel

Gray Squirrel

 

A fairly common butterfly locally, Horace’s Duskywing looks pretty drab at first glance but upon closer inspection has a lot of design detail to see.

Horace's Duskywing  (Erynnis horatius)

Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius)

 

Another “drab” butterfly which is more attractive than initial impression is Dorantes Longtail, one of the spread-wing skippers.

Dorantes Longtail  (Urbanus dorantes)

Dorantes Longtail (Urbanus dorantes)

 

One of Lake Parker’s residents, the Great Egret is quite regal looking on its perch by the shore.

Great Egret

Great Egret

 

We are at the southern limit of the Northern Paula’s breeding range so this may be a year-round resident or a visiting migrant. No matter. It’s a pretty bird.

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

 

As with the Northern Parula, the Yellow-throated Warbler may breed in our area. Today I found four of them and at least one or two may be likely migrants.

Yellow-throated Warbler

Yellow-throated Warbler

 

The bright Yellow Warbler is one of our earliest fall migrants and a half dozen were in the park this morning.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

 

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are year-round residents but are always striking with their contrasting plumage. These big tree ducks were virtually unknown in our area 25 years ago but now are quite numerous.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

 

Shorebirds often migrate in large flocks and remain together even once they reach their winter destinations. The Spotted Sandpiper may fly in small groups for safety but prefers his own company when feeding. Distinctive black spots on the undersides usually disappear during the winter. They feed with a distinctive nodding and teetering action.

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

 

Although autumn is approaching, our semi-tropical weather permits late season breeding and this Mourning Dove is fortifying an existing nest. I found the nest and a second bird appeared to be brooding eggs.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

 

This young Red-bellied Woodpecker is fully fledged and even though he can feed himself he still shouts for Mom to bring him something to eat. Kids are the same everywhere.

Red-bellied Woodpecker  -  Immature

Red-bellied Woodpecker – Immature

 

A pair of young Limpkins were nothing more than small lumps of feathers a couple of months ago. Now they have no problem locating their own Apple Snails among the cattails and making quick work of extracting the meat.

Limpkin (Immature)

Limpkin (Immature)

 

Just as a reminder of how damp our summer has been, a small sampling of fungi encountered during the morning walk.

Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

 

 

We may not have the extensive change of tree foliage or freshly fallen snow to soften our footfall in the woods, but our seasons here bring excitement just the same. If you’re having that dream – go ahead and “fall” into a great birding trip!

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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