Posts Tagged With: stink bug

Sunday Drive

Once upon a time, there were two families. They lived almost 300 miles from each other. One family had six children, the other had four. Once a week, on Sunday, their routines were remarkably similar. The day began early with lots of bustling about, having a quick breakfast together, checking skirts, shirts and ties. Church was a big deal. Although a pew was not reserved, each of these families always seemed to occupy the same respective one every week. Trying to keep that many young children attentive during a long sermon must have been a challenge. A “shushhh” from Mother or a loud “Hallelujah!” from the minister was usually enough to keep us all in line. The ultimate silencer, though, would be “The Look” from Dad. None would dare make a peep or continue to fidget after THAT!

Back home, the first priority was to get out of those Sunday clothes! The two Mothers performed their ritual weekly magic and a huge lunch always appeared on the large family dining table. A roast beef and mashed potatoes, a baked ham with apple sauce or mounds of spaghetti. After such a feast, a short nap was in order. Well, our duty as kids was to fight taking naps with a vengeance, so we usually found something to keep us busy while the old folks snoozed. (Funny how now that WE are the old folks, we would love to have a nap!)

About mid-afternoon, both families would pile into the car again for “The Sunday Drive”. There was usually no actual destination for these drives but they usually involved getting “out in the country”. About the time the kids started becoming obnoxious (“She’s TOUCHING me!!”), Dad would say something like “Who wants ice cream?”. Riot control extraordinaire.

Gini and I have often marveled how similar our childhood memories are.

A couple of weeks ago, we went on a Sunday Drive.

We visited Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. Visit the link below for information on exploring Lake Apopka. The 11 mile wildlife drive always seems to offer something wonderful. Today was no exception.

 

It’s fall and migration is in progress. A flock of Fulvous Whistling-Ducks soars over the marsh in search of a protective spot to rest.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Palm Warblers are among the first wood warblers to arrive each season and we saw well over three dozen of the active little birds during the day.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Squawking his displeasure at us interrupting his hunting, a Great Egret flapped to another area where he hopes for more privacy.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

This immature Red-shouldered Hawk paid no attention to us at all as his gaze was fixed on a water snake for breakfast. He grabbed the snake and flew directly into the bright sun, so no photo of him with his prize.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Autumn means the return of one of our favorite raptors, the Northern Harrier. The owl-like face, long tail and checkered wing pattern combined with a low, lilting flight just above the marsh make this hunter a joy to watch.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Rich colors of the Green Heron help it to blend with the surrounding vegetation as it patiently stalks prey such as small fish, frogs, lizards and snakes.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Watching a Great Egret preen, we are reminded how hunters almost decimated the species as they harvested the beautiful long feathers (aigrettes) for ladies’ hats.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Blooms of the water lily decorated a few spaces of open water.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

A pair of Blue-winged Teal are likely migrants as the species typically does not spend the whole year in central Florida.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

This Fulvous Whistling-Duck appears to be peeved that I’m taking his portrait.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

A large lake bordered by a vast expanse of marsh interspersed with canals makes excellent habitat for the American Alligator. We observed many dozens. They, in turn, observed us.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Several species of freshwater turtles call this area home. Here, a Peninsula Turtle lounges on a limb and soaks up a little sunshine.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

When bees are covered in pollen identification (for me) becomes difficult.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Gaining altitude over the wetlands, an immature Bald Eagle almost looks “dirty”. This is probably a third-year bird and this time next year she should be decked out in fresh white and black plumage.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

There are many variations of the Stink Bug and I think this one is a Brown Stink Bug (Euschistus sp.). Most members of this insect family can damage a wide variety of crops.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Don’t tell this Common Gallinule he’s common. I did and he took offense.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

The bill of this small diving bird provides a clue to how it got its name, Pied-billed Grebe. (Gini calls them “fuzzy butts”. Call the ornithological union.)

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Throughout the marsh there are plenty of snags from which hunters such as the Little Blue Heron can perch and scan below for a meal.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

One of the largest and most efficient of hunters, the Great Blue Heron, is not only magnificent to look at but is also amazing to observe as it hunts a huge variety of prey.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Another early migrant, the American Bittern, specializes in camouflage. When it stands motionless in front of reeds and holds its head toward the sky, it can become almost invisible.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Florida residents. Paper wasps are common and if you don’t provide the respect they deserve you will receive a painful reminder to keep your distance!

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

We thoroughly enjoyed our Sunday Drive. Just as I started to get a bit fidgety, Gini said there was ice cream ahead! Turned out to be grilled German sausage and apple pie. Just as good!

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

Additional Information:

Lake Apopka North Shore

 

Postscript

On the way home from our Sunday Drive, we received a phone call. Help was needed. We went home, packed and headed north.

On October 10th, Hurricane Michael made landfall as a Category 4 storm very near my brother’s home. As the storm churned northeastward, it passed directly over the homes of two of Gini’s brothers. Thankfully, all three families had evacuated and received no injuries. Property damage was extensive, unfortunately, and it will be awhile before things return to normal.

We helped in our small way by providing some food and cleaning up a seemingly infinite number of downed tree limbs. Other family members pitched in with financial aid and helped as they were able.

Safely back home, we are thankful for all we have and, for awhile, will try not to take what we have for granted.

Life is good. Enjoy it!

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: