Posts Tagged With: three lakes wma

Rejoicing In The Familiar

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, a young man and his family began a journey that would return them to their native home. It had been over a thousand days and a thousand nights since they had last seen their homeland. Their excitement could not be contained and as they glimpsed the place they had missed so much, tears of joy welled in their eyes. Over the next few days and weeks, there was a lot of catching up to be done. Renewing acquaintances with the once familiar. Round door knobs, toilets with handles instead of overhead chains, pizza, blue sky, sandals, unreliable public transportation. It was good to be home!

Fast-forward several hundred years. Birders are weird. Some of us are quite content to enjoy the view from the kitchen window of regular visitors to our garden feeders and bird bath. Others of us prefer the challenge of the chase, spending the equivalent of a small nation’s gross national product each year to answer rare bird alerts from Antarctica to Zanzibar. The vast majority of us fit somewhere in between these two extremes. We do. As much as we enjoy watching “yard birds”, we love exploring and finding birds in interesting new places or seeing new species or ones we see infrequently. As for the chasing around the world thing, we’re not much for that lifestyle (i.e., we’re poor!).

No matter how far afield we go or what exotic species we may have just checked off our list, it’s always a sheer joy to see the birds with which we are most familiar. It’s comfortable. The eminent birder, ringer and blogger, Phil S., recently opined: “… it’s the same old species which provide the buzz of birding, knowing and appreciating a regular patch.” (If you haven’t visited Phil’s blog, well, why not?? Go here: Another Bird Blog. Do it now. I’ll wait.)

It’s that element of familiarity, with a known place populated with known species, that continually draws us to it as surely as steel to a magnet.  It gives us that “buzz” which Phil mentioned. We relish seeing a “wild” Mockingbird just as much as his suburban counterpart who nests in our yard. A bright red Cardinal and his piercing whistle are immediately recognized in the scrub oak tree we drove three hours to get to just as is the sight and call of the father of our neighborhood Cardinal family. Sure, we love finding new birds or migrants or rarities. A day spent with birds we know well, however, is just – comfortable.

Although too far away to be called our “patch”, we find ourselves regularly pulled in the direction of Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area. (See, Additional Information below.) Consisting of nearly 64,000 acres (25,900 ha) and located on the eastern side of Lake Kissimmee in Osceola County, this vast area consists primarily of dry prairie, cypress swamps, freshwater marshes, pineland and scrub. The diversity of flora and fauna is truly incredible. Our latest trip there was like visiting the home of an old friend. We encountered familiar birds and animals within a familiar environment. And we rejoiced.

 

Some images.

 

A distinctive black mask identifies the Common Yellowthroat male while his mate is more subdued in color but still sports the yellow throat for which the species was named.

Common Yellowthroat - Male

Common Yellowthroat – Male

 

Common Yellowthroat - Female

Common Yellowthroat – Female

 

Florida’s state bird is the Northern Mockingbird. Here he looks rather “stately” as he keeps a wary eye on us until we leave his domain.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

 

Native Green Tree Frogs have had a tough time holding their own against the invading horde of Cuban Tree Frogs. Once very common, these small amphibians are now quite scarce. This one was either napping or praying we wouldn’t spot him. These little guys are typically from 1-2.5 inches (2.5-6.4 cm) long.

Green Tree Frog  (Hyla cinerea)

Green Tree Frog (Hyla cinerea)

 

Narrowleaf sunflowers were on display just about everywhere that day.

Narrowleaf Sunflower  (Helianthus angustifolius)

Narrowleaf Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)

 

This is not a good photograph, but I had never seen this insect before. It flew into the truck and landed for a moment on the ceiling. Turns out it’s a Katydid Wasp and it’s clutching, yep, a Katydid.

Katydid Wasp (Sphex nudus)

Katydid Wasp (Sphex nudus)

 

We drove past what I thought was a long green palmetto leaf but it didn’t look right. Turns out it was a Florida Rough Green Snake. I estimated its length at about 30 inches (76.2 cm). It didn’t move as I lay prone in the middle of the road a few feet away.  One of its defensive mechanisms is to “freeze”. Of course, this fellow forgot that technique works best for him in the green canopy of a tree, not on the stark white of a sand road!

 Rough Green Snake  (Opheodrys aestivus carinatus)

Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus carinatus)

 Rough Green Snake  (Opheodrys aestivus carinatus)

Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus carinatus)

 

A native Florida Box Turtle is quite handsome despite some serious wear and tear to its outer shell.

Florida Box Turtle  (Terrapene carolina bauri)

Florida Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina bauri)

 

AS SEEN ON TELEVISION!! Sorry. Couldn’t help myself. The highlight of the trip was Gini spotting this Dung Beetle rolling its package across the road. I have only seen this on television documentaries. Who knew Florida had Dung Beetles?? I found it fascinating the bug uses its rear legs to do the rolling while it walks on its forelegs. I couldn’t figure out if the two flies on the beetle’s back were drivers, supervisors or government contractors.

Dung Beetle  (Canthon pilularius)

Dung Beetle (Canthon pilularius)

Dung Beetle  (Canthon pilularius)

Dung Beetle (Canthon pilularius)

 

Dung Beetle  (Canthon pilularius)

Dung Beetle (Canthon pilularius)

Dung Beetle  (Canthon pilularius)

Dung Beetle (Canthon pilularius)

 

Occasional patches of Pale Meadowbeauty certainly brightened the prairie!

Pale Meadowbeauty  (Rhexia mariana)

Pale Meadowbeauty (Rhexia mariana)

 

A curious White-eyed Vireo alternately sang and gave his alarm call. Guess he couldn’t make up his mind whether we were friend or foe.

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo

 

Shortleaf Rosegentian offered yet another color dimension to Nature’s incredible display.

Shortleaf Rosegentian  (Sabatia brevifolia)

Shortleaf Rosegentian (Sabatia brevifolia)

Shortleaf Rosegentian  (Sabatia brevifolia)

Shortleaf Rosegentian (Sabatia brevifolia)

 

A small butterfly, the Whirlabout, perches atop a slim stalk of Blazing Star.

Whirlabout - Male  (Polites vibex) On Blazing Star (Liatrus spp.)

Whirlabout – Male (Polites vibex) On Blazing Star (Liatrus spp.)

 

Even more purple. This Cloudless Sulphur apparently likes the nectar from a Mexican Petunia.

Cloudless Sulphur  (Phoebis sennae) On Mexican Petunia  (Ruellia brittoniana)

Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) On Mexican Petunia (Ruellia brittoniana)

 

We even found dragons. A Carolina Saddlebags hangs on to a stalk of grass.

Carolina Saddlebags - Female  (Tramea carolina)

Carolina Saddlebags – Female (Tramea Carolina)

 

I was almost on top of this Killdeer before he moved slightly and I saw him. Amazing camouflage provided by the subtle plumage matched the surrounding rocks.

Killdeer

Killdeer

 

Obligatory alligator photograph. State law. Can’t be helped. Move along.

American Alligator

American Alligator

 

Butcher Bird. The Loggerhead Shrike feeds mainly on insects which she will impale on a thorn, branch or barb of fence wire. This makes it easier for them to eat. They have been known to cache several insects for later consumption.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

 

As we left the area, one more familiar face bade us farewell. The lovely countenance of the Black Vulture with those chocolate brown eyes. One could almost discern a tear forming in his eye as we drove into the sunset.

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

 

 

Our day was full of familiar sights, sounds and experiences. We will return. Again and again. If, at the end of the day, you find your checklist has only the same old species with a mark beside it – rejoice! You have discovered the buzz of birding!

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

 

Additional Information

Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area

 

See more birds at:   Paying Ready Attention   (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildflowers, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Kissimmee Sunrise

Sunrise

Bald Eagle

Red-shouldered Hawk

American Kestrel

Turkey

Palm Warbler

 

(Check out “Lake Kissimmee Area – November 2012” in the Gallery for additional images of today’s trip.)

Anticipation is defined in several dictionaries as:  “the act of looking forward; especially: pleasurable expectation”.  On Thursday night, Gini and I made plans to visit a new park and re-visit some familiar areas around Lake Kissimmee.  I had difficulty falling asleep due to anticipation of the coming day.  I used to have the same problem as a child when a fishing trip was in the offing.  (Okay, I still have the same problem, and, yes, I know I’m still a child emotionally!)

We crawled out of bed at O-Dark Thirty and decided it was definitely too early for breakfast.  We downed a glass of liquid sunshine (orange juice for those who may be unfamiliar with Florida-speak), loaded the truck and motored east in the inky blackness.  It was quite cool so I actually had to take a jacket and included a blanket in case The Boss got chilled while guarding the truck later.  A brief stop for a large coffee and hot chocolate and we made it to Lake Kissimmee just as the sun was breaking the horizon.

It’s as if Nature’s alarm clock sounded.  Birds seemed to suddenly be everywhere.  An adult and juvenile bald eagle were overhead.  Limpkins were calling across the grass beds announcing that snails were abundant.  Coots, moorhens and gallinules chattered and grunted from the lily pads.  A flock of smallish ducks, probably Teal, whizzed past in the fast lane of the sky.  In the distance, Sandhill Cranes trumpeted their arrival.  A breeze sprang up and I realized it was cold out here at the edge of the day.

My beautiful Navigator handed me the hot coffee and together we watched a new morning begin.  I had only taken a couple of sips when an Eastern Phoebe took up a lookout position atop a fence post in front of the truck.  Well, how could I NOT take his picture?  Three sips of coffee later, a Red-shouldered Hawk materialized from the lakeside grass and staked his claim on another nearby fence post.  I sure drink a lot of cold coffee.

We were enjoying a Polk County park that opened late last year.  Coleman Landing is on the southwest shore of Lake Kissimmee and although small, it offers three very nice boat ramps, lots of picnic tables and pavilions, rest rooms (portable type) and an information kiosk.  While here, we photographed the Phoebe, Red-shouldered Hawk, turkeys, fox squirrel and American Kestrel.  Oh, and the sun coming up.

On the back roads near the lake, we found a Bald Eagle perched on a tall utility pole and another Red-shouldered Hawk on a utility line.  We drove to the southeastern side of the lake and explored Three-Lakes Wildlife Management Area and the adjacent Prairie Lakes Unit.  Part of this area is a “dry prairie”, with lots of palmetto, grass, sand and a few scrub oak trees.  When one finds a source of water out here, it’s usually crowded.  We found one where “white” was the color of the day.  Lots of Great Egrets and White Ibises.

A favorite launching area for fishing is on the east side of Lake Kissimmee at the end of Joe Overstreet Landing Road.  It’s also a good birding area.  Today we saw more eagles, lots of water fowl, Palm Warblers galore, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Loggerhead Shrikes, American Kestrels and the very common winter migrant for the area – the Snowbird.  (Snowbirds are extremely welcome and we try to feed them well during their stay as they prepare for the return trip to much colder climates.)  We recognized the Snowbirds by their plumage – short pants and short-sleeved shirts – as they were boarding an air boat for a tour of the lake.  Since the air temperature was below 60 degrees (F), we knew that no native species would attempt such a feat without having first girded themselves in full winter down.

I made one side trip on a trail within the Three Lakes WMA and was fortunate to find a Barred Owl watching me from a large oak tree.  What a magnificent creature!  How amazing to watch as it glided through the thick understory of the swamp on wings spanning almost four feet.  This one never made a sound but its cry is one of my very favorite in the wild.  (Listen to it here:  Barred Owl Call.)

 

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

 

(NOTE:  If you visit the Three Lakes WMA, check their website listed below for hunting dates.  If you venture afield during scheduled hunting times, be careful and wear an orange vest!  Be safe!)

 

We made it home late in the day, tired but quite content.  How blessed we are to be able to visit such wild places and see so many different wonders and still sleep in our own bed at night.  I’m waiting in eager anticipation of our next adventure!

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

 

Additional Resources:

Coleman Landing

Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area and Prairie Lakes Unit

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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