“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.
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.)
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.
An Anhinga dries its wings before another plunge into the lake for more breakfast.
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.
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.
Like soldiers on a mission, a group of White Ibis marched across the park lawn constantly probing the soft ground.
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.
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.
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.
Although not uncommon, it is always a treat to see the colorful male Northern Parula. As winter progresses, they will disappear until spring.
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!