Posts Tagged With: white-winged dove

A Sidewalk On The Wild Side

In some humans, there is a perception that greater efforts will yield greater rewards. Many of us teach our children that to attain “success” requires hard work. When I was attending a management school, we were advised to seek out employees who were ambitious, full of energy and always volunteering for projects and to assign these vigorous souls our most important tasks in order to assure completion of organizational objectives. Okay. I tried that. I soon realized this was effective in identifying future bureaucrats, but was not very good at getting things done. Instead, I gave the most vital jobs to the laziest individuals I could find. I discovered their main interest was to invent shortcuts so they could return to being lazy as soon as possible. My unit’s production consistently ranked high in the area of timely goal fulfillment.

As the alarm sounded, I felt guilty about sleeping in so late. Official sunrise would occur in an hour and the eastern sky was just beginning to become “less dark”. I ate some fruit, checked my camera settings, looked out the window one more time and as the dawn was 15 minutes away from breaking, I jumped in the truck, scrambled down the road and finally reached my destination – five minutes later.

My usual “patch”, Lake Parker Park, is only two miles from the house and that’s where I parked this morning. However, today I would follow a different plan. From the park entrance, there is a convenient sidewalk along the shore of the lake which ends about 1.5 mile (2.4 km) to the south. This southern terminus is an intersection with a very busy highway in a highly developed commercial business district. At the northern end, where I began my walk, is the entrance to the city park. As one travels south along the lake, the adjacent road is usually full of traffic. There is a city fire department training facility here, complete with a tower that is occasionally set afire for very brave folks to practice dealing with flames and smoke. The view across the tranquil lake’s surface is abruptly disturbed by two massive coal-fired electric plants belching dark smoke toward the heavens. Continuing southward, the neighborhood gradually changes from a nursing home, to some quite nice fairly new residences, to older bungalow style houses which have been renovated, to some older bungalow style houses which have not been renovated, to a large former motel now used as public assistance housing and ending in the aforementioned business district. Not your typical “Wow! I want to go birding THERE!” sort of spot.

At least there was no fire department training today. As I followed the concrete path along the lake, there was a strange mix of birds, blooming water plants, discarded beer cans, plastic bags, cars, dog-walkers, joggers, alligators – it was quite surreal. Also, I found 48 species of birds, including a small rookery full of herons and egrets building nests and incubating eggs, fishing Bald Eagles, a house full of breeding Purple Martins and a host of colorful feathered urban residents. And I still feel guilty about not working hard for such a huge personal reward. Well, not that guilty.

Come on! Look at what I found!

An old boat lift wheel makes a nice morning perch for an Anhinga to greet the day.

Anhinga

Anhinga

I counted eleven Limpkins along the shore this morning but couldn’t manage a decent photo of even one! The shore was littered with empty shells of Apple Snails which explains the high number of Limpkins. A Double-crested Cormorant and a Boat-tailed Grackle have discovered why the Limpkins enjoy escargot.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

Boat-tailed Grackle

Boat-tailed Grackle

The unique calls of White-winged Dove filled the air and this one remained on her perch long enough for a portrait. (White-winged Dove Call)

White-winged Dove

White-winged Dove

Purple Gallinules are extremely colorful and along this stretch of urban shore are extremely aggressive. They have learned to associate humans with a handout. Sad on several levels. I found one who seems to have not yet had his morning coffee and another who agreed to pose but when I asked her to powder her nose, she left a feather from the puff on her nose.

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

This Pied-billed Grebe contorted itself into a question mark as if to say “You lookin’ at ME?”.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

It was just a little too early for this Ring-billed Gull to begin its day of fishing. I know that feeling.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

The residential nature of much of the area contains many old, large hardwood trees as well as tall palms. Perfect for a Pileated Woodpecker to make a home. This one flew along the street for a moment before diving into an oak in a nearby yard.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

When the sunlight is at just the correct angle, it appears to be shining through a prism onto the feathers of a Glossy Ibis.

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis

One of our most common birds is the Cattle Egret. So common, they are routinely ignored by birders and photographers. During breeding season, they are much harder to ignore as their heads display some pretty intense colors. During nest construction, one bird (presumed male) kept offering a stick to another (presumed female), a typical courtship ritual with many egrets and herons.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

Speaking of hard to ignore. A Snowy Egret displays the reason this species was almost wiped out by hunters seeking the breeding plumes (aigrettes) for ladies’ hats in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Purple Martins have raised little ones in this condo for at least the past four years. It was fascinating to watch the adults arrive with a bug as the noise level and wing fluttering increased enormously from the kids inside.

Purple Martin - Female

Purple Martin – Female

Purple Martin

Purple Martin

Purple Martin

Purple Martin

The domestic Mallard. The root cause of many of duckdom’s problems. Indiscriminate. Prolific. Superior genes. And yet, still not bad to look at. Who doesn’t think ducklings are downright adorable?

Mallard - Male

Mallard – Male

Mallard - Female

Mallard – Female

Mallard - Juvenile

Mallard – Juvenile

Mallard - Juvenile

Mallard – Juvenile

Continue to work hard toward your own goals. Continue to feel good about crawling out of a warm bed three hours before sunrise, driving two hours, trekking through ankle-deep muck, swatting insects, avoiding the path with the alligator guarding it. I’ll continue to do that, too. But I won’t feel guilty about the occasional lazy morning stroll along a wild sidewalk either.

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

See more birds from around the world at Paying ReadyAttention for

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Springing Into Action !

Each season of the year offers something wonderful for us all to enjoy. Summer conjures up images of a trip to the beach or the cool mountains and backyard barbeques. Autumn means a riot of color in the woods and migrating birds to observe. As winter approaches, those blessed with mounds of snow to play in look forward to the cleansing effect the white stuff seems to have and marvel at all the tracks left by unseen creatures in a favorite tract. Springtime. Ahh, that most special time of the year we each await with utmost anticipation. Dew time. Specifically, Honeydew time. “Honey, dew the yard!” “Honey, dew the windows!” “Honey, dew the gutter cleaning!” “Honey, dew the taxes!”

Huh? Wait a minute. That’s not where I meant to go with this……..

Springtime. Ahh, there are birds out there flying north and others are building nests and some are already having babies for goodness’ sake! We must act now! Lists must be made! Pictures must be taken! Data must be compiled! Reports must be sent! More importantly, we need more time together.

(Pretty hard to argue with that last one, right?)

As our Spring has sprung in earnest around here, we’ve really been getting out a lot. The last blog was a compilation of several spots visited and this one will be the same. The time period covered is about ten days. Places visited are all in central west Florida and include: Lake Bonny Park (Lakeland), Paynes Creek Historic State Park (Bowling Green), Peace River Hammock (Fort Meade), Sumter County (several back roads, no specific place), West Lake Wales Road (near Lake Wales airport) and Hardee Lakes Park (Bowling Green). Some of the above were new to us and others were return visits to old friends.

Come on! Put a Spring in your step! Let’s go!

 

A pair of Turkey Vultures found a bench they like. Sort of reminds me of a couple of birders I know……

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

 

Loggerhead Shrikes may already have a nest nearby, but they weren’t telling.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

 

It’s easy to overlook the beauty of a Boat-tailed Grackle as they are usually numerous, loud and behave like bullies.

Boat-tailed Grackle

Boat-tailed Grackle

 

Our Florida state bird, the Northern Mockingbird, is very adaptable and will make a home near human habitation or in the remotest part of the state. And sing happily about it non-stop!

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

 

Gini insisted we take what looked like a maintenance road around a cypress hammock and (as usual) she was absolutely right. A Barred Owl looked up at our approach, decided we weren’t a threat and continued his deep sleep with a big sigh.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

 

Not far from the above owl was a Great Horned Owl on a nest. We didn’t want to get too close and disturb the egg sitting duties so we snapped a few distant photos and quietly retreated.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

 

Yellow Jessamine blooms were in profusion. Taking pictures is preferred but if you decide to pick a flower or grab a branch be certain to wash your hands well as the sap is poisonous.

Yellow Jessamine

Yellow Jessamine

 

All decked out in breeding plumage, a Tricolored Heron expressed his displeasure at my presence on his stretch of shoreline.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

 

This Little Blue Heron didn’t care who was nearby as he was too busy concentrating on a potential meal to be disturbed.

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

 

Florida Tickseed is a variety of Coreopsis, which includes the Florida state wildflower.

Florida Tickseed (Coreopsis floridana)

Florida Tickseed (Coreopsis floridana)

 

The Common Mullein is an introduced species and can grow over six feet tall. Parts of the plant have been used as herbal remedies (but don’t take my word for it – research first!). I thought the colors and patterns of the small flowers were special.

Common Mullein (Verbascum rhapsus)

Common Mullein (Verbascum rhapsus)

 

Northern Shovelers will soon be “shoveling” off for their breeding homes further north. The male is striking in coloration and the oversized bill is unique.

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

 

Although many Northern Parulas migrate through our area, we also have a resident population which remains year-around and breeds. This one thought he was hidden in the shade.

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

 

Another winter visitor is the Vesper Sparrow. He will often fly up to an exposed perch, unlike most of his little brown brethren who dive into the grass and run away.

Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

 

Pretty soon, our area will be devoid of tail-wagging Palm Warblers, which is hard to believe, since they just about form a carpet around here during the winter. They will exchange their relatively drab plumage for much brighter yellow underparts and vibrant chestnut streaks and caps.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

 

This Downy Woodpecker probed around and around this small pine tree so fast I got dizzy just watching it.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

 

Such a flimsy-looking nest for the large White-winged Dove! I couldn’t believe she intended to actually lay eggs in it!

White-winged Dove

White-winged Dove

 

Even in the dense fog, there is no mistaking the profile and colors of a Wood Duck.

Wood Duck

Wood Duck

 

A tremendous splashing near the shore of a lake followed by several alarm calls of herons and egrets led me to investigate. I was surprised to encounter a Coyote! They usually skulk about at night and keep their distance from us two-legged critters. Fortunately, he took one look at me and almost turned himself inside out running away. (I have that effect on a lot of people, too.)

Coyote

Coyote

 

Ospreys are large birds and require large nests in which to raise their families. This fellow seems intent on having the biggest and strongest place in the neighborhood!

Osprey

Osprey

 

Any dental hygienist would praise the fine condition of these teeth. This proud Mama ‘gator was surrounded by her family (I counted a total of 14 “children”). For a little perspective, the “baby” alligators in the second image ranged from about 12 inches to about 3 feet long. I estimate Mama at over ten feet (>3 meters). (Did I mention being grateful for telephoto lenses?)

Since alligator eggs typically hatch in late summer and fall, the smallest of this group is probably about 5-6 months old and the largest (about a 3-footer in the right of the photo) is likely around three years old.

American Alligator

American Alligator

American Alligator

American Alligator

 

Green Herons are expert hunters and exhibit incredible patience. It seems their beak moves towards its target so slowly at first and then the strike happens so fast we can’t see it.

Green Heron

Green Heron

 

These Florida Peninsula Cooters have found a nice dry log on which to catch a little sunshine. Their maximum length is about 15 inches and I think these were close to that.

Florida Peninsula Cooter

Florida Peninsula Cooter

 

From my resting place along the grassy bank, it was easy to see how the Peace River got its name.

Peace River

Peace River

 

I’m afraid Gini almost went through the windshield when I “vigorously” applied the brakes after spotting this year’s first Burrowing Owl. The image is poor due to the distance involved and because it was my first attempt at taking a photograph through my new spotting scope. We didn’t see a mate and couldn’t quite tell if it was adjacent to a burrow. We’ll keep checking on it as the season progresses.

Burrowing Owl (Digiscoped)

Burrowing Owl (Digiscoped)

 

As I was scanning the pasture where we found the owl above, I found a new “life bird”! Two Whooping Cranes were feeding among the cattle. These are an endangered species and these two individuals are part of an experimental group breeding in central Florida. All of these birds have large yellow leg markers and each is equipped with a radio transmitter so biologists can track their movements.

West Lake Wales Road

Whooping Crane

 

 

There was no doubt this Paper Wasp was watching my every move as it attended a new larva. I respected its desire for privacy and backed away – quickly.

Paper Wasp

Paper Wasp

 

Red-winged Blackbirds are pairing up, males are singing, nest sites are being scouted and the marsh is a noisy place!

Red-winged Blackbird (Female)

Red-winged Blackbird (Female)

Red-winged Blackbird (Male)

Red-winged Blackbird (Male)

 

Butcher Bird! That’s the alias of the Loggerhead Shrike (as well as other shrikes around the world). These birds will often impale their prey (insects/lizards) on a small branch, thorn or barb of a fence and eat it piecemeal. Sometimes, you’re just hungry and don’t feel like a formal dining experience. That was the case with this guy as he swallowed the Mole Cricket (Scapteriscus sp.) so fast I missed the picture!

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

 

It’s an exciting time outdoors! So, “dew” yourself a favor and “Spring” into action! Don’t forget to have fun!

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

 

 

Additional Resources

Lake Bonny Park

Paynes Creek Historic State Park

Peace River Hammock

Hardee Lakes Park

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 48 Comments

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