Posts Tagged With: yellow-bellied sapsucker

Migration Fascination (A Love Story)

“Propelled by an ancient faith deep within their genes, billions of birds hurdle the globe each season, a grand passage across the heavens that we can only dimly comprehend and are just coming to fully appreciate.”  Living On The Wind – Scott Weidensaul

 

Florida. Sub-tropical, humid. Economical for raising children. Toss ’em outdoors. Tell ’em to come back when they get hungry. Minimum investment in clothing, no shoes required, Mother Nature provides the toys. (If you are under 40 years old and, by accident, have stumbled upon this article, the above will make no sense to you and may even cause you to question whether you should alert authorities. I don’t blame you. Proceed as your conscience guides you. But – call your Mother first and see what she thinks.)

Thus, two products of such an upbringing met in middle school, discovered sea shells, caught fish, swam, tossed rotten oranges (okay, I was the only tosser), held hands, kissed over the fence (yes, Gini was the girl next door), married and immediately moved 1200 miles from home. My Uncle Sam insisted I attend Syracuse (New York) University before sending me around the world for the next 20 years. That girl next door has remained as beautiful as when I first saw her in the band room those many years ago. (We shall not speak of what happened to yours truly in those ensuing years.)

“Wow!” My lady has a knack for understatement. Autumn. This was something new for us. Florida has two seasons:  green and brown. Upstate New York puts on a show around the middle of October that simply has to be seen to be appreciated, as mere words or photographs are totally inadequate. The colors, the crispness of the air, the crunchiness of the forest floor littered with confetti from the trees – overwhelming for a couple of flatlanders!

The Air Force allowed us to reside in Europe for almost ten years and autumnal scenes reminiscent of  New York were replayed for our enjoyment. Eventually, we returned home. Two seasons. Which we thoroughly enjoy! However, images of “fall color” on calendars, magazine covers or television screens  elicit heavy sighs at this time of year from each of us.

Ma Nature has compensated us, somewhat, by sending little balls of colorful feathers our way every year so that we may enjoy our memories of yellow, red and orange leaves drifting on the breeze. If we worked at it, we could catalogue a lengthy list of migratory birds as they travel through Florida on their annual journey to the southern hemisphere. Key word, “work”. So, we are content to make shortish trips and scan the tippy-tops of impossibly high trees in the hope of spotting impossibly small birds. Fun!

Here, for your enjoyment, are a few of the world travelers we have met this fall. We wish them a safe journey and hope to see them again next year.

 

The Tufted Titmouse is a gang leader. Their clear whistle is usually the first sound to be heard in the woods and they will soon appear above our heads with a quizzical look as they try to figure out what sort of danger we pose. The good news is, they are usually accompanied by an assortment of fellow gang members. Safety in numbers.

Colt Creek State Park

 

With plenty of water in our area, it doesn’t take long to hear the chattering from a low twig of a bush near a pond or stream indicating a Common Yellowthroat is in the area. They are quick to jump out of their hiding spot to see who’s there, but just as quick to dart back into the shadows, chattering all the time.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

 

Mr. and Mrs. American Redstart are quite a handsome couple! Insects are frightened from hiding places as these warblers flare their wings and tails with bright patches of color.

Tenoroc FMA-Bridgewater Tract

Colt Creek State Park

 

Looking more like a thrush than a warbler, the Ovenbird even acts like a thrush as she scours the forest floor, scratching up leaves and twigs hunting for a meal. Raising her crest, she lets me know I intruded a bit too close to her dinner table.

Tenoroc FMA-Bridgewater Tract

 

Pine Warblers can be quite variable in plumage. Some individuals are very bright yellow with crisp markings while others may be quite drab (and easy to overlook!).

Tenoroc FMA-Bridgewater Tract

Bereah Road East

Bereah Road East

 

Speaking of bright, this Prairie Warbler was very curious about what I was up to. He followed me for quite awhile before losing interest.

Tenoroc FMA-Bridgewater Tract

 

With behavior more like a nuthatch, Black and White Warblers really stand out with their striped plumage. Running “down” a tree trunk or clinging to the underside of a tree limb is just “un-warbler” like!

Colt Creek State Park

 

Most of the waterfowl have not yet arrived on the scene. With the exception of the advanced guard. The Pied-billed Grebe. These little water warriors live here all year, but in the fall they are joined by fair numbers of their northern cousins. Have you ever seen a Pied-billed Grebe fly? Me either. I have a theory they migrate by bus.

Hardee Lakes Park

 

Florida has a diverse population of resident woodpecker species. One we only see in migration is the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. In the photo, you can see the characteristic drill pattern around the tree trunk which may be designed to expose sap which in turn will attract insects for the bird to scoop up.

Hardee Lakes Park

 

Downy Woodpeckers breed in our area but we also see many non-resident birds during migration. I really don’t know if this male and female are residents or tourists. I just like the picture.

Saddle Creek Park

 

Our wetlands are “abuzz” this time of year. Lots of insects, as usual, but new voices come from the noisy wren family. The diminutive Marsh Wren has that “attitude” which all the wrens seem to possess. Daring you to come out in the marsh and say that to his face.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Just as pugnacious as his relatives, the House Wren is easy to identify by having virtually no identifying features. A “plain brown wrapper.”

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

Most of the year, Florida is devoid of sparrows, except for the old world House Sparrow and endangered Florida Grasshopper Sparrow. Fall is, for me, a time when I get to re-learn which sparrow is which! They all look the same for awhile. Okay, more than awhile. This Swamp Sparrow remained in the open long enough to see the nice bright brown wing patches and distinct facial pattern.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

In a ball of moss, among the fronds of a palm tree or on a twig, the bright black and white and yellow of the Yellow-throated Warbler is hard to miss.

Coleman Landing

 

As with many warblers, Magnolia Warblers in fall plumage are much different than in breeding season. The subtle colors and striping makes me think twice about what I’m seeing.

McIntosh Tract

 

Palm Warblers are one of our most numerous fall migrants. Arriving earlier than most, little mobs of the tail-waggers can show an amazing difference in plumage range. Two races (eastern, western) can be seen in our area with the eastern being brighter overall.

Bereah Road East

Lake Parker Park

 

Not much later than the Palm Warblers are the invading hordes of Yellow-rumped Warblers. Just as numerous as their Palm cousins, these bright birds usually prefer trees while the Palm is equally happy foraging on the ground. A hint of yellow on the shoulder, dark streaking, two wing bars and the namesake yellow rump all help to identify this enthusiastic bug hunter.

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

Lake Gwyn Park

 

For the past couple of weeks, every path taken has resulted in cat-calls. The Gray Catbird has arrived! Dozens of these handsome birds have been seen (but especially heard!) on each trip.

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

For a bit of relief from so much yellow, we found a half-dozen Eastern Bluebirds hanging out with a flock of Palm, Pine and Prairie Warblers on the edge of an orange grove last week. Not sure if these are residents or not?

Bereah Road East

 

It’s not all warblers. The White-eyed Vireo sings almost constantly to ensure we don’t overlook him.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Although the White-eyed Vireo above might be a resident, we only see the Blue-headed Vireo during migration. It’s song is very vireo-like, but quite different than the White-eyed.

Saddle Creek Park

 

Fall means Phoebe is here! And she CONSTANTLY reminds us her name is:  “FEE – bee!!” The Eastern Phoebe, with its wagging tail, is very common at the moment, but numbers will subside a bit as many birds will continue on further south.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Once in awhile, a rare bird shows up. A resident of the western United States, the Yellow-headed Blackbird is noted passing through Florida once every two or three years. Luckily, this was one of those years! (Remind me to tell you about crawling through blackberry brambles to get this shot.)

McIntosh Tract

 

 

Gini and I are thankful we experienced fall foliage and it’s one of the things we do miss by living in central Florida. (Snow is very pretty. Miss it? That’s another story …) If you live in an area which provides a riot of color each autumn, get out and relish it. Don’t take it for granted. If, like us, you are season-limited, check out the little fluffs of color in your trees. You will be amazed.

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Over The River, Through The Woods, Under Construction

BEEP – BEEP – BEEP – BEEP

It can’t be time to get up already. We just went to bed. Ever the gentleman, I offered to let my bride sleep in an extra hour – or two. “No, let’s get going.” I’m pretty sure she was smiling. She tends to wake up happy. Now I felt guilty for wanting to sleep in – uhh, for being considerate and wanting HER to get some extra rest. Up and at ’em.

Our target today was about an hour’s drive south on the eastern edge of the community of Fort Meade in southern Polk County. The Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area is about 125 acres of hardwood forest along the banks of the Peace River. Visitors to the park will find a canoe launch, plenty of picnic tables, grills, large pavilions, rest rooms and a fair view of adjacent ponds and wetlands. We wanted to see if work had been completed on a trail which was planned from the park to the southwest for 2.5 miles through a wetlands and ending at another canoe launch point on the Peace River.

BEEP – BEEP – BEEP – BEEP

The lullaby of dump trucks backing up as they delivered loads of dirt suggested that construction was still ongoing. Oh, well. Maybe we should find another spot to explore this morning. Wait, what’s that? Hey, a small flock of Cedar Waxwings! The first we have seen this year. Most waxwings migrate further south but a few remain through the winter as long as the weather is mild. Look! A Northern Parula. And a Black-and-white Warbler, no, two, no, three! Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Yellow-rumped Warblers seemed to be everywhere. A pair of Osprey were tending a nest. A Northern Harrier tilted low over the wetlands and a pair of Ring-necked Ducks splashed into a nearby spot of open water. We thoroughly enjoyed the next couple of hours as there seemed to be birds in every tree. Gini spotted a huge hornet’s nest, probably made last year by Bald-faced Hornets. They build new nests each spring and this one was empty, but impressive.

Heavy equipment was moving in and out of the park at a steady pace but it didn’t seem to bother the birds at all. We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast on the bank of the river while being entertained by curious Tufted Titmice, various water birds including a Belted Kingfisher, three species of woodpeckers and warblers and vireos sucking up bugs from the leaves.

To think, we almost went elsewhere. Sometimes under construction should be taken under consideration.

 

Cedar Waxwings were very happily devouring berries and didn’t seem to mind me snapping a few candid photos.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Cedar Waxwing

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Cedar Waxwing

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Cedar Waxwing

 

The Black-and-white Warbler is distinctive not only in plumage but also in behavior. Thinking he must be related to a nuthatch, he scampers DOWN a tree trunk probing for insects along the way.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Black-and-white Warbler

 

This “peek-a-boo” image of a Tufted Titmouse was all I could manage. They were abundant and loud all morning but just would not give me a chance to get an unobstructed picture.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Tufted Titmouse

 

A utility pole made a good perch for a Red-bellied Woodpecker to announce her presence to the world. The back side of the pole had three old cavities which may have been used by this bird in the past.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Red-bellied Woodpecker

 

Although not a very good photograph, this is one of the few times I’ve actually seen the “yellow belly” of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

 

Seeming to have a nice pair of spectacles, a Blue-headed Vireo remained above our heads for quite awhile and was curious as to why we were on the ground and not on a tree branch like a sensible animal should be.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Blue-headed Vireo

 

Gini’s hornet’s nest. Yes, she wanted me to retrieve it. No, I did not climb up a tree 50 feet to get it for her. Not this time.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

Hornet’s Nest

 

The male American Kestrel is one of my favorite birds. A combination of good looks, athletic ability and pure attitude. Reminds me of someone – where is that mirror?

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

American Kestrel

 

Ignore the sound of that alarm! Pay no attention to the sound of construction! Get up! Get out! Go birding!

Right now!

 

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

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

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