Posts Tagged With: yellow-rumped warbler

The Verge Of Spring

Daffodowndilly

(by A.A. Milne)

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,

She wore her greenest gown;

She turned to the south wind

And curtsied up and down.

She turned to the sunlight

And shook her yellow head,

And whispered to her neighbour:

“Winter is dead.”

 

Once upon a time, I went fishing. A cheap rod and reel, a black plastic worm with a red tail. Slowly winding the reel and “tug-tug”! Largemouth bass were put on a stringer and placed in the water to keep them alive until it was time to go home. Dinner was good.

Florida’s phosphate industry is a multi-billion dollar a year business and helps supply the world with fertilizer to help feed its inhabitants. The process of extracting the minerals from Florida’s earth is not a pretty thing to watch. The land is severely damaged.

Kudos to the companies for their substantial commitment to reclaiming mined lands. Their efforts through the years provided recreation (and dinner) for my family and friends all those years ago. The same is true today.

The reclamation process includes water and land restoration. Native flora and modern water filtration techniques help ensure Floridians and visitors have access to a diverse habitat where they can pursue many outdoor interests.

Even birding!

Gini and I recently visited two areas which have been restored over the past several decades from previous mining activities. Mosaic Fish Management Area, south of Fort Meade in Polk County and Mosaic Peace River Park, south of Bartow at Homeland, also in Polk County. (Mosaic is a company formed in 2004 from the merger of IMC Global and Cargill fertilizer division. They produce more of the world’s fertilizer than the next two largest companies combined.)

Our visits were in late February and early March. Warm, humid mornings signaled a probable ending to what Floridians refer to as “winter”, or as we like to call it, “the brown season”. It’s a wonderful time to be out! Many trees and plants are sprouting new growth, flowers are forming, insects are becoming more active and birding is transitioning from enjoying our northern visitors who remained all winter to the excitement of migrants returning from Central and South America.

 

Mosaic Fish Management Area

An abundance of water with thriving fish populations attracts all sorts of predators. Humans, alligators and a diverse selection of birds. This is the Osprey’s element. A large number of Osprey nests give the area an appearance of a sort of avian suburbia.

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

Warmer weather begins reproductive cycles for many species, including dragonflies. One of our early dragons is the brightly colored Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis).

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

Claiming territory and attracting a mate. A male Northern Cardinal showed off his scarlet plumage, sang and generally let us know this was HIS patch of woods!

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

We will soon bid farewell to many warbler species who have been so kind to grace us with their presence throughout the winter months. The Palm Warbler with its pumping tail has tried to eat as many mosquitoes as possible over the past several weeks. Who wouldn’t love this bird just for that?

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

The Black-and-white Warbler and its nuthatch habits will likewise head for home soon. A few of these bright wood warblers have found some areas of the Sunshine State to their liking so we’ll be on the lookout for them throughout the year.

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

Joining the throngs of Palm Warblers in the skies, Yellow-rumped warblers are also busy fueling up with as much protein as possible to better endure their long journey. We’ll miss those bright “butter-butts”.

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

Skulking in the foliage, a Gray Catbird was part of a group of four we found in one spot. They typically form loose groups from a few birds up to a couple of dozen in preparation for heading home to breed. No more “stray kittens” in the woods until fall.

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

Mosaic Peace River Park

The Peace River is at a typically low level during the dry season. Cypress tree roots are exposed along the bank. The river winds through swamp and hardwood forests and will eventually empty into the Gulf of Mexico about 100 miles (160 km) west of here.

Mosaic Peace River Park

 

A Cypress tree reveals how high the water has been. The ground here today is damp but in a couple of months one will need a boat.

Mosaic Peace River Park

 

All sorts of creatures make trails through the low, lush vegetation.

Mosaic Peace River Park

 

Nearly all of Florida’s Cypress trees were cut for lumber by the 1930’s. If left alone, these relatively young Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) can grow to 150 feet (46 meters) tall and live for over 600 years.

Mosaic Peace River Park

 

The rich, damp soil and diffused light provided by the dense tree canopy makes swamps a great place for ferns to flourish.

Mosaic Peace River Park

 

Roots of a Bald Cypress tree probe deep into the mud along the bank of the Peace River. The surface of the still water reflects the tree’s upper branches reaching toward the sky.

Mosaic Peace River Park

 

Mining. Fertilizer. Destruction. Renewal. Fishing. Birding. Exploring.

The verge of Spring. Life is a cycle. We are blessed to be part of the process.

 

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

 

Additional Sources

Mosaic Fish Management Area

Mosaic Peace River Park (Map Location, No Brochure Available)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Day Or Night – Birding Is Great!

It’s dark in a cemetery at night. Okay, I know, it’s dark at night – duh. But it seems darker in a cemetery. The mosquitoes didn’t care. They bite when and where they find you.

Dawn was still over an hour away. We had actually hoped to hear the call of the Eastern Whip-poor-will. Happily, we heard the soft trilling call of an Eastern Screech Owl. They are usually closer than I think. Perhaps the darkness does something to my sense of distance.

We were at the Tenoroc Fish Management Area just before Christmas scouting for the upcoming annual bird count. An old cemetery provided a clearing surrounded on three sides by woods and two lakes were nearby. A perfect hunting patch for an owl.

Scanning the tree line with a flashlight, I hoped to spot the reflecting eyes of the Screech Owl, when a movement caught my attention. There he was! Right behind the car on a mid-level branch. I had pre-set the camera to its highest ISO, widest aperture and lowest shutter speed I thought would work with my shaky hands. Not wanting to shine the light in the bird’s eyes, I kept it pointed at the lower tree trunk and clicked a few images. We walked down the road to give the owl time to leave the area so as not to traumatize him any further.

Twenty minutes later, we found another Screech Owl and heard two Barred Owls calling to each other some distance away. The day was off to a nice beginning!

The rest of the morning was filled with small birds, hammering woodpeckers, soaring raptors and busy flycatchers. Our final tally bode well for the volunteers who would be searching this area in a few days.

All aspects of birding are exciting for us! But there seems to be something a little extra special about standing in the darkness, deprived of sight, and hearing an owl call from a few yards away. In a cemetery. With a mosquito on the end of your nose.

 

Eastern Screech Owl. Not a great technical photograph, but was pleased with the results considering how dark it was.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Gang leader. When we find a Tufted Titmouse in the fall and winter, it seems there are usually other small birds in the area. The titmice seem to act as “lookouts” and determine threat levels before the rest of the group show themselves.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Two white wing bars, a broken eye-ring and yellow breast with white belly identify the Pine Warbler.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Not a resident in Florida, the migratory Eastern Phoebe is constantly on the hunt for insects. Even from a distance, the pumping tail and posture help in identification.

Tenoroc FMA

 

The perch used by the Phoebe above was apparently popular. Another winter visitor, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, chased the smaller flycatcher away so she could enjoy the view for herself.

Tenoroc FMA

 

There are not many field marks to help identify the Orange-crowned Warbler, which actually helps to identify it, by process of elimination. Not many warblers are this “indistinct”. Overall plain yellow/yellow-green, grayish head and always with yellow undertail coverts.

Tenoroc FMA

 

From fall through spring, one of our most numerous migratory visitors is the Yellow-rumped Warlber. Groups of these industrious bug eaters swarm tree branches throughout the state.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Sometimes, a picturesque setting can enhance the photogenic qualities of a subject. The jury may still be out on whether this works for the Black Vulture.

Tenoroc FMA

 

A curious Prairie Warbler checked us out. Yellow underneath with black streaks along its flanks, white eye arc and grayish head indicate this is a female or immature bird.

Tenoroc FMA

 

What? A dragonfly in December? We love Florida. I chased this dragon a couple hundred yards (well, maybe 20 feet) to snap a photo. This was only my second sighting of a Band-winged Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax umbrata).

Tenoroc FMA

 

Diminutive and agitated. The tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet seems to be a non-stop bundle of energy, flashing its wings and scouring every leaf on a branch for an insect morsel.

Tenoroc FMA

 

From the dense brush along almost every path, the bubbling song of a White-eyed Vireo serenaded as we wandered. Although, once we got too close, the serenading turned into scolding until we were out of sight.

Tenoroc FMA

 

 

Beginning in darkness, ending with chasing a dragon. What a wonderful morning! If you have a chance to stand in the dark and listen for an owl, do it! Even if it is in a cemetery. With bugs biting you. You won’t soon forget it!

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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