“There’s a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico.” Not what I wanted to hear earlier this week.
In late August, we called our son in Houston to see if he and his family needed to visit us in Florida until Hurricane Harvey passed. My son reminded us ever-so-diplomatically that if he were to have any flood damage at his house he would have to turn in his geology degree. They weathered the monster storm just fine.
A couple of weeks later, our son was on the phone asking if we needed to visit them in Houston until Hurricane Irma passed.
Mother Nature. Who knew she had a sense of humor?
I have no degree in geology but assured him we had weathered storms before. Of course, that was just bravado. We did the requisite stocking of supplies and prayed a lot. The intensity of our praying may have increased with the ferocity of the winds howling outside as rude Irma passed directly overhead during the night.
The current storm, Nate, is churning toward my sister’s house in Florida’s panhandle. It shouldn’t give them any problems. Shouldn’t. I don’t trust Mother Nature to play fair.
A couple of days after Irma caused devastation to Florida, Gini and I ventured out to survey our local area. We didn’t get far. Within just a few miles from the house, roads were covered in water and blocked by downed trees and power lines. We returned to the house and prayed some more. For those who would be weeks without water and power.
After a few more days, we again set out and found most roads passable. (A HUGE thank you to the responders from law enforcement, tree companies, utilities workers – literally thousands from other states – who have worked so hard to get Florida back to a sense of normalcy.) Since our normal birding haunts within public parks and reserves were closed we checked on accessible areas such as pastures, country roads and lake shores. Wildlife was abundant and we remain amazed at how resilient nature can be.
We have made a half-dozen forays since Irma tromped on Florida and life is returning to its normal pace. Today’s photographs are a compilation of what we found within two weeks of the hurricane’s passing. Migratory songbirds don’t read headlines and don’t watch the Weather Channel, so they have been showing up in treetops as they have for millennia. We appreciate it.
We visited this area in southern Hardee County a week before the hurricane and could see no water at all.
A pair of Crested Caracara found something of interest in a field and keep a sharp lookout for thieves.
Wading birds don’t mind the flooded fields at all! An immature White Ibis flapped by us on his way to probe the soft mud for breakfast.
This Northern Mockingbird extracts a grub from an oak tree branch.
A Caspian Tern takes a dive at a local lake. There was a pier between me and where the tern entered the water but I was able to peek through the railings in time to see him fly off with his prize.
Ants are on the menu as the sticky tongue and bill of this Red-bellied Woodpecker are covered with the little morsels.
Driving along a remote country road, we found a Roseate Spoonbill taking advantage of water running across the road and washing all sorts of goodies into his waiting, well, spoon bill. I don’t know if he was looking to the heavens in thanks or wishing we would move along!
Water is returning to somewhat normal levels in many wetlands and residents, such as this young Red-shouldered Hawk, are thankful to find old perches and fresh food.
With so much water, vegetation is flourishing. A Cloudless Sulphur finds nectar from Caesar Weed (Urena lobata), an invasive species with an attractive bloom.
Near Lake Kissimmee, about an hour east of us, we found several large and small flocks of Wild Turkey.
A pair of European Collared-Dove perched picturesquely on a pier.
It’s the time of year Bald Eagles begin courtship and the males can display some pretty spectacular aerobatics as they try to impress the ladies. I managed to follow one such fellow through a series of tight turns as he screamed throughout the show. There were four eagles involved in the demonstration but I tried to ignore the others (not easy!) to get a series of this guy. Here are four out of the two dozen images I took.
Limpkins are plentiful in our area thanks to a plethora of Apple Snails. These large waders are the only members of their species (Aramidae) in the world. Their name comes from their “limping” gait.
Along one dirt road, we stopped counting the webs of the Golden Silk Orbweaver, as they seemed to be everywhere. The strong silk is very effective at capturing large insects, such as the grasshopper here.
Purple Gallinules are not very accomplished songsters, but they sure make up for it in the colorful looks department!
Fall migration is in full swing. Most of the time, the birds are too high in the tree tops or in dense cover which makes photography impossible. Occasionally, I get lucky.
Cape May Warbler
Baltimore Oriole (female)
American Redstart (male)
There is nothing “fun” about a storm, especially a huge tropical Hurricane. Damage to our region has been severe. The same is true for Texas, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, other islands of the Caribbean and even Nate, while “just” a tropical depression, has taken 22 lives in Central America.
We are extremely thankful to have had minimal damage.
Our routine has been disrupted but our lives have not. Nature continues its cycle of life and we continue to be in awe of its magnificence.
As Gini and I recover from the storm, to be fortunate enough to see a mighty Bald Eagle perform a courtship flight or to marvel at the flash of bright orange as a Redstart startles insects from a hiding place – this is how we know we are truly blessed. To be able to do it together is something really special.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!