Within the gradually dimming recesses of my memory I recall a spring camping trip in Lincoln National Forest, near Cloudcroft, New Mexico. Through an accidental stroke of genius, I had pitched our tent in such a manner that, from the interior, the tent’s entrance framed a field of wildflowers, beyond which lay an impressive stand of aspen trees. Our first night was, shall we say, “memorable”. (Please do not bring up thunderstorms and bears if you speak with Gini about this trip.)
Just before sunrise, peering through the opening in the canvas, one could just make out a mule deer standing inside the tree line at the far edge of the field. Nose high, sampling the air, she took a step toward the field. A thin layer of fog hugged the tops of the wildflowers. Seemingly from nowhere, two more deer appeared by the side of the first. Each glanced left and right and furtively began grazing. I blinked. Now there were six deer munching their way into the field.
Night had turned into day. I saw it take place and yet, don’t know exactly when it occurred.
It was happening again. (Just a few weeks ago seems like another era in some alternate universe.) Near the end of March, we drove through the entrance gate of Tenoroc Public Use Area just before dawn and stopped to sign in at the headquarters. Robin, the very friendly ranger, reminded us to let him know if we saw anything special. We always do.
We parked alongside one of the many lakes to enjoy the “sunrise moment”. Just like our New Mexico experience, the vague forms and shadows in the crepuscular atmosphere gradually became trees, islands, herons and alligators. Not content with providing us with a visual extravaganza, Mother Nature added some audio. Pig frogs, a squawk from an Anhinga, a duet from calling Barred Owls, Common Gallinules mumbling near the shore and from a half-dozen spots the eerie cries of Limpkins.
The day was filled with nearly 50 species of birds, wild hogs, alligators, turtles, three species of snake, butterflies and a multitude of dragonflies. We relaxed during lunch under the shade of cypress trees while watching Roseate Spoonbills, Great Blue Herons, Glossy Ibises and Limpkins feed and preen nearby.
Yes, we are spoiled beyond reason.
We were quite fortunate to welcome Spring this year. We look forward to observing Her departure – in person.
It is difficult to imagine a more perfect way to begin any day than experiencing the sun rise over a tranquil lake with my best friend by my side. It doesn’t hurt that Gini is also the most beautiful woman in my universe.
Typical lake habitat includes diverse vegetation, hardwood trees, mostly deep water (over 20 feet) and adjacent marshes. Upland forests and dry/wet tracts of prairie also dot the management area’s over 7,000 acres.
An American Kestrel burst across the road before I could focus properly. My apologies, but he sure is handsome, even with my unsteady hands attempting an image.
The Limpkin is the only member of the Aramidae family. Scientists link it to rails but it looks similar to herons and ibises. Its specialized bill is designed to extract apple snails from their shells.
Looking all bright and fresh, a curious Prairie Warbler checked us out. This species breeds in our area so don’t know if it’s a native or a tourist on his way north.
The Florida Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus carinatus) employs a defensive device by “freezing” when a threat is detected. Memo to snake: Freezing in place for a bright green snake in a green tree is a good strategy. When stretched out across a white sand road — not so much.
Dragon season is back! Although we can find dragonfly activity year around in central Florida, it really gets going as spring begins. A male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) held still for a quick portrait.
Mourning Dove are exceedingly common here and we (and by that, I mean “ME”) often overlook their beauty when rushing to locate more exotic species. Shame on us – uhh – me.
Just beyond the Mourning Dove above, a Red-tailed Hawk was perched atop a utility pole. He launched just as I raised the camera. An impressive raptor, indeed!
“Bless you!” After about her 15th sneeze, Gini buried her head in the tissue box. There’s a chance I found the culprit. New pine tree blooms abounded.
Packing his suitcase for the flight to familiar and distant breeding grounds, a Savannah Sparrow gave us one last look before his return next fall. Bon Voyage!
On our way home, the late afternoon rays of the sun bathed over a Red-shouldered Hawk as she scoured the road from her wire lookout spot above the exit gate.
Our day had been an exuberant celebration of welcoming Spring’s return! Little did we know we were about to be locked out of our favorite haunts during the ensuing weeks. Moral: Make the most of today!
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!