BBC

No, not the prestigious communications company.

“Birding By Car”.

Three weeks ago, with all of our parks and managed natural resource areas closed to humans, Gini and I scarcely missed a beat. Our routine birding adventures include rambling along country roads enjoying open spaces and fresh air. Occasionally, we even spot a few birds.

On this particular occasion, SWMBO* requested a “ride in the country”. Perfect! The first week of May means many species of birds are fully engaged in mating mode. Singing, dancing, nest building. I had been hoping to check on Burrowing Owls in Hardee County, about an hour-and-a-half to our south. Gini agreed it was a brilliant idea.

One of the advantages of leaving the house at Oh-Dark-Thirty is missing the high volume of traffic which begins about an hour later. Forty-five minutes of driving, the sky is gradually beginning to lighten and we make a brief stop at the coffee emporium of a small town. (Yes, it WAS a McDonald’s.) Fortified with caffeine, I bravely turned eastward 30 minutes later to face the bright rising sun.

Cool morning air flowed through the open windows, patches of ground fog hugged low places in surrounding pastures and along Charlie Creek. White-tailed Deer, Wild Turkey and Fox Squirrels were beginning their day. Our destination was just ahead.

Turning south, we were on a public road which was rough and unpaved until two years ago. The new asphalt certainly was an improvement in the comfortable ride department! We pulled off the road almost immediately as Gini spotted movement in the brambles. With the engine off, we could hear White-eyed Vireo, Tufted Titmouse, Northern Parula and Red-bellied Woodpecker in a wooded area. The movement Gini spotted suddenly flew some distance and buried itself deep into the weeds. A beautiful male Common Yellowthroat!

Most of the habitat is open pasture and a couple of citrus groves. Two large dairies operate here and the pastures are pockmarked with ponds for cattle and canals connecting them. Very attractive for many birds! Since virtually all of the land is private, BBC is the perfect strategy.

We moved along the road another 50 yards and pulled off again. On the east side of the road, a small wet area harbored a few clucking Common Gallinules and a pair of Red-winged Blackbirds, likely with a nest in the dense reeds. Wading in the shallow water, a pair of Sandhill Cranes instinctively moved away from us. We could hear more cranes in the distance but out of sight. On a fence post a Red-shouldered Hawk alternately preened and scanned the damp ground for breakfast.

The remainder of the morning followed the same pattern: drive a few yards, pull over, see birds. It took us about four hours to cover less than ten miles. Another advantage of BBC, the vehicle serves as a blind. Birds are skittish as we approach but are quick to settle down and return when they don’t see any more movement, as they would if we were hiking the area. And there’s a coffee cup holder.

We reached a bridge over a creek (almost dry as we’ve had no rain) which was our turnaround point. About a dozen Sandhill Cranes were feeding in a grove of oak trees, trumpeting loudly as new birds joined the group. These are almost certainly migratory birds (Grus canadensis). During migration, groups of these cranes numbering more than four or five are likely winter visitors. The Florida Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis pratensis) is a sub-species endemic to Florida and tend to remain in small family groups for at least their first year.

Highlights of our BBC morning included a migrating flock of about three dozen Bobolinks, Red-headed Woodpeckers and a Crested Caracara which Gini spotted while I was trying to get a Bobolink to pose.

We meandered back to the main highway along yet another back road and came across a section of pine trees where we counted at least eight Red-headed Woodpeckers chasing each other, likely a mating/territorial event. Singing in the distance was a Bachman’s Sparrow and perched on a fence near the car was a Great Crested Flycatcher.

We found no Burrowing Owls today but our BBC adventure was extremely satisfying!

 

All fluffed up and ready to face the sunrise. A Red-shouldered Hawk ignored us as he continued to preen and watched for a careless frog.

10 Mile Grade

 

I couldn’t manage to get good images, but any sighting of a Red-headed Woodpecker is welcome! The species continues to decline primarily due to loss of habitat.

10 Mile Grade

Fish Branch Road

 

Eurasian Collared-Dove were quite common five or six years ago but have become harder to locate in more populated areas. Their “invasion” appears to have moved north and west of here in the past few years.

10 Mile Grade

 

A Sandhill Crane forages for brunch. The “rusty” colored plumage is likely due to diet and during late summer molting will renew the overall gray look.

10 Mile Grade

 

Throughout the morning, the wonderful serenade of Eastern Meadowlarks drifted through the windows.

10 Mile Grade

 

With several ponds and canals in the pastures, Bald Eagles are fairly common.

10 Mile Grade

 

Frustrated is how I ended up feeling after attempting photographs of Bobolinks. These poor samples were the best I could manage. Sigh.

10 Mile Grade

10 Mile Grade

 

The state of Florida is re-opening most state parks and many counties and cities are following suit with local parks. It will be wonderful to visit old feathered friends again! However, we will still use our tried and true method of exploration:  BBC!

(The Burrowing Owl appearing in the header is from a few years ago at this same location.)

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

 

*(She Who Must Be Obeyed)

16 Comments on “BBC

  1. Great birding day and I really like the acronym… we enjoy that hobby too (same as you two but not with such good pictures). Wally, I am going to try to send this comment using my inactive WordPress blog address, since all my previous comments using my real blog (FullTime-Life) have apparently been lost in cyberspace here on your new blog. I have enjoyed every one of your posts. Sallie

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    • Good morning, Sallie! Thank you so much for the nice comments.

      Sorry about difficulties in finding us, but your post arrived just fine.

      Hope your upcoming weekend is filled with joy!

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  2. Hello,

    I really enjoyed your report of BBC. The birds are all wonderful sightings and beautiful photos. Some of my favorites are the Red-headed Woodpecker, Meadowlark and the Bobolink. Enjoy your day, have a great week ahead.

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  3. Hi Wally: Glad to hear that you are still getting out and about, and that the birding continues to be quite fantastic. There are certainly many ways to deal with Covid-19 that do not completely change one’s life and one can enjoy time outdoors under any conditions. Does Gini enjoy being referred to as “She who must be obeyed”? That seems to be a tad tyrannical, but I am sure it is done in jest. Great series of pictures. Birds never let us down do they? Stay well and continue to enjoy nature in all its glory. All the best. David

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    • Thank you, David for your thoughtful comments.

      Gini and I have been married too long for either one of us to put up with being “subjugated” in any way! The ingredients that keeps us in love have been mutual respect and a larger than normal sense of humor.

      Early birding tomorrow! Yay!

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  4. If you hadn’t have come up with some wonderful alternatives, Wally, I might have got a little cross with you for teasing me with that header, and then telling me that you saw no Burrowing Owls. It seems, however, that you did see a remarkable array of birds and had a very worthwhile excursion. I can honestly say that I’ve never had a McDonalds coffee. I’m not averse to ‘the Scottish restaurant’ – I just don’t associate them with coffee!

    I’m sure that you’ll be pleased to hear that I did get out for a short drive and walk this week (without breaking any rules – I hasten to add!) – and actually found a couple of dragons and many damsels! I was beginning to fear a dragon-free summer.

    My very best wishes to you and Gini. Take great care – – – Richard

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    • If you restrict your intake of McCoffee to one small one twice a year and drink it before the sun is up, it isn’t too bad!

      Very good news on your outdoor forays. Especially happy you won’t go this year “dragonless”. (Not to mention “damsel-less, but that could be construed differently than my meaning – oh, never mind.)

      We shall continue to be as careful as two rebels can be and our best wishes are winging their way to you and Lindsay!

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  5. Morning Wally. Good to hear that you treated Gini to an expensive Mac breakfast. Who says chivalry is dead?

    I had to reread that when I thought you might be recommending the BBC. But it’s OK, it’s something I do all the time, bird from the car window so as to remain hidden with just my ugly mug on view. Birds don’t mind half a human it’s the full moving versions they hate. Who can blame them?

    Those Collared Doves invaded us in the 1950s but if it’s any consolation they have thinned out here too but still well established. You saw some tasty birds, the meadowlark my absolute favourite – like a painted Skylark.

    As you know, we have one or two alternatives to SWMBO – ‘er indoors, other half, the wife, and others that would have to be censored.

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    • Funny how as I have aged that I can so easily rationalize BBC over hiking.

      The Meadowlark’s song doesn’t compare to the Skylark (IMO) and the courtship flight of the Skylark is amazing, but we, too, consider our yellow songster a particular favorite.

      As to alternative names, I’m usually okay with most titles as long as I end each sentence with: “Yes, Your Majesty”.

      Happy Birding!

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  6. It looks intensely satisfying and a truly wonderful start to the day. Mind you I am always up by that time though the other resident of the house prefers to spring out of bed at the crack of noon.
    I recently demanded (and received) a kangaroo fix by car (and it improved my mood immeasuably).

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    • Sometimes, EC, you just have to breathe different air, look out a different window and remember that when all is said and done, Life Is Good!

      Thank you for dropping by today!

      Like

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