Like Kids In A Candy Store
“Ooohhh, look at that one! Can you believe the colors? Wow!!”
Okay. I know this may come as a shock to some, but we are not actually “kids”. I mean, chronologically. Gini is a complete adult person but accuses me – hints – that I may not have fully matured emotionally. Also, we were not really in a candy store. But, oh my, what a delicious selection Mother Nature had for us on this gorgeous Florida morning!
Our local patch, Lake Parker Park, is less than ten minutes from the house. The lake frontage, a canal, large stands of hardwood trees, small wetland area, a pond – all contribute to providing an oasis for birds in an urban setting. The park provides walking paths, boat launch ramps, picnic areas, playground, tennis courts and soccer fields. Early morning on a weekday is perfect for observing nature.
The sun was just rising above the trees on the lake’s eastern shoreline. Reeds along the lake were alive with blackbirds, grackles, gallinules, herons and egrets. Cypress trees contained Anhinga nests, some with parents brooding eggs and others with hungry young birds screaming for breakfast. A Snail Kite dipped low in search of apple snails. An alligator reluctantly slid from his sunning spot, swam a short distance and turned to glare.
As the morning matured, bird activity intensified. Insects roused from their slumber as the dew dried from their bodies and they emerged from nighttime roosts to begin a day of feeding, mating and surviving their many predators. Human numbers increased as well. Walkers, joggers, bikers. All friendly. Happy to be out and enjoying the freedom which comes with sun, air, water and green surroundings.
So much to see! Birds feeding chicks, different hunting techniques, preening, singing, courting, avoiding danger, insect wings glittering in the sunlight.
What a wonderful way to spend any morning!
Juvenile Little Blue Herons are completely white, slowly acquiring gray plumage during their first year and usually by their second year attaining the familiar slate blue adult coloration. This mottled immature bird is likely less than a year old.
Greeting the sunrise from her perch in a cypress tree on the bank of the lake, a beautiful Tricolored Heron has her eye on the shallow waters which will soon provide her morning meal.
An adult Green Heron glances at her squabbling offspring, likely proud of the third sibling behaving himself in the background. Moments later the raucous duo share a branch calmly contemplating where a frog might be hiding.
White face, greenish eyes and yellow racing stripes. The male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) is ready to dash after passing prey.
Purple Gallinules within the park have, unfortunately, been trained by well-meaning visitors and don’t hesitate to approach humans where they beg for food. This one, thankfully, prefers a little grass seed.
Hanging Spanish moss is a great place for bugs to hide. It’s also a great place for a hungry Red-bellied Woodpecker to locate brunch.
Although her wing spots are not as prominent as a male’s, the female Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida) is no less attractive.
During winter migration, our population of Pied-billed Grebes swells and seeing a dozen at the park is not unusual. Given the late date, this individual is likely a resident and we hope to see young grebes soon!
The large Great Egret is a patient and stealthy hunter. Like watching the hands on a clock, you know he’s moving but can’t actually see it.
An entirely powder-blue body, green face and blue-green eyes describe the male Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis). One of our most common dragonflies, this species doesn’t hesitate to attack prey larger than itself.
Handsome. A Black-bellied Whistling-Duck enjoying a morning walk along the canal.
Watching a Tricolored Heron hunt is always a treat! They run through the shallow water trying to herd small fish to an ambush point. Spreading their wings high provides shade which fish will be drawn toward. Not only entertaining, pretty nice to look at, too.
Mallards are often maligned in the birding world, but it’s difficult to deny they are beautiful animals.
The Glossy Ibis is busy feeding. The Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are alert for any potential danger. All clear to the left. All clear to the right. (Alligator: “Decisions, decisions.”)
We know how spoiled we are when it comes to finding a place to observe birds and wildlife. Whether we travel a few hours or a few minutes, we are also very thankful that we are so blessed. Hopefully, you, too, have favorite spots nearby from which you can enjoy our planet’s diverse nature.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!