Patching things up
(Header image: Common Ground Dove.)
The conversation usually goes something like: “Is there somewhere you would like to go tomorrow?” Gini responds, “Anywhere is fine with me.”
“Anywhere” will typically be within our home county as we like to keep tabs on what’s happening with “our” resident birds. Since we live in west-central Florida, there are many great birding destinations within a couple hours’ drive and we often explore those venues. One day, I’ll surprise her and take her shopping. She would never forgive me.
For today, “anywhere” will be what has become another local “patch”. Birders tend to return to places which don’t require extensive travel yet offer good observation opportunities. As we become familiar with those areas, we get to know the bird populations and it becomes easier to spot “newcomers”. Since we know the terrain well, not becoming lost and knowing where to go helps with efficiency. For birders, patches are good things.
Formerly mined extensively for phosphate, Tenoroc Fish Management Area has over 7500 acres (3035 hectares) to explore. Much of that is water. Old mining pits have been reclaimed and transformed into excellent fishing lakes. The area is only open Friday through Monday and anglers come from long distances to be first in line to get to their favorite lake. Management only allows a limited number of fishermen on each lake in order to avoid overfishing. (It doesn’t hurt that this vast playground and new “patch” is only ten minutes from the front door.)
With all of that space and water, birding can be quite good. We have found some spots more productive than others and it has been easy to fall into a routine. By the time we check the “good” spots, it’s time to head to the house.
Today, we decided to be bold and explore a couple of trails we had heretofore not trod.
Here’s the thing. Somewhere along the 50+ year journey of becoming avid birders, we made the rather startling discovery that we may be “amateur naturalists”. Especially in the past couple of years, we become easily distracted from birding by a butterfly, an interesting plant, dragons and damsels and even – gulp – fungi!
So, even though today’s trip did not result in a large number of birds seen, we found two new trails which hold great potential for migrating birds and which provided some terrific sightings of insects and flowers which made for a very successful day.
As usual, my genius Gini’s “anywhere” turned out to be a winner. Just like her.
Yup. We made images.
The first path had a lake on one side and a steep ravine and creek on the other. Tall hardwood trees in the ravine and willows along the lake screamed “birdy”! Now, if we can just convince the birds how nice it is. As with all things in life, timing is everything. (Apologies for the image quality. Cell phone camera.)
The Ornate Bella Moth (Utetheisa ornatrix) has two endearing qualities: it is active in the daytime, making it easier to see; and it’s sorta pretty.
One of Florida’s more common butterflies, the White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae), also happens to be fairly attractive.
During the morning, we counted six Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. These sleek hunters rarely pause as they inspect every twig and leaf for insect snacks.
As dragonflies go, the Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami) is medium-sized and the male is hard to miss with his reddish-orange body. The female pictured here has a warm brownish-orange abdomen and gold-tinted wings.
Small and gorgeous. A Carolina Satyr (Hermeuptychia sosybius) is a woodland butterfly with “eyes” on its wings to help fool would-be predators.
During annual molting, many birds, such as the Eastern Meadowlark remain silent as they have only limited ability to fly. Once new feathers are in place, a convenient perch in a field becomes a stage from which the unmistakable clear notes of this songster are broadcast for those fortunate enough to be in range.
Wandering Gliders (Pantala flavescens) are true to their name and can normally be seen zipping back and forth guarding territories and chasing rivals and potential enemies. Knowing they have to land SOMETIME and actually finding them when they do are two different things. We found one! Woo-hoo!
This path was bordered on the north by a lake and on the south by a really nice wetland area, filled with cypress trees, willows and a few oaks and hickory trees. Again with that timing thing. We’ll keep tabs on this spot as fall migration gets busy. (Again, cell phone quality.)
Small, brownish-gray and a few tiny white spots help identify a Clouded Skipper (Lerema Accius). Even simplicity in nature is beautiful.
No subtlety here! A colorful Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) shows off its black and contrasting wash of blue, which identifies it as a female. The male displays a wash which is more greenish.
If it hadn’t moved just a bit, I would have walked right by this Royal River Cruiser (Macromia taeniolata). Although they are large for a dragonfly, they blend in surprisingly well with their perches.
And, if I had not seen the dragon above, I would have missed the Blue-faced Darner (Coryphaeschna adnexa) which was hanging about six feet beyond it. Thus proving my motto: “Better lucky than good!”
Heading home, we spotted a movement in a tall pine tree and parked to take a closer look. A magnificent Red-tailed Hawk! She appeared to have fresh prey which may have been a rabbit. Her head snapped around and I took a couple of quick shots and left her alone to enjoy lunch.
We are not yet familiar with all of our new “patch”. Does that make it a “patch-work in progress”? The portions we have explored so far makes anticipating future trips an exciting prospect!
We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!