(Header Image: Roseate Spoonbill)
A brand new year is in full swing and we are celebrating the fact that we are still able to enjoy exploring nature and will be seeking new adventures to share.
As we glanced around the blog workshop the other day, we noticed several images awaiting insertion in a post. Events of the past several months seemed to derail my plans to adhere to some sort of blogging schedule. Okay, let’s face it. I’m not really a “schedule” kind of person. So don’t think there will be any improvement in that regard for the future.
We are so fortunate to have many wonderful natural locales within a relatively short distance from the house. This is great for “spur of the moment” excursions which require little planning and won’t consume too much time.
The days of December typically roll downhill quickly for us. Beginning as a small snowball of sending out cards and scheduling a holiday meal with family, gathering speed and size with shopping, organizing events, decorating, baking, crafting, birding – until the final days of the month become an avalanche of activity ultimately crashing at the foot of the mountain which was – Last Year.
Sweeping up the detritus of December, some items went right into the dustbin. Others were placed on the shelf to, perhaps, be used at a later date. A few images in the library which were not published are included in this post. (“Sweeping Up” may be a quaint usage in modern times, but somehow “Vacuums Suck” didn’t have quite the literary nuance I was seeking.)
Among today’s pictures, which were all taken during December, are birds in and around a couple of local lakes, a unique moth and a rural scene which reminds us:
“Whan the sunne shinth make hay. Whiche is to say.
Take time whan time cometh, lest time steale away.”
John Heywood – A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, 1546.
The Snail Kite is on lists for “endangered species” or “species of concern” at both federal and state levels as their very special dietary needs (almost exclusively apple snails) have been negatively impacted over the past several decades by habitat loss. The inadvertent introduction of a couple of non-native apple snail species in the past several years has resulted in a comeback and even some range expansion for this very special raptor. I was fortunate to watch a female Snail Kite as she hunted along the shore of a local lake. In the last image, she looks up to see a Short-tailed Hawk soaring high above her. No threat to her, but good to know who is in the area!
The Short-tailed Hawk has a light and dark version. This light morph was very high over the lake shore where the Snail Kite above was hunting. A compact hawk about the size of a crow, it feeds almost exclusively on small songbirds. Floating higher than where vultures typically soar, the Short-tailed hawk scans the edges of forests and cypress domes and when a small bird (or flock) is spotted will stoop like a falcon to snatch its meal. A tropical raptor, it is endemic to central and south Florida within the United States.
A common winter visitor, the Eastern Phoebe is a small flycatcher which exhibits a trait all birds should emulate. She very politely repeats her name – “Fee-Bee” – thus obviating the need to check field guides and phone apps to confirm her identification.
By far the most common woodpecker within our area is the Red-bellied Woodpecker. Recent bird census data indicates this species has adapted to human occupation very effectively.
The warbler who thinks it is a nuthatch. The simple but beautiful plumage of the Black-and-White Warbler is enough for helping identify this little bird, but its habit of scurrying down a tree trunk head first is definitely unique for a warbler!
Slate blue body, subtle maroon-colored head and neck and a two-toned bill – the adult Little Blue Heron is a study in patience as it hunts in the shallows. A juvenile Little Blue Heron has a two-toned bill but is white overall until it begins molting into adult plumage near the end of its first year. Immature birds become a patchwork of white and dark blue splotches.
North America’s smallest woodpecker, the Downy, uses its needle-like bill to probe likely hiding spots for bugs. A red patch on its head identifies this as a male.
A shadow passes overhead. With so many lakes, we have a healthy resident population of Bald Eagles which is supplemented significantly during migration. Territorial fights between northern visitors and the locals are fierce and commonplace. (Yes, I’m still talking about eagles.)
Florida does have a few Pied-billed Grebes which breed within the state. During the winter, the little “fuzzy-butts” (as Gini calls them) can be quite numerous on some lakes.
Wood Storks hold their bills in the water as they move and when they feel something they snap the bill shut and swallow their prey whole. They also use their feet to stir up the mud along the bottom to scare prey into moving.
Another shadow passes across the sun. The Turkey Vulture is as magnificent as the eagle when it comes to aerodynamics. I happen to think it has quite a handsome visage, but apparently my opinion is in the minority.
The hunting style of a Tricolored Heron is a bit different than most of its relatives. It usually walks quickly, runs, turns abruptly – it’s like watching some demented ballerina. They will also use their wings held high to create shade which entices small fish and – gulp!
Driving from one spot to another, Gini spotted a bagworm on a strand of fence. I believe this is Abbot’s Bagworm (Oiketicus abbotii), due to the structure of the “bag”. The female moth never leaves the case, or “bag”, and the male leaves just long enough to mate, typically less than a couple of days. Unique insects!
The Common Gallinule certainly lives up to its name in our area! They inhabit virtually all bodies of water, sometimes in incredible numbers. Thanks to Florida’s agreeable climate, these members of the rail family breed nearly year ’round.
Not as common or widespread as the Common Gallinule, the colorful Purple Gallinule seems to walk on water as its big feet help propel it across lily pads and weeds.
Some Brown Pelicans breed around interior lakes and we normally have a few locally all year long. It can be startling to have one of these large divers fall out of the sky and splash right in front of you!
Similar to the normally coastal pelicans, we have a few terns which stay with us all year. A large yellowish bill, black behind the eye and head and a clean white forehead help identify the large Royal Tern.
The back roads between lakes take us through fields and pastures and is a very relaxing experience. We leave you with a few bales of hay, cypress trees draped in Spanish moss and a splash of color from a Red Maple. As the old year has departed and we sweep up its remnants to engage the future, apply the wisdom of Mr. John Heywood of the 16th century (here is the modernized version):
“Make hay while the sun shines!”
Thank you all for traveling with us!
There will always be good times and bad. There will always be hope and despair. What we choose to remember, what we choose to grasp – shall make all the difference.
As for me and My Love, we choose to live our best life, today.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!