sweeping up

(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.

Little Blue Heron – Adult
Little Blue Heron – Juvenile

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!

17 Comments on “sweeping up

  1. Hello Wally and Gini. I could give you a quote from Boris Johnson but I fear it will not stand the test of time of 1546 and in any case, a quote will be soon forgotten.

    You had a good year both with lots of birds in that endless Florida sunshine. And it’s handy having birds that need minimal ID like the phoebe. I recall it has a great jizz too, size, demeanour and as you say, the clicky call. I would really like to see the Snail Kite for real over the Florida marshes – “cool” as you dudes say.

    I’m hoping that your comparatively cloudy skies of late reverts to normal sunshine soon and you will bask on the perimeter of the swamp without falling in. I’m hearing that after a even a week or two the swamp there is a degree of buyers remorse over buying a ticket?

    Good Luck and Good Birding.

    P.S. Love the bagworm. It begs out for translating into a trendy artefact or accessory at $1000 or more in a store near you.

    Like

    • Our cloudy skies turned to something akin to British fog this morning. I was bumping into birds along the trail before I could see them. Just as panic was about to set in, Florida’s Chamber of Commerce got busy and produced bright blue skies for the remainder of the day with temperatures almost to 80 F/27 C.

      Whether one purchased a ticket for the swamp or refused to do so in a fit of political pique, remorse has been a common emotion these past couple of weeks.

      The accessory idea already took root with my resident artisan. She’s envisioning a type of ear hanging thing. I should be a wealthy senior citizen any day now …..

      We’re doing our best to encourage sunshine and drier weather to pay a visit to the environs of Lancashire. Take care.

      Like

  2. Glad you swept up the “detritus of December” Wally! These are all fine photos, but my favorite is the header image of the Spoonbill along the tree roots.

    Your info on the bagworms is very interesting and something I’ve never heard before (although it’s also possible my mental filing system misplaced it!).

    Like

    • Thank you, Ed! It’s hard not to like Spoonbills. Getting them to pose for a portrait is something else!

      Once the weather warms a bit, if you’re on a trail keep an eye out for the bagworms. Unique critter!

      Like

  3. Your ID of the bagworm’s exactly right. It’s the same species I found at the Attwater Preserve. So cool!

    I have a hard time getting past any photo of a Roseate Spoonbill, but a favorite of this group is the one of the Snail Kite looking upward. On the other hand, who can resist a Grebe? At least I know where to go to find Purple Gallinules, now. I’m looking forward to getting some photos of their babies this year.

    Given your reference to sweeping up, you may enjoy this old Irish proverb: “The new broom sweeps clean, but the old broom knows the corners.”

    Like

    • The bagworm moth is definitely a unique critter! Hope to one day get a pic of the adult male.

      Sings of spring already creeping into the nature-scape. Nest building, courting, mating.

      Despite our human endeavors, the world does not stop to rest.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t worry, Donna, a kite will appear when you least expect it. If you’re like me, it will likely be when you have no camera! 🙂

      (Find the Limpkins, find the kites.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for Limpkins/Kites tip, I know somewhere I’ve been meaning to go to search for Limpkins again this winter (saw them there last winter) so now I see a hang out in my horizon with my eyes up too!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello,

    These are awesome nature photos. I always enjoy the birds, the Snail Kite is a favorite. Take care, enjoy your new week!

    Like

    • Thank you, Eileen! That kite is definitely one of our favorites, too!

      The new week will be fabulous! Warming temperatures, clear skies and – birding!

      Like

  5. Nice to see the ones you missed. The Pied-billed grebe shot caught my eye the most, fantastic detail.
    Nice work Wally, keep enjoying them days out.

    Like

    • No worries, Brian! We manage to enjoy our days whether they be in or out.

      Hopefully, this spring I’ll be able to get some detailed shots of the young grebes. Pretty darned cute!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. If only my sweeping (or use of the suck monster) produced such beautiful results…
    Sadly dirty cat hair is my lot rather than your feathered enchantment.

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  7. Delighted to see that these didn’t get swept up and put out with the garbage, Wally. Wonderful images, but I will pick out some favourites on this occasion (purely on the basis of the subject photographed rather than the consistently excellent photographic skills!) and those are all the Snail Kite images and the Red-bellied Woodpecker.

    The bag-worm bag is a wonderful and fascinating structure!

    Lindsay and I are doing fine here and, if all goes to schedule, we should be getting our first vaccine shots inside the next three weeks or so. Fingers are crossed.

    My very berst wishes to you and Gini – take great care – – – Richard

    Like

    • Thank you very much, Richard!

      Gini and I continue to hope all goes well for you and Lindsay and that you will be able to receive your vaccines without issue.

      Like

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