Up the creek

(Header Image: Morning In The Swamp)

It’s true. We’re spoiled.

We have access to some of the best birding locations on the planet. Within a couple of hours, we could be at the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, Ocala National Forest or the vast “river of grass”, the Everglades. Or, we could sleep in, enjoy a leisurely breakfast and saunter over to our local state park, which doesn’t swing open the gate until 8:00 a.m.

On this day, we chose the latter.

Just beyond the ranger station at Colt Creek State Park, a pair of Killdeer were hunting for their own breakfast along the main park road. In a tall pine tree at the first curve was a loud Red-shouldered Hawk. A swampy spot across the road from the hawk still had a few red maple leaves showing as the early morning sun filtered through the trees.

For the first couple of hours, every time we stopped the car, Gini heard a smorgasbord of songs and chips and chirps. The fields and forest seemed filled with birds today. Some were residents but most were winter migrants still enjoying the Sunshine State’s hospitality before they responded to the urge to return north.

White-tailed deer munched grass near the tree line, unconcerned by our presence as they have become accustomed to tourists gawking at them. Eastern Gray Squirrels scampered up trees to enjoy an acorn on a sun-drenched limb. Young alligators relaxed in the warm mud on the bank of Colt Creek. A Limpkin cried in the distance.

A new day was in progress.

We drove the park road slowly, stopping now and then to explore a short path. Turkey Vultures spiraled upward as warm thermal air buoyed their efforts. A horse rider flagged us down and asked for help. Her mount appeared to have injured a knee. I stayed with the horse as Gini drove her to retrieve her truck and trailer. We hope the animal recovers.

As usually happens, the noon hour came and went without us noticing. Reluctantly, we left the birds singing and hunting as we re-crossed the creek on our way home. Another beautiful day.

We are SO spoiled.

A few images somehow made their way into the camera.

Supposedly, the Killdeer was named because of its call. I don’t hear it, but I probably need a better imagination.

Soon, the American Goldfinch will turn brighter yellow and return a bit further north. We will miss them until next fall.

We are continually surprised at the variety of songs the small House Wren produces! Their pugnacious attitude belies how sweetly they can serenade the forest.

One of our year-round residents, the White-eyed Vireo, is quick to jump out to see who is invading their territory.

In the right light, it’s no mystery how the Red-shouldered Hawk received its name. This medium-sized raptor is by far the most common in our area.

Usually observed feeding on the ground, we found a trio of Common Ground Doves napping in a small tree. They went right back to sleep after I clicked a photo.

A long, loud call got my attention. It also got the attention of a male Red-shouldered Hawk which flew over my head as he responded to his female mate. She was ready to copulate, he obliged. They rested a few moments and then soared together in a bright blue Florida sky. Spring is on the way!

A gray squirrel offered a nice portrait with the sun behind him.

“CAUTION!” There are all sorts of predators out here! If you’re a bug, the Eastern Phoebe is a nemesis which should be feared! Sadly, we only get to enjoy these wonderful birds who sing their name during the winter.

Our morning up Colt Creek and back down again and through the forest and around the swamp was simply exquisite! My beautiful companion beside me made the day perfect. Next time, the coast. Or the big swamp. Or, just maybe we’ll sleep late again.

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

Additional Information

Colt Creek State Park

20 Comments on “Up the creek

  1. Wally, I have to agree with Richard Pegler about your header images. This one is beauty from chaos – well done!

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  2. Hi Wally. Sorry to hear of your recent family troubles. I hope that all is back on track now.

    I’m now considering requesting a post from you consisting purely of header images – if only that was possible! Please, however, do not take this as an expression of discontent with your consistently delightful blog content, with your super photography and entertaining narrative – it’s just that, once again, you have knocked me out with the artistry of that header!

    I was most taken with the first image of the Red-shouldered Hawk – such a handsome bird!

    All is going smoothly here, although we are looking forward to the prospect of being permitted to go further afield than our immediate neighbourhood after 29 March. There is, however, the threat of this area being an exception to the relaxation of rules, due to us being in one of the worst Covid infection areas.

    My very best wishes to you and Gini – stay safe – – – Richard

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    • That’s it, Richard. You have convinced me to now devote all future energies to becoming a dedicated landscape photographer!

      🙂

      (Each time I try to go on a “landscape photo” trip, I am immediately distracted by a bird. Old habits ……)

      Our ubiquitous Red-shouldered Hawk does not often pose in a fashion which shows its namesake in the right light, so I was happy this one turned just right.

      Gini and I continue to hope you and Lindsay remain safe and our fingers are crossed you will soon be less restricted in your travels.

      Take good care!

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  3. Hello Wally,

    You are lucky to live in such a great place for viewing wildlife. The birds are always amazing, beautiful photos. I love the sweet Killdeer, the hawk couple. Even the little gator is cute. Great post, happy birding. Enjoy your day!

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    • We have wonderful memories of living in Maryland and enjoying all the birds and wildlife around the Chesapeake, Eastern Shore and “mountains” of eastern Maryland. Each time we visit your blog we get to relive some of those times!

      Thank you, Ellen, for the nice remarks. We hope you have a blessed day.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello Wally and Gini. My commiserations that family issues put paid to your normal existence. Such are the joys of parenthood. Our three children and five grandchildren all live within a five mile radius of here in Sunny Stalmine. As you can imagine, this has many advantages.

    March is a strange time of year for us too. Many birds leave but there’s often a gap before the migrants appear where even the most common summer migrant is welcomed like the proverbial long lost. Any day now we will see Goldcrests and Meadow Pipits, maybe even a Sand Martin and a Wheatear.

    I like your Red-shouldered Hawk pictures there, the hawk that I see so often on blogs but not so often do I see the red shoulders. I’m not sure about the bird porn photo, I hope you averted your eyes while taking that long series of shots?

    There you go again, trying to scare me with a tiny harmless alligator. The Phoebe has the best policy – just ignore them as an overrated a minor distraction

    Now I’m off to put my bagging together for tomorrow morning. More ringing. Wish me luck.

    I’m still having problems posting comments here!

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    • You are lucky, indeed, (or a very good planner) to have your family living close by. Most of our responses are for elderly siblings reaching that time in life where help is needed in many forms.

      Our woods and swamps are “greening up” quickly and migrants are beginning to show in dribs and drabs as they trek northward. It will be a fun month!

      I always avert my eyes when photographing as I can never remember which eye to shut and invariably shut the one behind the viewfinder. As I am constantly told: “You must have a really good camera!” Why, yes. Yes, I do. No eyes needed. Just push the button.

      If Phoebes were as large as alligators – well, THAT would be something to fear!

      Good luck with ringing efforts. I have not been able to get the crack computer gurus of Word Press to figure out why some are having issues posting and accessing this blog. A change in platforms may be needed.

      Gini and I celebrate 53 years of wedded bliss today so birding will wait until the ‘morrow.

      All the best!

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      • One reason I enjoy your photos is the lovely mix and familiar/unfamiliar they present. Just now, the wrens, goldfinches, and doves of various sorts are visiting my feeders, while the Kildeer are beginning to appear again in the flats out at the refuge. On the other hand, the Eastern Phoebe is a new one; your description makes it seem perfectly charming.

        It doesn’t seem springlike here at all, thanks to the freeze. I need to get out soon — like tomorrow! — and see what might be happening in the fields and ponds.

        Liked by 1 person

      • We just returned from a wonderful morning out and it seems Spring sneaked in overnight! Birds, blooms and bugs everywhere!
        Thank you for taking the time to provide some very kind comments!

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  5. Great series of images, as always, Wally. You are indeed spoiled but I think we could give you a run for your money at times with Snowy Owls and Snow Buntings in the winter and the wonderful flush of spring migration in the spring along the north shore of Lake Erie. The first Red-winged Blackbird showed up in my backyard this morning, by the way. I have birded in many great locations around the world, but for sheer staggering numbers and gobsmacking variety Lake Chelekcheka in Ethiopia takes first place, where we saw a mind-blowing 186 species in a morning! Hard to take it all in. Impossible in fact to take it all in!

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    • We can each be forgiven for being spoiled by nature’s bounty and even for harboring mutual jealousy at times. (“Why does David get to see Snowy Owls and I don’t?!?!”)

      The good news is we all have the ability to “spoil” ourselves with a birding trip. All it takes is stepping outside.

      (186 species!!! Wow!)

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  6. Beautiful photos, Wally, the White-eyed Vireo is my favorite, might be because I’ve only photographed it once. 🙂 Great capture of the RSHawks mating, I just captured/shared recently a mating scene so very similar to yours!

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  7. Ooooh.
    And ahhh.
    Thank you both.
    It is a little after eight here and while there are natural delights in our area as well, none of those you gave us today will put in an appearance. Ever.

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    • G’Day, EC! This is why Geeks invented the internet! So we can all share our own special beauty.

      Hope your new week is going well!

      Like

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