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!