Small Effort – Huge Reward

(Header Image: Purple Gallinule)

“Work hard to be successful.”

It’s what we tell our kids. We hear it at school. Managers drill it into the heads of the work force. Politicians pretend it can be done by ordinary citizens. Life experience demonstrates that, for the most part, the axiom is accurate. There is considerable evidence to prove the converse is true. Don’t learn the value of labor and one will be reduced to whining and bemoaning the fact that no one will give them anything. Those politicians mentioned above are quick to provide rewards to the lazy in exchange for votes. Once elected, however, promised rewards disappear and massive whining resumes.

Once in awhile, fortune favors the unsuspecting observer. I am a firm believer in another old saying: “The harder one works, the luckier one becomes.” Ever notice rare or unusual bird sightings are often reported by familiar birders? These are the folks who are out in nature often and most readily notice something different in areas with which they are familiar.

So, there I was, shortly after dawn the other day, pausing along the shore of our local patch, Lake Parker Park, being thankful for the ability to breathe deeply the fresh air and bask in the orange glow of sunrise reflecting on the water’s surface. Movement to my right. A female Snail Kite landed in the top of a small cypress tree, her flashing red eyes darting here and there searching for an apple snail on a reed below. Splashing to my left was a Purple Gallinule, oversized yellow feet scrambling across lily pads in search of breakfast.

I only managed a few steps and a small cloud of dragonflies lifted from the brushy border where they spent the night. Ten yards down the path, a Great Egret ignored my approach as she concentrated on a watery buffet table. Young Ospreys screeched overhead as they soared on newly fledged wings and tried to get the hang of crashing into the lake and coming up with a fish.

Less than an hour had passed and I paused to consider how fortunate we are. Sights and sounds we take for granted would be considered incredible by many around the world who do not have such a venue available. Here’s hoping we never forget to accept our natural bounty with humble grace.

From her perch atop a cypress tree near the lake’s shore, this female Snail Kite is in a great position to scan the weeds for apple snails. Our local population of this endangered species has increased over the past few years and I feel certain they are breeding around this lake.

Our weather is warming and the rainy season is around the corner. This combination is producing a bumper crop of dragonflies. A female Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) waits patiently for a meal to appear.

Small and colorful, how can I not adore something called a Coffee-loving Pyrausta Moth (Pyrausta tyralis)?

I watched this American Alligator cruise down the middle of the canal and crawl onto the bank. He’s probably about eight feet (2.4 meters) long and still young. As soon as I snapped his picture, he slid back into the water and headed straight for me. I won’t say I walked quickly away, but, I walked quickly away (glancing over my shoulder frequently).

Watching a large water bird such as this Great Egret hunt can be like watching a statue. Their patience is sometimes rewarded with a meal. My patience was rewarded with a terrific experience. (And a photograph.)

Some species of dragonflies seem to almost never perch. Trying to photograph them as they patrol their territory can be an exercise in frustration. One such species is the Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps). Imagine my surprise, and elation (!), to encounter a couple mating right alongside the path!

Gini says the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck always look like they just stepped out of the beauty parlor. Neat, handsome, large and over the past decade around here, very prolific.

Apparently, this Spotted Sandpiper missed her flight to Minnesota. Although we really enjoy seeing her in breeding plumage, as we typically only get to see them in bland gray and white, she best head north soon and hope she can find a nesting spot. Or, perhaps she likes our Florida weather so much, she’s decided to remain for the summer?

When I returned home to a pot of coffee and fresh cantaloupe, Gini asked if I had seen anything special. “The usual”, I answered. “And I didn’t even have to work hard.” Whether you depend on hard work or good fortune (which is often one and the same), we hope you are able to take advantage of your own natural bounty.

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

18 Comments on “Small Effort – Huge Reward

  1. At our age, Wally, it’s a blessing when great things happen without having to input too much effort, and you were certainly well-blessed on this occasion, and, through this blog post, we have greatly benefitted from your ‘small’ efforts with absolutely no effort on our part whatsoever! Your wonderful photos and words have given me a much-appreciated mix of amusement (particularly those Whistling Ducks) and delight. Thank you – I’ll now have to go and put the kettle on and quieten down a bit.

    Best wishes to you both – take good care – – – Richard


    • Thank you for your very thoughtful remarks, Richard!

      When I was a supervisor, I would select the laziest person I could find to complete a particularly difficult task. I had discovered they would typically find the simplest solution involving the least effort. Goal achieved with maximum efficiency.

      And that’s why I have evolved into the laziest person I know! 🙂

      Despite thunder and lightning but no rain, time-consuming chores, rattlesnakes and doctor visits – we are doing quite well!

      Gini and I hope you and Lindsay are almost recovered from your travels. All the best.


  2. What a rich and thought-provoking post. I especially smiled over this: “I am a firm believer in another old saying: “The harder one works, the luckier one becomes.” Ever notice rare or unusual bird sightings are often reported by familiar birders? These are the folks who are out in nature often and most readily notice something different in areas with which they are familiar.”

    Now, look at this comment I left for David G. on my blog this morning: “One benefit of an immersion in nature is that, in the process of learning what’s usual — red cardinals, yellow sunflowers, ten-petaled anemone — we become more sensitive to the unusual, and recognize it more easily. This pleatleaf is a perfect example. Three years ago, I’m certain I never would have seen it in the midst of the tangled growth in the ditch or, if I had noticed it, I wouldn’t have realized what it was. We hear often enough that ‘familiarity breeds contempt,’ but familiarity also can lead to recognition and affection.”

    In short, learning how to see is the first step to good nature photos.

    As for these photos, I never see black-bellied whistling ducks without smiling: apart from the times they make me laugh. I just read about the female blue dasher, and here she is: a lovely example. As for that coffee-loving moth, once I got past my image of a flutter of them sitting around sipping coffee at the local diner, I realized that I have a photo of that very same creature. It’s not a good photo, and it’s been sitting in my files since 2016. But now I know what it is.

    I love the variety of photos you often show. They give such a good sense of your world!


    • Thank you so very much, Linda, for your kind comments.

      Those, such as yourself, who have developed a sense of “seeing nature” could never become bored during a trip afield. There is always something amazing to be observed!

      We had a first this morning: a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck sitting in our bird feeder. The dove were NOT amused. (We’re gonna need a bigger feeder.)


  3. Nice work, Wally. You are quite right of course that the more you search the more you find, acquiring and honing the skills to do so along the way. And nature never lacks for surprises and never fails to deliver them to to the conscientious observer. A question I am frequently asked is, “How do you find these birds?” And my standard reply is, “You have to learn where and how to look”. I really believe that some people imagine that it is as easy as watching a nature show on TV and are shocked that a little effort is required. But the rewards are like no others. That’s why we get out and do it every day.


    • Thank you, David.

      Just getting outside has its own rewards, whether one is a birder or just loves nature. Spotting a rarity or taking a good photograph is just icing on a really delicious cake!

      A new week means new adventures!


  4. The more you look the more you see – and putting time into looking is what we need to do, in more areas than just birding I think! Great set of pictures.

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne


  5. And here was I thinking that money and success grows on trees that produce fruit several times a year, without any input from farmers and growers. All that is required is to steal a ladder, pick away to your heart’s content and then wait for someone to come along to clear up behind you.

    Terrific Snail Kite.

    As I thought, these dragon pictures are not so simple as they appear. Even a new macro won’t help my dragonfly stalking technique.

    You can’t blame the Spotted Sandpiper for sticking around. Canada isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe the sandpiper read the alt news?

    Tell Gini a working man need more than melon and coffee. I recommend bacon, egg, tomatoes and fried bread. Black pudding if you can find it nowadays.


    • As an erudite citizen of the United Kingdom, your “enlightened” education apparently began much earlier than ours here in the backward colonies. Your view of money and success is almost word-for-word what our erstwhile “progressive” legislators (aided and abetted by “organized education unions”) ensure is best for us all.

      A photographically cooperative Snail Kite is a joy forever. Or at least for that particular day.

      Use my patented dragon stalking technique. Locate an area of weeds near water. Stand still amongst the weeds. Dragons will flock to your position and hold still for outstanding portraits. Or – two burly chaps with a very large net will come and collect you by noon.

      It was a nice surprise to see the sandpiper at the lake (not its usual habitat) and sporting all those spots!

      I have learned it is best that I not presume to “tell” Gini anything regarding what I need. Whatever she offers is a perfect choice. At times, your suggestion is placed before me and it is wonderful. Although, black pudding is tough to find here and we usually substitute a combination of smoked sausage and grits, due to our American “Southern” heritage.

      Rains have finally started! Swamps, creeks and lakes will be teeming with bugs and birds chasing them! Hooray for rain!

      You and Sue take good care and enjoy this weekend.


  6. Wonderful post, Wally. I especially like the image of the Spotted Sandpiper – for some reason it really appeals to me.


    • Any time I can get relatively close to a shorebird, it appeals to me, too, Ed! We so seldom get to see them in their beautiful breeding plumage.

      Thank you for visiting!


  7. What a wonderful selection of images! My favourite has to be the Baskettails in cop, always a thrill when you stumble upon such a sight.
    Watching nature should not be about hard work. When I was heavily into ‘twitching’ it became such an obsession it was just like hard work and I suffered ‘burn out’. Now I just go and enjoy whatever comes my way and hopefully record it with my camera.


  8. Sadly, far too many people would not see (much less appreciate) the beauty around you. Their loss. And sadly ours too as they bulldoze (literally and figuratively) over nature’s highways and by ways.


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