Perpetual Tourists

Header Image: Swallow-tailed Kite

“Are you a birder?”

The question was simple enough. My answer was quick: “Yes.”

Once upon a time, I considered myself a “bird watcher”, but somewhere along the way I discovered that term had become replaced with the more trendy “birder”. Sitting next to Gini that evening, sipping tea and taking comfort in her physical proximity, what’s left of my mind drifted into dangerous territory. Deep thought.

Are we really “birders”? Well, the dictionary defines a birder as: “a person who observes or identifies wild birds in their habitats.” So, yes, we are birders.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

For us, a typical “birding” trip consists of looking for birds, identifying them, perhaps photographing them and maybe sending an electronic report of our observations. Also, we see trees. Not just the ones where the birds may be perched, but whole forests. Big trees, small trees, flowering trees, dead trees. We are easily distracted during our “birding” trips by flowers, vines, shrubs and even weeds. Looking at all that vegetation we can’t help but notice there are bugs living among the leaves, branches, stems and buds. Lots of bugs. While we are outside, we find ourselves marveling at a sunrise, cloud formations, rainbows, streaks of lightning, sunsets, stars, the moon.

So, shall we call ourselves “birders who like a lot of other stuff, too”? Not very succinct. How about “naturalists”? Sounds good, but connotes a level of knowledge we don’t really possess. Let’s approach this from a different perspective. What do we actually DO?

We visit places in nature. We look at things. We like the things we see. We like doing this more than going other places which are not in nature.

Just before I drifted off to sleep, I put the tea cup aside so as not to drop it (experience!), squeezed Gini’s leg and revealed the results of my deep thinking.

We are simply tourists. Rather than visiting monuments, museums or massive commercial theme-parks, we prefer the sights and sounds of forest, swamp, field and coast.

Here are our postcards from a natural place. (Tenoroc Fish Management Area, Polk County, Florida.)

The early morning sun created a somewhat ethereal effect at the edge of the woods where spiders had been busy during the night.

Despite his name, the Common Grackle is less common here than the slightly larger Boat-tailed Grackle.

The male Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta) is a fairly large, all dark dragonfly.

Blue, maroon, white. The aptly named Tricolored Heron concentrates its red eyes on the shallow water waiting for breakfast to swim into view.

A large patch of yellow caught our eye. Walking toward the area revealed there had been a fire, likely a prescribed burn to stimulate new growth. The flowers of Yellow-eyed Grass (Xyris Spp.) are small and not very showy, but closer inspection showed us a beauty we couldn’t see from afar.

One of our favorite insects to find is the Robber Fly (Asilidae spp.). Worldwide, there are over 7,000 species of this unique creature. This one may be Promachus, a species of Giant Robber Fly.

Each spring, toward the end of February, we begin to see Swallow-tailed Kites returning from South America. These aerobatic raptors remain through the summer, breed and by the third week of August are gone again. I managed a series of photographs of one of these sleek hunters which I thought was a great example of how the bird eats a captured insect on the fly. Alas, close inspection of all the pictures depict how thoroughly this one cleaned its talons. Sigh. Next time.

A group of butterflies known as Pierids (family Pieridae) include many white and yellow individuals. The small yellows and sulphurs rarely open their wings when perched and it’s a challenge to be able to observe their upper wings. Some believe the rich yellows of this group is what led to them being called “butter” flies. This very small individual is a Dainty Sulphur (Nathalis iole).

Whether you are a birder, an entomologist, a wildlife biologist, a botanist or, like us, someone who simply loves nature – embrace your inner tourist and savor the view!

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

23 Comments on “Perpetual Tourists

  1. Great way to put it. We are nature tourists. What a great shot of the robber fly. I just recently saw my first one. I didn’t know what it was. Very freaky.

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  2. Hello,

    Love your photos, the Swallow-tailed Kite is my favorite.
    I would say I am a nature lover.
    Take care, enjoy your day!

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  3. I never could be comfortable describing myself as a tourist, no doubt because I live in an area dedicated to tourists, and I’ve had enough opportunity to observe Homo tourista to know I don’t want to be one. It’s easy to spot the tourists at a refuge or nature center; they’re the ones driving through at 40 mph, tottering along the boardwalks in four-inch heels, staring at their ‘devices,’ or making so much noise they out-voice the red-winged blackbirds.

    You might be interested in this list of early Texas naturalists. They lived in a day of generalists and broad definitions; oddly enough, the very concept of ‘citizen scientist’ tends to direct people toward ever more specific concerns, and sometimes a certain blindness to the interconnection of things.

    But enough of that! I love the results of your explorations, and today it was the Yellow-eyed Grass that caught my eye. I first found it in the sandy soils of east Texas; another great Texas/Florida connection. The robber fly reminds me of portraits of early botanists like Lindheimer. It also brought to mind Edward Lear’s great poem:

    There was an Old Man with a beard,
    Who said, “It is just as I feared!—
    Two Owls and a Hen, four Larks and a Wren,
    Have all built their nests in my beard.

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    • Love the Lear poem! Perhaps explains why I never grew a beard.

      Gini says the Robber Fly always brings to mind ZZ Top. And we break into song.

      I don’t mind being called a tourist when we are out in nature. Of course, where we go, we never see anyone, so there’s that.

      Gotta go move flower pots and lawn furniture indoors. A little weather is on the horizon.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I still have a fond for the rather old-fashioned term ‘naturalist’ as to what I am – given that I am constantly distracted by almost all things natural. On the other side of the coin (in the dislike bucket) is when I get called a Twitcher – which I am not!!

    Hope all is well – Stewart M – Melbourne

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    • Some (probably mostly those seeking a donation) use the term “citizen scientist”. I suppose I may have some insecurity complex about being called “scientist” or “naturalist” as I associate those words with a certain level of specific education.

      Like you, Stewart, we are very easily distracted by all things natural.

      Whatever we may be called – we know what we like!

      All the best!

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  5. Hi Wally. I like your thought process (as well as your inspiring words and photos!). However, I prefer to think of myself as a nature ‘explorer’ (sadly I have had to remove the word ‘intrepid’ from before ‘nature’!), as describing ones self as a tourist seems to conjour up visions of being part of a herd.following in other persons footsteps. Twitchers are definitely tourists! I do admit, however, that as my years advance I’m more inclined towards the tourist mindset in my wildlife searches – but still prefer to do it on my own if Lindsay is not available.

    I hope that you and Gini have a great week ahead of you. Stay safe – – – Richard

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    • Thank you, Richard.

      I agree with your perception of tourists normally being thought of as part of a “herd”. Been there – done that.

      We do think of ourselves as explorers as we are constantly seeking new discoveries.

      My mental image of Gini and I keeps returning to two tourists. We travel to a specific venue (Nature), paid for a ticket (spent time and gas money) and expect to be entertained. We pass through the entrance gate (trail head) and we are never disappointed. We gawk and “oohh” and “aahh” every time. And, just like little children, we can’t wait to go again!

      Yep. Tourists. That’s us.

      Keeping hunkered down a bit this week as a Tropical Storm is scheduled to visit. We need the rain and the swamp and forest should be brimming with life by next week! (Tourist attitude.)

      Gini and I hope you and Lindsay have recuperated from your most outstanding trip!

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  6. You hit the proverbial nail Wally. I shall use the Royal “We”. Yes, we are more than just birders because we trained ourselves to be observant and to see & study birds and everything around us, including the landscape and other, non-birding people. So like you I hate it when people make the assumption that we are just (boring) “birders”. The one I like best is “Have you seen anything interesting?”!!!!

    “Well since you asked, no, just the usual tiresome and extremely common Swallow-tailed Kites, Slaty Skimmers and Tricoloured Herons”.

    “And while you are here, would you like my tripod up your butt?”

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    • If my memory cells were younger, I would memorize your response.

      As a “senior citizen” and an American, my response to someone asking if I’ve seen anything interesting is: “Yes.” Then I walk away.

      Thank you, and your ancestors, for allowing us to become the United States of America on this date in 1776. We appreciate it!

      Now, I must go burn some meat on a fire in celebration!

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  7. When asked if I’m a birder I usually feel inadequate and slowly answer “no” . I’ve never been asked if I’m a naturalist, but if it happens, my answer would be the same. If (when?) I’m ever asked if I’m a nature tourist, I’ll answer “yes!”, with enthusiasm.

    All of your postcards are lovely today. Your Swallow-tailed Kite photos are marvelous. Here at our house we’ve seen them too. By the time I go in an get my camera, they’re always gone.

    Stay safe during the storm.

    Ed

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    • Thank you, Ed.

      Normally, we go places which aren’t populated and the alligators don’t seem to care what we “identify” as.

      Two weeks ago I wished for rain. So, this is all my fault.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A rose by any other name……I think someone took this tourist and dipped him in nature’s inkpot until the marks were indelible! My two most vivid memories of my earliest encounters with nature are going into the wetlands to collect Marsh Marigolds for my grandmother, and catching newts in the natural pond, and taking them back to my own pond created in an old ceramic baby bath, which at times saw duty as a frog nursery too. I was eight years old. There have doubtless been days when nature has not occupied my waking moments, especially in my pimpled days of being a walking hormone (but that’s nature too, isn’t it?) but other than that nature has always been, is now, and will be until I can’t move, on the agenda every day. Today started with looking out the bedroom window to see a male Hairy Woodpecker feeding his pushy youngster. Now that’s a good start to anyone’s day. Mine especially.

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    • Thank you, David, for such poignant comments.

      You have hit upon what, in my opinion, is the key to our planet’s survival. One of the many duties of parents is to ensure children have the tools they need to survive on their own. One of those tools is imbuing them with a love of nature.

      Just as that Hairy Woodpecker nurtures its young, so must we.

      What a great start to your day!

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  9. I am a nature tourist too. And filled with awe. She is a superb artist and her galleries are the best.
    Awe, wonder and delight are pretty damn good ways to spend the day. Any day.

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    • You are so right, EC! Great ways to spend our days.

      Gini and I hope you are well. Our summer rains are on schedule and we have a possible Hurricane on our southern doorstep.

      Tropical Paradise, indeed. 🙂

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  10. Nature Tourist is fine with me. I like the concept.
    Thank you for sharing those beautiful photos.

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