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!