Header Image: Carolina Wren
Once again, that mee-tee-oh-rah-low-gist was absolutely correct. Partly cloudy with temperatures about the same as yesterday. I missed my calling.
We pulled into the management area just before the sun was scheduled to make an appearance. Thin fog suggested the actual appearance would be somewhat later than Sol had in the day-planner. Atop the welcome sign, a Red-shouldered Hawk scanned the dew-soaked grass for any sign of movement, AKA: breakfast.
The fog was of such consistency that we could not see too far in any direction but Gini’s well-developed sense of hearing reported chips and tweets in abundance. Sandhill Cranes trumpeted overhead as they moved from their nightly roost to a nearby field where they would forage all day. The “churrrrr” of a Red-bellied Woodpecker advertised his location. Lakes were beginning to become noisy with the gabble of Common Gallinules and the eerie cry of a Limpkin split the early morning calm like that alarm clock did a short while ago.
There are locations throughout Tenoroc Fish Management Area that, over time, have proven to be consistently productive for observing bird life. Like a pair of surgeons in a convalescent ward, Gini and I make our rounds, checking the health of our patients and listening calmly as the wrens complain incessantly about their neighbors and the food. Doctor Gini announced it was already time for breakfast.
The fog didn’t last long and the clear blue sky and relatively mild temperature induced heavy sighs from us both. This. This is what life is about. Sharing nature’s beauty with someone you love. We had innumerable tasks which needed attention at the house. Some, admittedly, have needed attention for, well, a very long time. Our priorities are skewed. We know it. We accept it. Cleaning closets or holding hands while watching a Belted Kingfisher yell at the water? No contest.
I frequently feel I should apologize for subjecting you to too many images. Let us know if this is a recurring problem. There is no guarantee the issue will change, but at least I will be aware of your discomfort.
A pair of Red-shouldered Hawks begin the daily routine of hunting for food. One of our most common raptors, I feel it is one of the most handsome.
The beginning of fall migration season is often signaled by small songbirds gathering in large groups which can offer protection from predators as they journey southward. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are one such species. We saw nearly three dozen during our morning outing.
Wrens seem to be among the more aggressive members of the bird world. If they were as large as an eagle, they would be fearsome, indeed! A Carolina Wren confronted us as soon as we approached a hedgerow, demanding to know our intention. “Click.” Intention fulfilled. Thank you.
Curious as to why the Carolina Wren was yelling so loudly, a migratory Ovenbird skulked in the low branches, orange crest flared as she knew something had upset the wren so perhaps she should be upset, too. Some are not aware the Ovenbird is a warbler as it has thrush-like streaking on its undersides.
Insects abound in the area since we are seldom very far from water. This lovely specimen is the Flesh Fly (Sarcophagidae spp.). As one might expect from the Latin as well as its common name, its specialty is consuming decaying flesh.
We’re lucky to have the Northern Parula here during breeding season and enjoy its ascending buzzy trill. In the fall, numbers of this warbler join with Titmice and Gnatcatchers in their trek southward.
A demure female Common Yellowthroat looks like royalty surrounded by a field of dewy jewels. The male is more boldly colored and sports a black mask once mature.
Cocking his head to get a better look at a branch, a male Downy Woodpecker has a red spot on his nape which the female lacks.
Carpenter-mimic Leafcutter Bee (Megachile xylocopoides). That’s a mouthful. Similar in appearance to Carpenter Bees, the Leafcutter Bees carry pollen on their abdomen instead of leg pouches.
A trio of Red-eyed Vireos were busily feeding along the path. One glanced our way for a moment, decided we were no threat and continued the hunt for juicy caterpillars.
Late molting is likely responsible for the disheveled appearance of this male Northern Cardinal. It is not unusual for cardinals to have two or even three broods in our sub-tropical climate.
The edge of a large open field normally has a few spots where water collects. Dragonflies love the habitat, and, therefore, so do we! We found over a dozen Band-winged Dragonlets (Erythrodiplax umbrata) in the area.
Flashes of red directed our attention to the Scarlet Skimmer (Crocothemis servilia). Not native to North America, this species likely arrived via landscaping plants.
One of the smallest doves in the United States, the Common Ground Dove is about the size of a Song Sparrow.
Gangster. The Tufted Titmouse is the first to yell in the forest when a human shows up. He then leads is pack of bird-thugs to challenge our incursion of their territory. Okay, it’s pretty hard to call anything this cute a “gangster”.
Roseate Skimmers (Orthemis ferruginea) are some of the largest of the skimmers. This female posed for a few seconds and I appreciate it.
For me, one of the most attractive butterflies we have in the area is the Zebra Swallowtail (Protographium marcellus). As frequently happens, this one lost a bit of its tail, probably due to a close call with a predator.
We know fall migration is definitely underway when we hear the rattles of active Belted Kingfishers around our lakes. This guy wouldn’t quit yelling at the water below. We couldn’t see the object of his ire, perhaps Al The Gator?
Two dragons we don’t often catch sitting still!
Always curious, constantly singing, beautiful to look upon. Yep, we like White-eyed Vireos!
We were a bit surprised to find a few early Palm Warblers. Like, nearly 50 of them! They were staging from a row of large oak trees as they foraged in an open field. It was like welcoming old friends back for an annual reunion. And all of them with tails pumping.
Rounding out our morning outing, that darned car once again proved to be a critter magnet. This time, a Regal Jumping Spider (Phidippus regius) had taken possession of the vehicle. Any move in its direction was immediately challenged, front legs waving. Good thing they are less than an inch long, else we might have felt threatened.
A happy combination of loving each other and enjoying the natural world has resulted in a long-lasting relationship which endures and continues to flourish. Luckiest – man – in – the -world.
We leave you with a definition (and a poem) from “The Devil’s Dictionary” by Ambrose Bierce, one of my all-time favorite writers.
OUT-OF-DOORS, n. That part of one’s environment upon which no government has been able to collect taxes.* Chiefly useful to inspire poets.
I climbed to the top of a mountain one day
To see the sun setting in glory,
And I thought, as I looked at his vanishing ray,
Of a perfectly splendid story.
‘Twas about an old man and the ass he bestrode
Till the strength of the beast was o’ertested;
Then the man would carry him miles on the road
Till Neddy was pretty well rested.
The moon rising solemnly over the crest
Of the hills to the east of my station
Displayed her broad disk to the darkening west
Like a visible new creation.
And I thought of a joke (and I laughed till I cried)
Of an idle young woman who tarried
About a church-door for a look at the bride,
Although ’twas herself that was married.
To poets all Nature is pregnant with grand
Ideas—with thought and emotion.
I pity the dunces who don’t understand
The speech of earth, heaven and ocean.
—Stromboli Smith **
*(This was written in the late 19th century, prior to governments coming up with the revenue-generating idea of “parks”.)
** (Stromboli Smith is one of several dozen aliases used by Bierce throughout his career.)
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!