The Other Side of the Lake
Header Image: Snail Kite
Most living things are creatures of habit. For good reasons. Over time, we find what works best to ensure our survival. If we happen to be a black bear, we develop a habit of examining certain trees which in the past were used by bees. Yellow-legged Mud-dauber Wasps habitually sting and paralyze spiders, but don’t consume most of them. Instead, they seal a couple dozen in a nest cell containing a single wasp egg. A newly-hatched wasplet can happily munch her way to the great outdoors and is thankful Mom has such a thoughtful habit.
Humans, the most intelligent creatures on the planet, take the habit thing to a whole new level. Sure, we learn what we need to do to survive. Some of us stop right there. Minimalist thinking. Why would I exert more effort than is absolutely necessary for me to keep breathing? At the other end of the scale is the over-achiever. If I need to do ‘x‘ amount of work to survive, then if I do ‘x‘ times ‘infinity‘, why, I could control the whole world!
So, basic creatures do basic things pretty much the same way every day to help the survival of their species. The apex smarty pants of the universe, us, we figure out what we need to do each day to get by and then, depending on our hereditary/educational/social/mental proclivities, we figure out what habits contribute to “success”, which is defined a gabillion different ways depending on who you are and what you want out of life.
Birders develop habits. There are certain venues which become well-known for a diverse bird population or a specific bird or a collection of birds during a particular season. The birder makes it a “habit” to visit this location whenever possible. Some birders have a set routine for an outing and head to several different places throughout the day to check on activity. Many have one “special” spot, perhaps close to home, where they can easily spend an hour or so and have become so familiar with the avian residents that any anomalies are readily noticed. Some birders refer to such a spot as their “patch”.
A very few (hardly worth noting actually, the number is so miniscule) take the birding habit just one step too far. They will visit their “patch” or similar spot to the exclusion of other locales. Instead of seeking a new and unknown area to explore, they return to their “comfort zone” and happily observe the same birds in the same trees which were observed yesterday. This situation, if left unchecked, could potentially cause the unsuspecting birder to trip over a finely honed habit and fall into a rut.
So there we were, enjoying a quiet dinner and I innocently asked my Darling Gini if she minded a trip to Lake Parker Park in the morning. A slight pause was all that was needed for my little gray cells to leap to the possibility that I, yes me, myself, may have inched ever so slightly toward the ledge beyond which lay the abyss of – a “rut“.
“On the other hand”, perspiration formed on my brow as I desperately tried backpedaling to safety, “Why don’t we head over to the east side of the lake and check out the fishing pier area?” She sensed my discomfort, smiled sweetly and simply said: “Sounds good. More coffee?”
That was close.
The aforementioned fishing pier is accessed by a long sidewalk running parallel with a canal on one side and a row of oak, hickory and willow trees on the other. Beyond the canal and the trees is a substantial area of reeds and lily pads along the shore of Lake Parker. The fishing pier juts into the main lake and is a great spot to scan for wintering ducks (in a few more weeks), watch Osprey and Bald Eagles soar and myriad other water birds going about their daily habits. The taller trees can be a great place to find smaller woodland birds.
We saw a surprising assortment of birds, did not spend much time there and arrived back at the house well before lunch time. Most importantly, yours truly appears to have side-stepped a rut in the road of birding habits.
So herewith, a selection of subjects seen singing, sitting and soaring.
As late fall approaches, migrating Bald Eagles filter into the area and, like most tourists, are happily surprised at all the lakes filled with fish! We have a robust resident population of Bald Eagles. The locals do not react well to strangers fishing in their front yard. Fights are common and occasionally fatal. From the pier today, we counted six of the magnificent raptors soaring, screaming and fishing. No fighting – yet.
A sky filled with really large birds of prey can make other birds a bit nervous. An Osprey tries to hunt for fish but keeps glancing at the circling eagles overhead.
An Anhinga may not be accused of being the most attractive of birds, but who can resist such beautiful brown eyes?
Caspian Terns are the largest terns in the world. We have a few who, along with several Royal Terns, have made Lake Parker their year-round home.
Although still on state and federal endangered lists, Snail Kite populations in Florida have been rebounding over the past few years. None were present here just five years ago and now they are nesting along the northeastern part of Lake Parker.
Some of the earliest warblers to appear in our area for fall migration are Yellow Warblers. They don’t stay too long as they have reservations in Caracas.
Yellow-throated Warblers are Florida residents but they have a bunch of northern relatives which show up for the annual fall bug harvest.
We watched an Osprey methodically clean the head and skin from a freshly-caught fish when she was suddenly swooped upon by a lazy interloper looking for an easy meal. The ensuing air-to-air combat operation would have made most Air Force jet jockeys envious. The would-be thief gave up and the victor enjoyed her spoils from a nearby pine tree.
Developing habits is a matter of survival. Nurturing good habits can help us be more successful in our lives. Repeating some habits too often can lead us into a rut. Diversify. Stay out of ruts!
We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!
Just lately I have my doubts about that “most intelligent creature on the planet”, excluding me, thee and Gini of course. I recognise that I am in something of a “rut”, or as I prefer to think of it, “committed” to a study, Citizen Science that has become a labour of love, so much so that getting home for lunch (or muffin and coffee) is not always a priority!
I’m loving those Ospreys – once or twice a year if I’m lucky. Six Bald Eagles and Snail Kites? You are one lucky guy in that birding place you love so much Wally. Take care you and Gini both.
We are so fortunate to live in the Osprey’s buffet line. An aerial view of our area is stunning as it shows a seemingly infinite number of lakes. The Osprey must get up in the air and rub his wings together trying to decide which spot to try for breakfast today.
Gotta get back in my rut — errr — that is, heading over to our “patch”.
Have a great week!
The Osprey DOES look like it has enough to share! And getting 2 eagles in a photo is amazing! We have so many trails within 10 miles of our house that it’s hard for us to go farther but we have a couple of hikes planned for this nicer weather! Thanks for sharing your thoughts….and your beautiful photos! And I appreciate the sweet comments you’ve given me! Happy weekend!
Thank you for such kind remarks!
We may think she has enough fish to share, but that Osprey was NOT in a sharing mood!
Not sure why your comment went into the spam folder, but we sure appreciate Eileen’s alert on your behalf.
Oh I’m so glad you found my comments! And thank you very much Eileen for helping with the mystery of the missing comments! Enjoy your evening!
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I am always happy to visit new places, but I do have my favorite spots. Awesome capture of the Eagle, Osprey and the Snail Kite. Love the pretty warblers. Great post. Have a happy weekend!
Thank you, Eileen.
Exploring nature, whether it’s a familiar place or a new one, is a habit we feed as often as possible.
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Hi Wally, another blogger Diane (Lavender Dreamer) mentioned she noticed her comments on your post were not being published. Could her comments be going to your spam folder? Just checking, she asked me check with you? You can delete this comment.
Thank you so much Eileen! She WAS in the spam folder!
Hopefully, we have that fixed.
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Thoughtful post and lovely photos! I’ve had that restless feeling lately, due to traveling the same routes, looking in the same places. I tend to go by too fast to catch what has changed, what is new. So, to refresh my view of old haunts, I look for new places… and then revisit my old friends with new eyes. Keep the stories coming, I’m loving every minute!
Thank you very much, Sam.
Exploring new places helps keep our senses, and motivation, sharp.
The birds keep me out of the rut, I am sure of that. Just when you think you know everything about them, they go and do something different and rekindle the sense of wonder all over again. It may be the same neck of the woods or corner of the lake, but when the Yellow Warbler lands for the briefest of moments on the back of the Great Blue Heron, a smile is fixed on my face for the rest of the day. Never seen that before, and maybe never will again, but I know it did happen because I saw it with my own eyes!
“… and rekindle the sense of wonder all over again.”
You have captured the essence of why we do what we do, David. Whether from a rut, a hide or sand dune. If we can embrace our habit of returning to the outdoors, we will be able to see such wondrous things!
Have a terrific weekend!
Rut or not, Wally – you always seem to find and photograph amazing things!
Thank you, Ed.
Sometimes, the view from the rut ain’t all that bad.
Wise words and great photos, Wally! I particularly like the drama of that Anhinga image, for reasons that I’m not entirely sure of. The Caspian Tern images also struck a chord with me, but it was those two Snail Kite images that really came up with the WOW factor although, again, I can’t put my finger on the reason why. Maybe it’s just because they are just perfectly executed shots of a fabulously handsome bird?!
I have learned something today, for which I thank you, and that is the realization that I AM STUCK IN A RUT !! Hopefully, this realization will help me rectify the matter.
My very best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard
Your very kind remarks are really appreciated, Richard!
Don’t fret about that rut. Some ruts can be quite pleasant. I’ve even had the experience whereby I escaped a rut which I thought had become tedious, discovered the alternative was much more so and scurried back into my preferred rut. 🙂
Gini and I truly hope you and Lindsay are about to have a fantastic weekend!
Stunning captures, Wally, so beautifu, LOVE the flight shots! Great post, glad you’re not in a rut, hard to imagine you getting in one! haha I’ve no doubt had ruts from going too much to one area, I make myself change it up too, go somewhere new, anything to get back out in my groove!
Thank you, Donna.
Ruts are not necessarily a bad thing. Just difficult to escape from once in awhile.
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I really like the photo of the Anhinga.It shows the difference between its beak and that of the Cormorant as well as any I’ve seen. What I can’t remember seeing is any sort of conflict among our Ospreys. Perhaps the fish in the lake and the bay are so numerous everyone’s satisfied. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the one who’s chosen a mast across from where I’m working sticks with his initial preference, however rut-like it may be. I haven’t yet had to clean fish entrails off the deck this year, and I’d be pleased to keep it that way.
The warblers are so pretty. I spotted my first Goldfinch of the year this afternoon. One or two more fronts, and they’ll begin arriving for real.
During breeding season, it’s common for a male Osprey to give a fish to a potential mate, which would be easy to mistake for a conflict. The rest of the year, there are occasional theft attempts such as this one.
I blame eagles. They’re a bad influence. 🙂
I love spotting a Goldfinch during migration but I sure wish the males would retain their breeding plumage.
Good luck with your local Osprey remaining where he is. Sometimes, admiring from afar is a good thing.
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