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!