Finding The Extra In The Ordinary
Header Image: Northern Waterthrush
It was a day similar to other days.
The sun rose. So did we. Ate breakfast. Read mail. Ate lunch. Accomplished chores. Ate supper. The sun set. We went to bed.
Ahhh. But during the hum-drum ordinary routine of the day, we discovered a few “extras“.
Shortly after the sun rose, we did, too, and drove a short way to have breakfast in the park. Tangerines and boiled eggs were perfect by the lake as we watched the morning flocks of White Ibises leave their nightly roost to locate suitable spots for foraging.
A couple of hours wandering around the pine woods, palmetto understory, lake shore, marsh and creek banks provided an incredibly diverse experience of the natural world. Winter bird migrants, resident birds and wildlife, fall flowers in bloom, insects enjoying the extended warm season of our sub-tropical climate in autumn – so much to take in. I know you’re tired of hearing it, but we truly are spoiled by the richness of our environment!
I would never say (aloud) that Gini whined, but when I mentioned we should be getting home, there was a sharp intake of breath followed by “the look” from those huge brown eyes and no actual vocalization was needed. Just awhile longer. If she had not convinced me to continue the adventure, we would never have seen the Red-shouldered Hawk chase the American Kestrel from his perch and the ensuing kerfuffle. Ordinary bird-watching turned into something “extra“.
A sampling of the “extras” in our otherwise ordinary day.
“Chickadee-dee-dee.” The sleek little Carolina Chickadee advised the rest of the flock that we were in the neighborhood. This species breeds in the park but its numbers increase with visitors from the north during migration.
A diminutive Blue-gray Gnatcatcher peers up at a branch hoping to spot a breakfast bug.
In the winter, we are able to enjoy the antics, calls and songs of House Wrens. Small but aggressive, they are fun to watch.
Florida has an amazing display of fall flowers each year. It helps make up for not much tree leaf color, I suppose. This is one of the over 20 species of Goldenrod (Solidago) which can be found in the state.
One of our favorite winter visitors is the American Bittern, a medium-sized heron. When alarmed, they often point their heads skyward and remain motionless. Their streaked neck and wonderfully patterned body blend in very well with the reeds of the marsh.
Those sharp brown eyes Gini has spotted “something different” near the lake. We have just started to see fair numbers of migrating sparrows, typically Savannah and Swamp Sparrows. She found two Grasshopper Sparrows hunting in the brush and grass. An unstreaked breast and belly, white eye-ring, an orange/yellow spot above the eye and a “flat-headed” appearance help identify this somewhat uncommon visitor.
Vertical streaks of purple dotted the pine woods understory as Blazing Star (Liatris spp.) bloomed gloriously throughout the area.
This Red-shouldered Hawk locked his gaze upon a brunch item in the grass and a split-second later launched from his pine tree perch to claim his prize. He did not share with us.
There were plenty of insects out and about but most of them were not interested in posing for a camera. This Red Saddlebags (Tramea onusta) was kind enough to hold still for a moment. Mites seem to be somewhat common on dragonflies. Still, we wished we could offer a remedy.
Yellow is the color of the season for Florida wildflowers. Growing to over six feet tall and in masses, we really love the Narrowleaf Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius), also called the Swamp Sunflower.
A Pine Warbler used the iron fence as a tenderizer as he continually beat that bug until it was just right.
Flying fast above the forest, a long tail and “checkerboard” under wing pattern identified a Cooper’s Hawk.
The streaking of a Northern Waterthrush is how it came to have “thrush” in its name, despite the fact this water-loving bird is actually a warbler.
Primrosewillow is a very common plant throughout the southeast although identifying one of the more than 30 varieties can sometimes be a challenge. This is likely the non-native and invasive Peruvian Primrosewillow (Ludwigia peruviana). Those fabulous bright flowers almost make me forgive the plant for being an uninvited guest.
We always know migration is in full swing when we hear the little flycatcher incessantly repeating her name: “Phoe-be“!! Gini says the Eastern Phoebe sounds like she’s yelling: “Feed Me”!
A Red-shouldered Hawk decided he wanted to perch atop a small pine tree where an American Kestrel had set up an observation post. The bigger bird won the spot but the much smaller Kestrel expressed his extreme displeasure, several times.
Our ordinary day was transformed into “extraordinary“! A few birds, bugs and blooms and a bit of time spent observing our surroundings was all it took. See if you might have some “extras” hiding within your “ordinary” day.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!