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!

22 Comments on “Finding The Extra In The Ordinary

  1. The moral of your story is “Always listen to your sweetheart, she usually knows something you don’t” Lovely photographs Wally.

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    • Your quote is exactly why we have remained together over 50 years!

      Also, it proves I am a genius for marrying such a brilliant woman.

      Thank you so much, Margaret. Wish you were here enjoying our hot apple cider!

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  2. Yes Wally, I agree: We are truly ‘spoiled by the richness of our environment’. I just wish I had the energy to take advantage of it more often!

    All your photos are wonderful as usual – the raptor sequence is awesome. And the Swamp Sunflower is interesting too. I haven’t seen them bloom this late. It must vary by location.

    Take care.

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  3. Hi Wally. It’s good to see you back in Bloggerland with a post that is, as always, a delight for the eyes and the few grey cells that I have left.

    I was delighted to see your dragon image as, as far as I’m aware, all our dragons in UK are now living a life under-water.

    I did a quick double-take with the Northern Waterthrush images as we have had daily garden visits for the past week from the similar-looking (as Phil notes above) Redwing – although that is a true thrush.

    However, the real star of the show for me is that wonderfdul sequence with the hawk and kestrel.

    A little concerned for your welfare, having seen the exchange, above, between you and Phil, but do not wish to probe. I’ll just finish by saying that I hope that you stay safe and well, and wish you and Gini all the best of luck. If I’m not in touch with you again before Christmas – have a good one!

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    • Good Foggy Morning, Phil!
      Four days in a row of the gray stuff may be a new record here in the swamp.

      We spent about three weeks on the road visiting family members and are attempting to recuperate. Great visits!

      Timing was definitely on our side with the two raptors! As always, wish I had obtained more and better images. Sigh. The lament of the bird photographer.

      No worries about our welfare! The exchange with Phil was made with my tongue firmly against my cheek. (Don’t tell Phil.)

      Gini and I wish you and Lindsay the best holiday season ever!

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      • I blame the fog.
        I blame no coffee.
        I blame excessive age.
        I blame you, for not being named “Phil”.
        I blame climate change.
        I blame COVID.

        As you can see, it is obviously not MY fault!

        Mea Culpa, RICHARD.

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  4. Great images, as always, Wally, The sequence with the kestrel and the hawk wins the day for me. I was hoping that the ending would be like the outcome of a David and Goliath battle, where the kestrel was victorious. Size counts, I suppose!

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    • Thank you, David.

      We waited around hoping for that David and Goliath outcome, to no avail. The Kestrel found a taller perch nearby but we imagined he was plotting revenge!

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  5. Wally and Gini. I kept tabs on you, as we do. I thought you must be on another assignment in an unmentionable place and I was correct. I hope everything was in order in the other location and that you did not encounter any difficulty in completing your mission? My lips are buttoned.

    I cannot remember the last time I saw a Common Bittern as they are much more secretive than your American Bittern, if more than a little similar in looks if not voice. I no longer relish idea of many hours staring into reed beds to glimpse a Bittern when instead I might catch Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers while hearing the distant ‘booming’ of a Bittern.

    Now if I was a little bit of a rogue I could ‘borrow’ your Cooper’s Hawk and pass it off on my blog as a Sparrowhawk and then see how many readers noticed? Similarly, the waterthrush has a head pattern so resembling a Redwing (thrush) that such a portrait might pass for either to the unwary?`

    Sad to say, and you may have read, our leader has been caught out in telling possible porkies, maybe even varnishing the truth, but we do think he still has some marbles, even if they rattle around. Good to see on TV this week a mutual friend chatting to Nige. Bring it on.

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    • Mission accomplished. And that’s all that may be said, as you know. The consequences of further description are too unbearable to contemplate.

      The bittern is a treat for us since we only have a chance for a glimpse during winter. Even then, they are pretty scarce.

      As to substituting American birds for their European cousins – well. You have sharp-eyed fans on your blog which, although they would recognize your subterfuge, would be way too polite to mention it publicly.

      (Side note. We have it on reliable authority you are significantly beyond “a little bit of a rogue”.)

      Prevarication is apparently a chief prerequisite for becoming the leader of an entire nation. At least you can (rightly) brag that your leader has SOME marbles.

      Fog this morning. Didn’t know what it was at first. Thought the planet was on fire. Cursed the climate change plague (I may be mixing up my catastrophes). We seldom see the gray stuff here, but once it had been identified and I deemed it safe to go birding, the stuff disappeared. Now I’m stuck with blue sky and sunshine – again.

      Gini says thank you for keeping tabs on us, even though it sounds a bit creepy. We hope your upcoming weekend is filled with fun, frolic and all manner of bird life!

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  6. Now my ordinary day has turned with this extraordinary collection of photos from you! It’s good to see your post; I trust your Thanksgiving was a good one.

    I smiled at your Ludwigia. I just figured out that the ‘different’ Mexican primrose willow I’ve been seeing actually was a different species. I don’t know how many species we have, but there surely are more than I’ve known about. The goldfinches are arriving here now, and I spotted an American Kestrel last weekend. There’s been one in the same tree at the Brazoria refuge the last three years. Whether it’s the same one I can’t say, but if not? The birds are passing the word about that good perch.

    It’s interesting how these blogs we read influence us. The last time I headed out early, I took breakfast with me. When I looked at it at the refuge, I laughed. Without conscious thought, I’d brought alone a couple of boiled eggs and some Clementines. Delicious!

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    • Thanksgiving was fabulous, thank you!
      No birding, but plenty of family visiting and catching up. Much needed.

      The more I learn about flora (okay, and a lotta other stuff, too), the more I find myself resorting to identification only to the species level. Sigh.

      You can call it the “same” Kestrel. The bird won’t care and I won’t tell.

      Aha! “Breakfast of Champion Birders and Nature Lovers”!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. We’ve been seeing that yellow flower in bloom and now I know what it is! Thank you! LOVE the Bittern…hope we see one soon. We always say even on a hike where we don’t see ‘much’, we see so many things! Today we hiked and saw an Eagle and a flock of Scrub Jays and overhead we saw a bright blue jet that turned out to be a new airline called Breeze! Amazing! You’ll like the first quote on my post today! LOVE all of your nature photos! Enjoy your evening! Time to relax! Diane

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    • Hi, Diane! Thank you for the very nice comments.

      It’s amazing what we can see by just getting “out there” and taking our time to observe.

      Will check out your quote tomorrow. Bed time.

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