Drive-By Birding

Header Image: Lake Shore

When is the best time to go birding?

Early in the morning. Or – When the birds are feeding. Or – During migration. Or – Late in the day as they feed before roosting.

All of the above. None of the above. Any of the above.

My Dad was an avid fisherman. Tides, phase of the moon, time of day – all can influence when fish are more likely to be feeding. All things considered, Dad’s sage advice: “The best time to go fishing is when you have a chance to go fishing.”

The same is true of birding.

Sure, it would be wonderful to plan each trip down to the last detail. For a trip to some specific, perhaps distant venue, such planning is essential. However, for day-to-day bird watching, the best time to go is when you have a chance. Our lives can become so busy with jobs, family, appointments, shopping – it’s easy to become overwhelmed by life and forget that we need some balance to maintain our health and sanity.

Naturally, birding provides that balance!

So, there we were, innocently finishing a bowl of porridge adorned with fresh strawberries when we received word of a postponed appointment.

Want to go for a ride?

I know, it was already mid-morning. Yes, there’s a roast which needs a bit of preparation for dinner. Not to mention, we just visited our “patch” yesterday.

“I’ll load the car.”

I continue to marvel at my genius for marrying so well. Gini is not only my anchor in life, my motivation for making it through each day, my confidant, my best friend and lover. She can hear the birds.

Our birding patch is seven minutes from the front door. Tenoroc Fish Management Area consists of reclaimed phosphate mining land which has been designed as a fishing destination. In recent years, a shooting range, archery course and equestrian trails have been added. It is designated as a Gateway for the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail.

There are 19 miles of hiking trails here. They were in no danger of being overused by us on this day.

We only had a couple of hours available so we drove around the dirt roads and simply enjoyed being out in the sunshine and fresh air. A few birds begged to have a picture taken. How could we refuse? I think we only got out of the car once. Sometimes, this birding thing can almost be too easy!

Here are a few things we saw from the car.

Common Ground Dove, true to their name, love to forage on, you guessed it, “the ground”. They like open areas with a bit of grass and the edges of roads seem to fit that bill (and theirs) just fine.

One of our migratory visitors, the Yellow-rumped Warbler, has been provided with the nickname “Butterbutt” by some of the more academically inclined in the birding community.

This image was taken just after 10:30 a.m. It is a member of the morning glory family, so blooming “in the morning” appears totally understandable. Except, this is a Moonflower (Ipomoea alba), also called Tropical White Morning-glory. These flowers typically begin to open late in the day, bloom during the night and close once the sun rises. Indeed, this specimen is looking pretty ragged as it retreats from the sun. Most resources indicate the plant shouldn’t be blooming at all in January.

In our area, the Boat-tailed Grackle is quite common and the Common Grackle is usually not seen in great numbers. Tenoroc is one area we normally see at least a couple of the latter, noticeable by its bright pale eyes.

Winter brings good numbers of small Pied-billed Grebes to our lakes and ponds. Gini, having achieved the aforementioned status of more academic birder, prefers to call them by the lofty scientific moniker “Fuzzy Butts”.

Driving around a large open field which is maintained for fall dove hunting (sigh), utility poles make a convenient observation perch for the American Kestrel.

If you are an Eastern Bluebird, those Kestrel perches are just fine for tenderizing a big beetle.

So, there you are in the buffet line and there’s always that one guy who pushes his way in front of you to see what’s available today. Then, you get that uneasy feeling that perhaps YOU are the buffet item. Maybe we’ll just step over this way ……

American Alligator, Glossy Ibis, White Ibis

Planning an outing is a very good idea and can help ensure a successful trip. Once in awhile, though, a spur-of-the-moment drive-by may be just the ticket to help recharge your soul’s batteries.

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

26 Comments on “Drive-By Birding

  1. Arriving late for the party but enjoying not only your narrative and photos, but also the banter, from the mysterious to the sublime (ie, worst names for the world’s worst poet and the grebe’s backside). Seriously, a very interesting experience.


    • Thank you, Ken, for dropping by!

      We may lose a lot in life (e.g., hair, hearing, sight), but if we retain our sense of humor perhaps there is hope for us yet!

      Take good care up there in the frozen wasteland! (Although you sure have found some beautiful birds!)


    • First, of course, I failed to apologize to Sarah Josepha Hale, a true literary talent and early American supporter of women writers. Her original poem remains a classic.

      Second, Mr. McGonagall may have simply been ahead of his time, literarily speaking. Perhaps his readers just didn’t like a Scot born of Irish parents. To his credit, he ignored the critics and forged ahead with what HE thought was quality writing.

      “I may say Dame Fortune has been very kind to me by endowing me with the genius of poetry,” he wrote in his autobiography.

      Alas, Dame Fortune endowed me with nothing resembling such genius. Sigh.

      Check the mail regularly for your reward.


  2. Butter-butt I know, but Fuzzy-butt was new, and adorable.The Pied-billed Grebes are among my favorites, and Gini’s name suits them. Kudos to her for the creativity! As for drive-by birding, it’s going to be just the ticket in tomorrow’s cold. It might be fine today, too, but temperatures below freezing make a day sorting and processing bird photos seem more appealing.

    One nice thing about our refuge auto routes is the ability to pull over anywhere for photos. I’ve read there are some places where parking’s only allowed in a few specified areas, which can mean missed photos. People here generally are good about pulling over to let others pass, and since there rarely are crowds, it works out nicely.

    The ibis and gator photos are wonderful. They do seem to be giving each other the eye!


    • I have no doubt field guides around the world are in revision as we speak to convert the grebe to his new name. Gini has a very special imagination!

      Just returned from a day on Florida’s east coast at Cape Canaveral exploring Merritt Island NWR. Whew! Downloading a few hundred images as we speak.

      Not a cloud in the sky and 80 degrees by 11:00 a.m. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Fuzzy butts? I haven’t heard that one! But you are right, it’s so great to live in Florida and have places so close to home to view birds and get out and take a hike. I’m amazed at how few people take advantage of them here but I encourage people when I can. I filled the tank on the Jeep this morning to be ready for anything! lol Enjoy your afternoon! I hope we see a Glossy Ibis this week….they are so pretty!


    • I fully expect the worldwide birding community to adopt Gini’s totally descriptive name for the Pied-billed Grebe!

      Took out a loan and filled our tank also. Headed east in the morning. Will be a good day.

      Looking forward to seeing your photographs of the Glossy Ibis.
      (Positive thinking can’t hurt!)


  4. Hi Wally and Gini. Tenoroc sounds like it has a useful mix of activities but at 19 miles, more than large enough to accommodate all those various desires without getting in each other’s way. I can visualise that footpath hike because it’s 19 motorway miles to Preston City, a place you would not like and a place I do not plan to visit any time soon.

    Lots of birds but no mention of coffee and buns today? If you two lovebirds never left the car I’m not hoovering up the crumbs in the foot well.

    It’s a funny time of year here. Winter but not quite spring and no ringing means our team is pretty fed up with all that’s going on. Roll on April.


    • Coffee is like breathing. It just happens naturally. In this case, way before we departed for the hinterlands.

      As for the buns, we are following our very strict, albeit intermittent, efforts to eat more healthy things. So today it was those oats and berries. The next day – we shall not discuss it.

      It has taken our backwater part of the country until last week to catch up with winter temperatures. A few days of just above 0 C and that’s enough, thank you. Just now is warm and sunny. One more cold front next week and we should be inundated with Spring weather and spring migrants anxious to return to their northern nests.

      Try not to become too bored what with no ringing. Take a group of little children birding! No – seriously.


  5. Gorgeous shot of the Common Ground Dove, they are so tiny and adorable! Your three-image series of the two Ibis and the gator told the story perfectly. It always amazes me to see those scenes over and over. Scares me too, lol. ‘Cuz if the gator is hungry…..


  6. I too am fortunate to have an enthusiastic birder for a wife and she is generally at the door before I am. As for chores not being done, I am sure that when we finally cash in the big ticket the question uppermost on people’s minds will not be, “Did they do their chores?” A few might remember good times birding with us though.


  7. Your enthusiasm for birding is contagious. And I love the way you tell a story! Enjoyed meandering along with you. We have seen a significant decrease in bird populations this year and last year due to storms and other environmental factors, so my adventures lately have been disappointing. I’ll keep trying and doing my part for our feathered friends.


    • Long time no hear, Gail!

      Come meander with us any time! We’ll even scare up a Brown Pelican and some crawdads to make you feel at home.

      We zipped by your house at Thanksgiving on our way to Texas. Great memories of the ghosts at our old plantation BNB near Breaux Bridge.

      Take good care.


  8. Wally, I learn something almost every time I visit your blog. Today it was the scientific moniker “Fuzzy Butts”. Please pass along my grateful appreciation to Gini.

    Wonderful photos, as usual! Your header image is lovely.


  9. I don’t know whether to be envious or thankful, Wally! I’d love to have places as fruitful as this on my doorstep, but I’d never get done all those other things that life demands of us. Having thought about it, I’ll just stay content with what I’ve got – at least that way I’ll get to spend time at home with Lindsay, who does not relish joining me on birding trips.

    I don’t recall being introduced to the Common Ground Dove before, but your photo has just caused my admiration for doves in general to grow even greater.

    All is good here. Take care and stay safe – – – Richard


    • Thank you, Richard, for you kind thoughts.

      I’m very blessed that my birding companion just happens to be my life companion! Having so many good birding spots near the house is definitely a “good news/bad news” situation. Yes, many chores remain undone!

      Warm weather is returning! Birds are waiting!


  10. Fuzzy Butt! we’ll take that one in exchange 😉 Totally envious of a 7-min trip to one of your favorite places – my minimum is 30. But you are right, we need to find and relish even the smallest places. Lovely narrative and photos as usual!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: