Short And Sweet
Header Image: Sandhill Crane On Nest
(Whoa! Lower your expectations. This will not be a post about my favorite person. And, please, don’t tell her the title of today’s entry. She fully agrees with the latter description but takes great umbrage with the first. My physical safety is at stake here, so, thank you in advance.)
I was born in a small village in southeastern Florida long ago before the age of flying cars. Oh, wait, that hasn’t quite happened yet, despite the promises of “The Jetsons”. It was so long ago (how long ago was it?), that our main entertainment on television was the “Honeymooner’s” with Jackie Gleason, the Ed Sullivan Show and Sunday afternoon baseball. After church on Sundays during the baseball off-season, a late-afternoon treat would be the “Sunday Drive“.
We got pretty excited at that prospect (we being the children in the group), because we knew the ride usually ended in a stop at Drexel’s Dairy. For city kids (or, more precisely, suburban kids), petting a baby calf or feeding horses a carrot was a special experience. Not to mention the lasting effects (some of it on our shoes) of enjoying the fresh aroma of a working dairy. The highlight, however, was the marketing geniuses at Drexel’s knew a free cone filled with fresh ice cream would ultimately result in dairy items being ordered for delivery the following week.
That small village where I was raised grew a bit over the years. It has been several decades since I have returned to Miami and still can’t think of a reason why I would.
Solidifying the theory that Gini and I have always been soulmates is the discovery that she, too, had a similar “Sunday Drive” experience as a mere child. (Through some time-warp trick of the universe, she was a child only a couple of years ago.) Dairies and ice cream also rest within her memory of those days.
Lately, when we bring up the subject of “going for a ride”, regardless of the day of the week, it automatically triggers the loading of optical equipment, survival snacks and tumblers of water into our trusty vehicle. While none of those items may actually be used, one can never be certain when they may be needed. Cows and ice cream may not (necessarily) be our end reward, but any day spent with Gini has its own very unique and indescribable bonus, just for me. (I’m selfish that way.)
On this day’s drive, we visited a commercial sod farm. Many former citrus growers have been affected by past downturns in their industry due to economic times, natural attacks on groves and pressure from foreign competition. The demand for lush green grass from homeowners, businesses and civic developers convinced many to convert the beautiful bright green and gold landscape of citrus groves into flat squares of turf as far the eye can see.
Benefactors of this evolution, besides tireless marketing consultants telling us we must have green lawns or face excommunication, include several different species of birds, especially shorebirds, which love the constantly dampened soil (AKA: mud) which makes it easy to probe and locate all manner of protein-rich insects. The prospect of finding a sizable number of shorebirds so far from the shore makes these farms a magnet for scope-toting birders all across the land. Especially during migration.
Even better news. Getting to and from the aforementioned lawn-spawning nirvana requires a drive through some very nice birding territory!
Our actual “Sunday Drive” was fairly short as birding outings go, but it had a few sweet rewards to make for a lovely day.
About half a mile in the distance, the spotting scope revealed several hundred shorebirds feeding in the freshly watered turf. Identification was reduced to educated speculation (based on historical data) that the majority of the birds were Least Sandpipers. A small cloud of feathery visitors descended about 200 yards from us and we could identify a couple of dozen Least Sandpipers, a few Semipalmated Plovers and our first look this season of a dozen American Pipit. (Apologies for the blurry images.)
The sod field is bordered by a canal which helps with irrigation. Wading birds line the banks in search of frogs, snakes and fish. A Great Blue Heron proudly displays a catch larger than would be expected from such a small canal.
Not far from the green fields we found a small pond in a large pasture where four Mottled Ducks plied the weed-filled water for their daily salad.
In this same pond, a pair of Sandhill Cranes set up house-keeping on a small island of mud and weeds. Although we are still seeing large groups of migratory Greater Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis tabida), Florida has a resident population (Grus canadensis pratensis) which breeds here. Eggs will be incubated for about four weeks.
A rather uncommon sighting was a very pale version of the Red-tailed Hawk, sometimes designated “Krider’s” Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis kriderii). Speak to a dozen taxonomists and you will find a difference of opinion on whether this is actually a sub-species. This appears to be an immature bird based on breast markings and tail pattern. Beautiful and unique, no matter what you call it!
Shorebirds away from the shore, a crane on a nest, an abnormally pale hawk – almost as good as any ice cream reward! Another very satisfying “Sunday Drive“. Our outing may have been short but it was most assuredly very sweet. (Just like you-know-who! Shhhh.)
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!