That Perfect Blend

Header Image: Picnic Lake At Sunrise

A liter of water and about 60 grams of coffee beans, for me, is a pleasant way to begin a morning. One of my favorite Central American coffees is lightly roasted at a small local roastery. The flavor is wonderful, but I wished it could be “more“. I tried increasing the amount of beans to the grind but, although stronger, it didn’t increase the flavor. When asked about a longer roasting time, the kind artisans said they tried it at various levels but any darker brought out a bitterness which was unpleasant. Experimentation over several months has produced something I really like. Just 15 grams of a very dark roasted variety from Peru added to 45 grams of the Guatemalan has been extremely satisfying to sip.

That perfect blend.

I know you’re tired of hearing about my genius in selecting the perfect life partner, but Gini taught me early in our marriage the importance of what she considers the most vital ingredient of any relationship, other than unconditional love. Communication. If we can’t talk to each other about everything, issues will sneak in and work to destroy what has been built. Thankfully, she worked tirelessly to instill that trait in our two children. Our adult children today define “proud parents”. We discovered each of us had a unique skill set to offer but only by combining our efforts could we be ultimately successful.

That perfect blend.

Spring is upon us! New green leaves are brightening the landscape. Small colorful flowers are beginning to appear along roadsides and under foot in the pathways. Blooming flowers awaken pollinating insects. Early mornings are just cool enough to make a hike in the forest or around the marsh comfortable.

We are at that special time of year when we marvel at Nature’s renewal. Resident birds are busy with the annual rituals of courtship, mating and nest building. Early birds, such as the Bald Eagle, already have young ones teetering out on a limb flapping their new, large wings. Osprey around our many lakes are putting the finishing touches on large nests and many are already brooding eggs. Songbirds are singing love songs seeking the attention of that someone special.

Meanwhile, flocks of birds are passing through the area returning to northern breeding grounds. Along the coast, groups of ducks and geese gather in the marshes to rest and feed and V-shaped formations are seen in the morning skies. In our inland area, small birds are grouping up as they feed constantly to provide the fuel needed for their long journey.

Resident birds courting and nesting. Migratory birds flocking and feeding.

That perfect blend.

Long post. More images than usual. No apologies.

An Osprey greets the dawn. This nesting platform has been used for at least five years by (the same?) Ospreys, except for three years ago when it was appropriated by a pair of Great Horned Owls.

A pair of Double-crested Cormorants warm up as the sun rises on a new day.

It won’t be too long before this Eastern Phoebe wings her way north. We will miss the one in our yard who reminds us every day that her name is “FEEE – BEEE”!

Around a curve in the road we disturbed a group of American Robins and Cedar Waxwings. We often see these species travel and feed together. We sat in the car for a long time and thoroughly enjoyed watching over 50 Waxwings and over 30 Robins gorge on the fruit of the Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius).

American Robin, Cedar Waxwing
The End(s)

Two male Northern Flickers seemed to be playing a game of tag, but more likely were engaged in discussing territory or a potential mate. As one takes flight, it’s easy to see why these are called the “Yellow-shafted” form. In the western U.S., one finds the “Red-shafted” form.

Dragons have awakened! We saw several Eastern Pondhawks and Common Green Darners. But the highlight was a NEW species for us! A Sepia Baskettail (Epitheca sepia)! A good day made better.

A White Ibis shows signs of breeding changes as its bill and legs become brighter red than normal.

Docks on the numerous lakes are great places for a Tricolored Heron to scan the water for a snack or relax in the morning sun.

Perched next to the above heron, a Snowy Egret has spotted something interesting in the distance.

I was watching an Osprey pair working on nest remodeling when they seemed to take me as a possible threat. One of them launched out and flew over my head while clucking so I left in order not to disturb them further.

During migration, we see large numbers of Palm Warblers. The Eastern form is bright yellow and brown while the Western form is more subdued in plumage. Constant tail-pumping helps confirm their identification.

Crisp breast streaks and bit of yellow in front of the eye helps identify the Savannah Sparrow, another winter visitor we will soon be missing.

Heading down a path trying to follow a trio of sparrows led to an area filled with blooming Sawtooth Blackberry (Rubus pensilvanicus). These flowers will soon attract a variety of pollinators and in several weeks, the juicy berries will be harvested by several different animals. Including me if I’m quick enough.

Two lone trees in a field and atop one was perched an American Kestrel. Florida has a small number of these falcons which breed within the state and each year we see several dozen migratory Kestrels.

The second of the two trees mentioned above was occupied by our largest Buteo, the Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) . As I watched, he took off and displayed his namesake red tail. Majestic raptor!

Coffee, birds, a Spring morning – shared with my best friend. Truly – that perfect blend!

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

27 Comments on “That Perfect Blend

  1. Love the red-tail launching – perfect timing on that shot! Same with the flicker – really great. A thoroughly satisfying morning journey, thanks for sharing!

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  2. Coffee’s not my thing but your birds…definitely. It’s a treat seeing spring on the wing. It’ll be a while until the waxwings return here in the northeast but robins are everywhere right now…even in our garage where we get at least one nest annually. It’s been fun here listening to the woodpeckers, hairy and downy, drumming the tree-tops for a mate. Have a cuppa on me. 🙂

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    • The Spring activity is definitely keeping us busy around here. Migration, breeding – something new each day.

      We’re jealous you get to have nesting Robins and so many other species we only get to see a few weeks each year.

      Appreciate the cup!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love both robins and waxwings, but so rarely get to see them. In fact, the waxwings have visited here only twice in several years. Last year we had robin flocks for a couple of weeks, and that was a great treat. The waxwings showed up in our palm trees, and stripped all the fruits off a considerable number of trees in two days. Then — gone.

    I’d never heard of the sawtooth blackberry. It’s amazing how many berry species there are. Our dewberries can be sweet, but they require more ripening time than the birds generally allow! What’s that tree that the Buteo is perched in? It looks rather like a long-leaf pine, but I’ve learned to avoid easy assumptions.

    I’ve never been able to replicate the coffee I used to get at my favorite café in Berkeley. We have an Aldi’s now, so I may give Richard’s Alcafé No.5 French Blend a try. You might enjoy this coffee-themed tune from one of our local groups, called “Give Me Coffee”.

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    • We’ve been fortunate to find Robins and Waxwings returning each year to a few selected spots. Several dozen at one time is pretty cool!

      When I was a kid, my friend and I found a spot where we could collect quite a few dewberries every spring. As you mention, we had to be quick or the wildlife beat us to them.

      We even found blackberries in Germany. Gini and the kids picked a bunch and she made cobbler. Most popular Mom in the neighborhood!

      You’re right about the long-leaf pine. They have been extensively planted in the area for the past 30 years. Not sure how this one became such a loner. The hawk liked it.

      Terrific coffee song! My all-time favorite is the Ink Spots and Manhattan Transfer singing “Java Jive”.

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  4. What a superb header! MaryLou and I have been “blended” for almost 62 years. I really appreciate your sentiments about the importance of communication and achieving the right flavor, avoiding the bitterness. The photos of the Red-tail and Flicker are especially beautiful. Hope to see kestrels here pretty soon. We have resident Red-shouldered as well as Red-tailed Hawks. They and a pair of local Turkey Vultures are courting and consorting this week as the snow melts away.

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    • Hi, Ken!

      We’ll keep trying to give you glimpses of Florida every chance we get.

      We’re at 54 “blended” years but without Gini’s common sense guidance the road sure would have been a lot rougher. She’s special! I suspect MaryLou may fall into that category as well.

      Loved your snowy images, but will continue to admire them from the Sunshine State!

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  5. The Headermeister has done it again – absolutely beautiful, Wally!

    Lindsay and I have been trying different blends lately, but of tea. I think that we might be getting somewhere now. We have already found our go-to coffee and that’s Aldi’s Alcafé No.5 French Blend – very pleasant from our filter m/c and very reasonably priced.

    Beautiful images of birds and a dragon too, plus a flower thrown in for good measure. Seems like a perfect blend of subject matter to me!

    Best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard

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    • Thank you, Richard!

      Sunrises are always great, but beside a calm lake with a bit of mist and lots of active birds – well, we like it a lot!

      We’re doing great! Take good care you two.

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  6. I confess to enjoying coffee; in fact we just finished our mid morning ritual where we have coffee and some little delicacy that Miriam has made. Generally there are two or thee choices on offer. This morning it was banana bread with cream cheese and red pepper jelly. I don’t have any great proficiency in blending coffees or anything so esoteric (I have never tried actually). We use a shade grown coffee from Costa Rica, it tastes good and that’s what we stick with. I have frequently seen American Robin and Cedar Waxwing feeding together on berry-laden trees, but to the best of my recollection I have never seen them travelling together.

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    • The Robin/Waxwing association may be localized due to the availability of the fresh fruit as they migrate through our area. We have seen them together for at least six years.

      I don’t get too involved with the coffee chemistry. Was curious about blending at one point, found what worked, and am now content to not mess with the “perfect blend”.

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  7. Good to hear you have the perfect blend Wally. Trial and error works well for Sue and I too. She reckons I am a daily trial and on permanent probation until I stop making so many mistakes.

    As for the coffee, we are instant people, so sorry. As Brits, we never did get around to buying a real coffee machine instead of Tetley Tea Bags but do enjoy real coffee on our European holidays.

    You have a splendid variety of birds on show today. I admit I struggled with the bright Palm Warbler that looks more yellow than I remember them – it must be that Florida sunlight rather than grey Canada light. And the flicker looks remarkably yellow in your flight shot.

    It’s interesting that you tell how you see American Robins and Cedar Waxwings travel together in perfect harmony. It must be those bright red berries – same thing happens with our Redwings and Fieldfares in the autumn.

    You must excuse me. We are off to the supermarket in Poulton le Fylde – me with strict instructions to not put unauthorised goods into the trolley. The perfect blend.

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    • Good Morning, Phil and Sue!

      Yep, Gini conducts the trial and I am always in error. Apparently, it’s the secret to a happy relationship. Early on, I realized I would be in perpetual training mode. She only has to remind me of that occasionally.

      Despite both parents being coffee-holics, I didn’t start drinking the stuff until much later in life. Had some in a German cafe and enjoyed it so much went searching for information and beans. Still having fun with the stuff many decades later.

      The variance between the eastern and western Palm Warblers can be quite startling, at times making one question if they are separate species. That Flicker was kind enough to spread his wings as the morning sun gave him a spotlight.

      Here is hoping the weather and shopping schedule will allow you to get some decent birding/ringing in as the weekend approaches. I totally understand about “unauthorized” goods. Another error = another trial.

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      • Thanks for mentioning the broken link Wally. I repaired it.

        The shopping went well despite me sneaking smoked salmon into the trolley. Maybe it was the bottle of gin that helped?

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      • I’m trying to figure out if the gin was for the salmon or you or Sue or the checkout clerk.

        No matter. Smoked salmon is great whether sneaked or soused.

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  8. Nature’s certainly on the move and you’ve captured a great many examples here Wally. Especially love that dragonfly, got a few more months to wait for ours to appear.
    You have to keep the other half sweet (as I’m always reminded) otherwise you’ll get ‘a ding o’th’ lug!’

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    • Thank you, Brian.

      Every season has something to offer, but Spring certainly seems special.

      My other half came with an early warning system: “The Look”. Helps once in awhile to save me a ding.

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  9. I enjoyed sipping your perfect morning blend and spending time in this beautiful spot with its inspiring denizens vicariously. All your photos are amazing, but I really enjoyed how you captured motion in some of them (e.g. the waxwing catching the berry mid-air, the hawk taking off, the robin preening).
    I hope you and Gini will have many more perfectly blended days this spring.
    Best,
    Tanja

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  10. What a “perfect blend morning”, Wally. I enjoyed all your photos, especially the Cedar Waxwings, Northern Flickers, and Red-tailed Hawk. It’s been a while since I’ve spotted any of those. Well done!

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