Sweet Spring

Header Image: Pricklypear In Bloom

“As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.” – John Muir

“Where would you like to go?”

“Out.”

The morning air was cool and Gini almost wished she had worn that sweatshirt. Almost. As it always does, the sun rapidly rose above the line of cypress trees on the eastern side of the small lake. Residents of this neighborhood were already going about their daily lives. Mockingbirds and cardinals were especially noisy as males announced their willingness to mate with any agreeable females. (Resisting anthropomorphism is a struggle at times.) Double-crested Cormorants decorated exposed perches as they dried their wings. Pig Frogs grunted from nearby weeds. A Red-shouldered Hawk cruised overhead shrieking – just because he can.

This is such an incredible time to visit nature! New growth on trees, blooming flowers, courting animals and our Florida humidity is still in slumber. Today we are sight-seers. No agenda, checklists or schedule. Ambling, conversing, oohing, sighing – and loving every minute of it! Gini-with-the-acute-hearing (and pretty cute …. uhh …. but I digress) announces Northern Parula Warblers seem to be everywhere.

A small dock on a lake provided the perfect setting for breakfast. Yes, peanut butter and jelly on raisin bread – again. Fresh grapes and a tangerine rounded out a perfect repast. While we munched, a pair of Palm Warblers dropped by briefly. They will soon be absent in our landscape until the fall. A huge Brown Pelican lumbered just above the water’s surface and the uniquely eerie call of a Limpkin echoed from a distant lagoon.

We were stunned to count over one hundred Cedar Waxwings this morning! They are still gleaning fruit from Brazilian Pepper bushes in preparation for the long journey north. We’ll miss that high-pitched call piercing the early morning sky. Gray Catbirds “mewed” at us from the understory and an Eastern Phoebe swooped down to grab a grasshopper. Farewell to our migratory visitors.

Osprey nests dot the shorelines of nearly every body of water and we could tell eggs were being brooded in many of them. We tried to identify woodpecker species by the sound of drumming we heard. Swallow-tailed Kites have returned from South America and an incredible diversity of insects have appeared to show their appreciation of newly blooming flowers. Hello to our natural residents.

The sleek Cedar Waxwing has graced us with its presence for the past several weeks. And we appreciate it!

Once it matures, the Heartwing Dock or Sorrel (Rumex hastatulus) turns reddish which gives the otherwise desolate fields a much more pleasant appearance. The early flowers are small and quite beautiful.

Even a small amount of rain is enough to encourage all sorts of things to grow. Especially fungus.

I have never seen an adult, but the larvae of the Salt Marsh Moth (Estigmene acrea) are abundant! This fairly large caterpillar can be found in a variety of color combinations. (If the identification of either of these is not correct, please let me know.)

I would never say one particular flower is prettier than another, but the yellow of the Pricklypear (Opuntia spp.) certainly is appealing! Picking one can be a challenge so I think I’ll just take photographs.

We think this is a male Osprey (it’s a bit smaller than the bird on the nest) attempting to mate with a female which we believe is brooding eggs. She was somewhat discouraging. He didn’t hang around. Smart bird.

Small, tall (about 24 inches) and looking good. We found a small group of Clasping Venus’ Looking-glass (Triodanis perfoliata) which really added some color to the landscape.

One of the drummers we identified earlier in the day made an appearance. A female Pileated Woodpecker probed a few branches before flapping off into the woods. The females have a black cheek stripe and the male’s stripe is red.

It’s hard not to like spring. Especially if you like to be outside. We can leave our cares and concerns indoors where they will patiently await our return. Meanwhile, among the trees we breathe deeply, hear a bird, see a flower, feel the breeze. And we are alive.

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

22 Comments on “Sweet Spring

  1. See? You’re not the only one who shows up ‘late’ from time to time! I’m trying to catch up after a nice, long weekend in the hill country — Kerrville and Fredericksburg. There’s been so much talk of drought that I wasn’t sure what I’d find, but as always happens, nature provided; as you say, even the smallest bit of rain can encourage plants to perk up and birds to sing. Best of all, I had a good friend to wander around with me and serve as a ‘spotter,’ like Gini. When my friend yells something like “PINK!!!”, I know to slam on the brakes.

    I always envy your Waxwings; they’re such gorgeous birds. And those salt marsh moth caterpillars are pure fun. They used to confuse me, because their colors can vary so much, but I find them more often than any other sort and I’ve grown fond of them. That prickly pear is a beauty. I noticed in the photo that the pads are plumper than the ones in the hill country, which makes sense; you’ve had more rain. That photo looking down into the center of the flower is beautiful. It reminds me of one of our larger buttercups. I’ve recently learned that one way to help distinguish prickly pear species is by pistil color: it’s green for Opuntia engelmannii and yellow for the O. macrohiza that I recently posted. That’s not enough, of course, but it helps. Now, I just have to identify the prickly pear I found with bright orange flowers!

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    • As you correctly pointed out recently to yours truly, there is no “late” around the blogosphere!

      The Waxwings storm through here for a couple of weeks in spring and now, “POOF”, not a one to be found. We’ll have to console ourselves with the couple hundred or so species remaining which are all busy courting, mating, building nests and in the back yard we already have young Cardinals and Blue Jays.

      Thank you for the tip on Opuntia. However, in my tromping through the data, I found the distinct trail of confusion caused by renaming a few species here in Florida which, naturally, conflicts with USDA nomenclature. Taxonomists appear to be worried about job security.

      And your orange flowers may be the same species which produces yellow ones I discovered! I’m just happy to see bright flowers.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Gini and Wally,
    Thank you for allowing me to participate in your feast–of the eyes, ears, nose, skin, and stomach. I enjoyed filling my tummy with your PBJ, feeling the spring breeze, smelling and admiring the flowers, and watching and listening to your wonderful variety of birds. I’m definitely enjoying getting to know your corner of Florida vicariously and only hope to be able to visit it in person one of these days.
    Happy May,
    Tanja
    PS: I have given up trying NOT to anthropomorphize.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your Cedar Waxwing photos really show off how lovely those birds are Wally. I haven’t seen any of them recently. I need to get out more often!

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  4. And during times of pandemic and “one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.” too. You and Gini always make the best of “out”. And of all the seasons, Spring has to be the favorite after a hard winter although up here in the Northeast autumn ain’t’ half bad either.

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    • We are both eternal optimists, Steve, so we manage to find something to enjoy in any season! I remember spring and autumn in upstate New York very fondly.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Peanut butter is something we use in a couple of Asian recipes, but never as a sandwich of any kind. Why? I have no idea! It is just not something we have ever done. Thanks for nature in all its glory. And to think that there are people who never get out and enjoy it. i wonder what they do? Maybe stay home and eat peanut butter sandwiches!

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    • The hardiness and portability of the PBJ sandwich is precisely why we take it with us so often!

      I agree, David. Cannot fathom why one would NOT want to be outside enjoying what Nature has to offer.

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  6. Thank you, Wally for brightening my late afternoon as I batten down the hatches for the forecast heavy rain for the rest of the day – I’m not complaining about the rain, as the land desperately needs it after a few weeks without much.

    I have yet to get to grips with the idea of peanut butter with sweet things, as seems to be the norm on your side of the pond. One of our favourite light lunches here is toast spread thickly with peanut butter, liberally sprinkled with salt, then topped with either sliced pickled red beetroot or chopped pickled onions.

    All is good here. My very best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard

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    • Gini has had a version of your toast and it’s exactly the type thing she loves! Anything with beets and she’s ready.

      Hope your weather gives you just enough rain to replenish the land and then gives you an chance to get outside and enjoy nature.

      Have a great weekend!

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