Dog Days of Summer Are Over – Siriusly
Header Image: Prothonotary Warbler
It’s her fault, you know. She said: “Go birding. I have some crafting to catch up on.” I should have known to be wary.
For some time now, I’ve wanted to explore part of the “Blue Loop Trail” at Tenoroc Public Use Area. According to the map, about a quarter mile from the trail head is an “overlook”. Along the way are huge oak, bay and hickory trees and some willow tangles that looked promising. The overlook was okay, especially since it was from a rare Florida ‘hill” created a few decades ago when this area was mined for phosphate.
The plan. Walk to the overlook. Return to the car.
A few birds flitted along the short walk. Northern Cardinals, a White-eyed Vireo, a Carolina Wren. Then, a flash of bright yellow in the willows! Those slate-colored wings! The first Prothonotary Warbler of the fall migration! Camera – uhh, no. The target took off down the trail.
That is the moment I should have paid attention to the “wary” alarm.
For the next 30 minutes, a frustrating game of hide-and-seek took me further along the trail. In a grove of hardwood trees adjacent to a lake, I finally managed a few poor-quality images. As a bonus for my efforts, a pair of Prairie Warblers and a trio of American Redstarts made an appearance. Throw in two more Prothonotary Warblers, Carolina Wrens, woodpeckers, flycatchers, spiders and butterflies – well, a good day became better.
Then, reality smacked me in the face.
How far was I from the car? Check the map on the phone. No signal. How long was this trail? Senior memory failed. Go back or go forward? Might as well see what the rest of the trail looks like.
It looked good! Lots of great habitat and things were going great. Another 30 minutes through some heavy weeds, soaking wet from dew and humidity, temperature rising. A drink of water — the bottle is — in the car. After all, it was only going to be a brief quarter mile walk. Sigh.
An hour-and-a-half later, phone back in service! Map says another half-hour to the parking lot. Called Gini to let her know I was going to be later than anticipated. “Did you take breakfast with you?”
Looking forward to lunch. But first, water.
It was, in retrospect, a terrific morning! The trail is a good one and at least I’ll be better prepared the next time. The Prothonotary Warbler has been a bit of a nemesis for me in past years, so I was happy to get any images at all.
The even better news in this episode is, with the sightings of American Redstarts and Prothonotary Warblers, we can officially say “autumn” migration is under way! Yep, it is still hot. The “dog days” of summer, according to some almanacs, ended a couple of weeks ago. After today’s sightings, I feel cooler already.
To the overlook, and beyond.
As always, beware masked bandits along the way. This must have been a young Raccoon as it just stared a bit then calmly walked into the brush.
The overlook. This is actually a somewhat unusual scene for Florida. We seldom have a chance to be this far above the landscape. There is a trail on the other side of this lake, too. Another day maybe. (Photo-bombed by a dragon.)
Several Carolina Wrens were seen and heard during the morning. Some are still in the process of molting.
At this time of year, several species of birds begin to form into groups as they prepare for migration. I encountered four Prairie Warblers today in the same general area.
Walking through spider webs is an occupational hazard for birders who sometimes amble along gazing upward instead of looking where they’re going. Thankfully, I saw this one just in time to duck under it. The owner, an Orchard Orbweaver (Leucauge argyra) appreciated my consideration.
A resident in central Florida, the Great Crested Flycatcher is an eye-catcher with that lemon-colored underside.
The Red-bellied Woodpecker is very common in our area and has been able to adapt to human habitation. The woodpecker in the second image doesn’t have much red on its head yet as it is an immature bird.
In just a few more days, the Swallow-tailed Kites will be gone. By the end of August, they will be well on their way to enjoying the juicy grasshoppers of the Argentine pampas.
A Northern Cardinal still molting new plumage.
Thankfully, this thoughtful Golden Silk Spider (Trichonephila clavipes) spun her web to the side of the trail. These webs are surprisingly strong and once you walk through one face first, it seems to remain with you the rest of the day.
The Prothonotary Warbler has pretty basic coloration. Perhaps the simplicity is what I like.
With no red marking on the head, we know this is a female Downy Woodpecker.
I counted over two dozen Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) butterflies during the morning. They liked this trail as much as I did. But they didn’t have to hike back to the parking lot.
The intensity of the Dog Star is on the wane. Our hot weather will subside. Birds will move from breeding grounds to warmer climates. Nature moves forward pulling us inexorably toward what awaits.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!
From the comfortable chair at my desk I would have to say that your troubles were worth it, considering the wonderful array of birds and other critters you saw. It’s so much fun to discover new trails and to get carried away by whatever is out and about, but I have also learned the hard way that it pays to always carry a backpack with a water bottle and a snack.
Thank you, Tanja.
Yes, one would think I am too old to have to re-learn basic lessons. One would be wrong.
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I think being wrong more often than not is one of those vexing realities of the human condition each of us has to deal with. 😦
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I’m surprised that a wise old owl like you can still find new places in which to bird. Even more surprised that Gini allowed you out unaccompanied but then I also know that our ladies sometimes like to “be alone”.
The racoon certainly has a young if not innocent look about itself. Like a teenager swaggering along the “sidewalk”. See how I used my knowledge of the American language?
It’s a mixed feeling when autumn arrives, a thrill at seeing birds we haven’t seen for months mixed with the realisation, at least for us that the cold, wet and wind is also on the way. After our two days of climate catastrophe the weather here has definitely turned autumnal, so much so that I have been confined to barracks for a day or two. The apple tree has shed much fruit and many leaves and the first apple crumble is already a distant memory.
Today I took Sue to the hospital for laser surgery to her eyes following cataract surgery that was mostly successful. The joys of growing old and poverty! Enjoy it while you can Wally.
This very old owl finds new places to bird quite easily. Since I can’t remember what I had for breakfast most days, anywhere I visit may be “new” to me! Besides, old places with new birds aren’t all bad.
Your linguistic prowess continues to impress. I, myself, am still struggling with the enigmatic language called “English”.
Ahh, Autumn! In Florida, we call that “prelude to the Brown Season”. We look forward to a hurricane or two and the thermometer dropping at least four degrees. Brrrr!
Our thoughts and prayers are with both you and Sue. Gini empathizes as she had that procedure a few years ago. No problems since. We hope the same for Sue.
Gotta go. Coffee has leaked out of this cup.
Linda beat me to recognition of your pun but no matter, it was enjoyable seeing it in my email notifications.
I’ve had days like that, although not while birding, when I start at one end of a field or meadow and chase some uncooperative insects through the tall grasses hoping they’ll tire and sun for awhile. I get lucky sometimes.I am surprised how quickly time flies although it should be expected while having fun.
Meanwhile you collected some fine shots while dallying. I know not why you demean your capture abilities as these are very nice images of all. I’d be glad to call them mine. Glad that you got your bugaboo Prothonotary Warbler.
Your description of a day in the field pretty much describes the majority of my outings. Just as you focus on your subject, off it flits and the chase is on. I guess, as they say, if it was easy, everyone would do it!
Thanks for motivation, Steve. I keep reading that the professional nature photographers are pleased if 10% of their images are keepers. I didn’t think I was a perfectionist, but I may need to seek therapy. Nah. I’ll just shoot some more!
Have a great week!
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I end up deleting quite a few images while importing them. Sometimes a long line of images in Lightroom becomes a very short one. 🙂
I’m so envious of your Prothonotary Warbler! I thought I saw one a few years ago but I got corrected in my post! lol I would still love to spot one. I hiked yesterday and didn’t see as much as usual. It’s funny how different it can be from one week to another. And leaving a vehicle without water is risky when there’s a chance of a good sighting. I throw on my day pack and grab my camera and that gives me everything I might need. I carry it around like a purse these days! And now I’m wondering…what kind of crafting was Gini doing?
We’ll begin to see more and more color in the trees as warblers and their friends start filtering through the area. A good look at one of these gems has hooked more than one person into a lifetime hobby.
Gini’s working on a project for an upcoming birth. She said she’ll send you some pics when it’s finished.
Oh, that sounds great! I would love to see what Gini is making. It’s a fun time to craft or sew when it’s so hot outside. We aren’t getting any breeze at all this week so that adds to the discomfort! I think I’ll bake today! lol
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Oh gosh, your “quick jaunt” from the car rings so many bells. I’ve headed off at various times without extra battery and card, without bug spray, without water. I’m practicing my senior moments, I guess. Hubby frowns and asks Don’t you have a LIST? Well. Maybe soon. Loved all your photos!
A list? Good idea, but I’m pretty sure I’d forget where I put it!
Be careful out there.
I dallied a bit, waiting to see if someone else would mention the clever pun in your title. I once imagined that Sirius B, the companion to Dog Star Sirius A, was named Humoris, and connected to the feline constellations of Leo,Leo Minor and Lynx. What can I say? The Cat Days of Summer would be great.
As a side note, due to the earth’s wobble (‘precession’), the Dog Days conjunction now begins in mid-August and lasts until about mid-September. There’s an interesting article about that here. That certainly accords with the hottest time of the year here on the Texas coast.
More than a few times I’ve come to the point where I’ve had to make the decision: go on, or turn back. The decision usually involves lack of water, although a few times it’s been uncertainty about exactly how much farther it is to a destination — not to mention how long it’s going to take me to get back to the car. I have noticed that what took me four hours going takes only twenty minutes returning. Dawdle much?
All that aside, you found some real treasures this time. That’s a glorious photo of the Golden Silk spider, and a darned cute raccoon. Now that I know what molting is all about, it was fun to see your examples of that process, too. Are Kites common there? I’ve seen only one, although I think it was a different species, and I wouldn’t have seen it or been able to identify it had a birder not pointed it out to me. Thank goodness for you knowledgeable sorts!
Spell checker did not like my attempt at the pun.
I saw the adjusted dates for Dog Days and decided to go with the old Farmer’s Almanac because my wobble does not align with the Earth’s. Secretly, I was hoping to create a sense of fresh, cool breezes as the reader imagined Autumn might really be near.
All of my walks in the past few years have been more “dawdle” than “hike”. It is seldom I spend three hours on the trail anymore. Neglecting to bring water is one of the reasons my walks are short!
I believe the Swallow-tailed Kite may be seen in south Texas on very rare occasions. The Mississippi Kite is a common sight during migration. Attwater Preserve is home to the gorgeous White-tailed Kite.
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Believe me, we appreciate your efforts on behalf of freshness and coolness. In time!
You got some great shots there! I may have to check that place out this winter.
A lot of habitat and plenty of spots to wander around.
Thank you for this totally delightful walk – without the heat, humidity and the thirst. I am (again) blown away by the beauties you see and share.
Why would we want to enjoy Nature’s beauty if we couldn’t share it all? If not in pictures, then in words, or sign language, or semaphore.
We are likewise thankful to you for showing us the delights of a magnificent continent we shall never be able to visit.
Mutual sharing. It’s what humans should do.
Love that Swallowtail and the Kite of the same name!
Always make sure you have your water with you, nothing worse than being in a great place and having to suffer thirst and give up (been there, done that).
Thank you, Brian.
Yes, “sticking to the plan” has always been a problem for me. Secondary problem has been preparing properly for going off-script. But, hey, it’s only been 74 years, so there is still hope I will learn to change my ways. 🙂
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Thanks for your detailed report and your photos too, Wally.
And I’m glad you got back to your car safely, I imagine your first sips of water tasted pretty good!
First sips were good. Second portion poured over the head was good. Third guzzle was great!
Thank you for dropping by, Ed.
I must start by thanking you for that rain dance. It worked a treat and we had nearly 24 hours of rainfall – some of it quite heavy. However, I now find myself asking if you would be kind enough to repeat that exercise again as we are heading into another dry spell.
Your trip into the Blue Loop Trail was, undoubtedly, a great success, as witnessed by your super photos, but I am very concerned by the extent of your exploration with lack of support and provisions. I hope that Gini gave you a well-deserved smacked botty on your return!
I’d love to see a Spicebush Swallowtail, a Swallow-tailed Kite, and a Raccoon in the wild. Seemingly, I wouldn’t necessarily have to travel too far for the latter as they have become naturalised in Germany! Were they there when you were posted out there?
Best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard
No worries, Richard. Gini and I shall keep dancing together as long as we have a breath remaining. If it causes a bit of rain to fall upon your portion of the United Kingdom, well, you’re welcome.
Yes, I slightly underestimated my “walkabout”. Gini smacks me regularly, although at times I am not clear on the reasons. I’m sure it’s in the fine print of that contract I signed.
I don’t recall if we encountered raccoons in Germany. We may have, but we are so accustomed to them, it’s possible we didn’t notice.
We both hope you and Lindsay are having a great weekend! Stay healthy.