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!