The Half-Full Glass

Header Image: Dawn at the lake.

Early mornings in nature are consistent. Weather can cause variations in the routine, but creatures go about their daily business of survival regardless of whether we are there to observe. When we are lucky enough to be there it is impossible to see everything but what we DO see adds to our data base of experience and, once in a while, special events become memories.

It is the potential for a “memory” which keeps us answering the shrill alarm of a new day.

We answered the alarm today. Well, Gini answered the alarm with a lightning-quick “slap” of the snooze button. That was followed by a slap to the head of yours truly. (No, of course she did not hit me. It was a “virtual” slap and included faces and lips and …… suffice it to say, I was now awake.)

The short drive to our patch took us past familiar sights. A pond where a Snowy Egret hunted along the bank. Flocks of White Ibises moving from roost to fields where they’ll feed all day. The tall utility structure filled with dozens of vultures which will continue to rest until the sun warms the air enough to create thermal layers upon which the big birds depend for soaring.

The sun breaks the horizon and paints the tops of the tallest trees with golden light. No hint of a breeze yet and the surface of the lakes are an expanse of mirrors reflecting the clear blue sky of our new day. It didn’t rain last night but drops of water adorn every tree leaf and blade of grass from our typically heavy dew.

Nature has its own version of a shrill alarm. A Red-shouldered Hawk flies from a tree limb as we drive by and her cry could be heard for the next several minutes. She was NOT happy and was letting the world know about our intrusion. An Eastern Towhee called from a field. Northern Cardinals chirped from the woods. More flocks of White Ibises poured across the brightening sky.

The sun was now well above the tree line and as dew drops began to dissipate, drowsy insects began their daily chore of survival. Almost imperceptibly, we were surrounded by more and more active creatures. Fresh air, birds, bugs, flowers, trees, lakes. We are so spoiled.

Our hope of spotting early migratory warblers went unfulfilled. However, we saw a total of 42 species of birds.

Our hope of catching a glimpse of a bobcat did not materialize. However, we saw dozens of colorful dragonflies and damselflies.

We could talk about all the failed hopes of our day. Instead, let’s show you a few reasons we return here so often.

White Ibises can look a bit ungainly as they probe the ground with that long, curved bill. Once airborne, they are infinitely graceful.

Blending in can be crucial to survival. This Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) excels at camouflage in the dried weeds.

A foot bridge railing provides a nice spot for perching. The Great Blue Heron looks a bit out of place since we normally see them knee-deep in the water.

Handsome may not necessarily spring to mind when describing the visage of a Black Vulture.

Like its larger cousin, the Little Blue Heron thinks the bridge rail is a fine place to soak up some of the sun’s early rays while keeping a lookout below for a frog.

Yet another rail lounger, a Turkey Vulture cannot believe you don’t think she is gorgeous.

Mud attracts all sorts of life. We spotted about a dozen of these Bronzed Tiger Beetles (Cicindela repanda) scurrying around the edges of a puddle.

Around the puddle mentioned above, several male Band-winged Dragonlets (Erythrodiplax umbrata) chased each other in the never-ending battle for territory.

The Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) is one of the largest sulphurs in our area. This is a female. The male has less conspicuous wing markings.

Typical habitat in our patch contains numerous lakes bordered by large cypress trees. A Tricolored Heron is a common visitor along the shallow shoreline.

Not as colorful as her male counterpart, the female Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) is distinct with her complex thorax pattern and relatively large size.

A local collector let us snap a portrait of her latest find. A Loggerhead Shrike impaled this Banded Sphinx (Eumorpha fasciatus) on a barb. She was likely lurking nearby hoping we wouldn’t steal her prize. We didn’t.

Dragon for brunch! This looks like some sort of darner that the Tropical Orb Weaver (Eriophora ravilla) snagged in its substantial web.

Florida’s sub-tropical climate allows us to enjoy lush growth in the forest most of the year. Large expanses of ferns provide beautiful green highlights to our early morning wandering.

Hints of gold and a unique thoracic pattern help identify the female Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami).

White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae). Common butterfly. Uncommonly beautiful.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker, like many woodpecker species, will cache food as the year progresses. Here, a male tucked an acorn into a crevice of a utility pole.

Early morning by the side of a lake. We stop here often for breakfast. A peaceful spot to visit any time.

There was much we did not see today. As with most things in life, we could be disappointed. Instead, we choose to be delighted with our day. Life has so much to offer. For us, time spent together is, by far, the most valuable treasure we have. All else pales by comparison. Embrace the positive in your day. See you soon.

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

18 Comments on “The Half-Full Glass

  1. Thank You Wally and Gini for your kind words following the passing of Queen Elizabeth. I remember watching the Coronation on a 12 inch b and w television, crowded around the tiny machine alongside dozens of kids and adults alike. It may have been my first experience of a television. I grew up with The Queen, a lady who never swerved from her promise to herself and to us. She will be sadly missed. I rather hope that Camilla can keep The King in check.

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    • Whether a Queen or a peasant, a person of quality makes a difference in lives, known and unknown.

      Such was the life of Queen Elizabeth the Second.

      Like

  2. What a joy to read and be inspired and encouraged, fill my eyes with beauty, and find my heart suffused with pride and love for you, my big brother.

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  3. That’s a terrific photo of the Shrike’s prize. I remember you mentioning in the past that you once counted 14 insects impaled on the thorns of a single Mesquite tree in west Texas. I’ve only seen the phenomenon twice but, as with your discovery here, I’ve always been impressed by how neatly the birds go about their work.

    Ibises are everywhere here since we’ve had rain; they’re cruising lawns, golf courses, marinas, and highway medians. I suppose it’s because insects and perhaps even crawdads are easier to get to now that the ground has softened up. It’s easy to see how far down the birds are probing — the mud on those bills is a sure sign.

    The White Peacock and the Black Vulture surely are two ends of some sort of spectrum. I wouldn’t call the vulture ‘pretty,’ but it certainly is impressive!

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    • There is a reason shrikes around the world are known colloquially as “butcher birds”. Neat, methodical, know how to store their product.

      Yes, make a little mud and all sorts of critters show up to take advantage of the conditions. Sort of like me at a family BBQ. Sauce on my bill is a sure sign of my enjoyment.

      I envision Mama Vulture telling her young one: “You are so beautiful. Just be thankful you don’t have to go through life looking like that gaudy butterfly.”

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  4. I wish we had a small lake close by to spend time. I’ll have to look on google maps…maybe we do! I don’t get out as early as you do but I do love the mornings in the woods. I hiked this morning and saw all kinds of neat things. I love the moth photo…oh and the dragonflies! Enjoy your day!

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    • Thank you, Diane.
      There’s just something special about being around the water. Probably something in our Floridian blood.

      Lakes and aquifers are getting a good fill-up with this rain! Bodes well for all sorts of life, including ours.

      It’s the weekend! Go out, have fun!

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  5. You find such beauty in the most unlikely places – look at those emerald and sapphire ankles on the tiger beetle – a one-bug parade!

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  6. t’s a while since the alarm buzzed me. I’m usually awake at the first hint of daylight, even in the winter. Mind you we have an early start next Wednesday when the taxi comes at 0130 to take us to Manchester Airport.

    The Sphinx is very lovely and it seems a shame for it to be eaten by a shrike. As you say, even the common White Peacock is uncommonly beautiful, an insect to disregard for many I suppose. Sad times.

    That gnarled old bird reminds me of someone I keep seeing on the YouTube comedy channel making funny noises. I think it’s meant to be serious stuff but it makes me laugh.

    The wind has caused no end of problems for us again this week but with luck Saturday may be better.

    Meanwhile we in the UK have a new leader who cannot fail to be an improvement on the last three, four, five, six….. I lost count. It’s a final throw of the dice for the once great UK. Wish us well.
    See you in Greece my friends.

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    • For over 20 years, I worked a changing shift: 4 day watches, 4 evening watches, 4 night watches and 4 days off. My “inner clock” hasn’t functioned properly since.

      I don’t mind the shrike having a big moth for dinner. It was a challenge keeping Gini from taking the Sphinx home with her.

      Gnarled old birds are appreciated by some gnarled old bird watchers. Well, at least one.

      The wind is a pain for birders, ringers and photographers around the planet. If only we could get all those windmills to power down one day a week so we can enjoy some calm while we’re out.

      Congratulations on your new leader. We truly hope her leftist past remains – in the past. If things don’t work out, let us know and we’ll send our current gnarled old bird to help. As long as you promise not to send him back.

      Looking forward to some vicarious Greek culture!

      Gini and I hope Sue has healed sufficiently to enjoy herself. Sunshine should help.

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  7. Half full glass? That looks like a full pint to me, Wally!

    I had not appreciated just how handsome a Black Vulture is – and still can’t!

    As always, your narrative is as inspiring as your wonderful photography. Butterflies, birds, dragons, a beetle, and beautiful scenery. What more could one ask for?

    You have made me concious that some aspects of my own blog posts have recently had a negative feel to them. I must try and do better!

    All is good here – we’ve even had some rain.

    Best wishes to you both – – – Richard

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    • Once again, Richard, you are too generous in your comments. Once again, I request you not to stop!

      It’s wonderful to be able to enjoy such diversity in nature so close at hand. It is another level of satisfaction to share our adventures.

      My optimism is never intended as “preaching”! We just happen to be disgustingly happy all the time.

      Very happy to hear you are both well. The rain report is especially welcome as our legs need a rest from all that dancing.

      All the best.

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      • I greatly appreciate your commentary, stories and images. There is so much beauty in Florida and so much that has been lost in our state. Truly glass half empty vs full. It is wonderful to celebrate what is full and I greatly appreciate your reminding us of that. Thank you, thank you – for your stories and expressing your love of nature in such a marvelous way. Hope to see you out there some time.

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      • What really nice things to hear, Dan. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

        Your own spectacular photography really showcases nature’s beauty.

        It’s a small state. We’ll probably bump into one another soon.

        Like

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