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!