Bright (Bright) Sunshiny Day*
(Note: We’re changing to a somewhat more stable header image which will probably be some sort of generic Florida habitat display.)
We love exploring new places. The excitement of finding something different. Anticipating new birds, blooms and bugs. The unknown – what’s around the next bend?
Today is not like that. Today is relaxing with a good friend as she and I talk about our grandson’s recent visit, our son’s European trip, plans for Thanksgiving with our daughter’s family and casually observe the passing scene. The comfort of familiar surroundings.
We were greeted at the entrance to the park by a White-tailed Deer and her fawn. The Red-shouldered Hawk was at his normal station mid-way up the pine tree. Calling White-eyed Vireos have now been joined by fall visitors such as House Wrens and Gray Catbirds, creating a cacophonous chorus of welcoming voices. Fall flowers such as morning-glory, blazing star and butterfly pea dotted the landscape around us. Water birds patiently fished around the lakes, newly hatched butterflies probed for nectar, young alligators soaked up the warm rays of the sun.
“Our” breakfast spot under the aromatic pine boughs was almost quiet. Cicadas are still calling even though most species to the north are quiet during the fall and winter months. We find that sort of “background music” quite pleasant.
Although the morning spent in a regular haunt is calming, we still had those moments of involuntary exclamation and pointing as nature typically has a few surprises up her sleeve. An uncommon Red-headed Woodpecker, the first Yellow-rumped Warbler of the fall, hairy caterpillars in a forest of fennel, the sudden clattering of a Belted Kingfisher unhappy that we intruded into her fishing territory.
We did not see any new exotic sights, nor did we discover any different species of life. Our morning was relatively subdued, spent in familiar surroundings while visiting with a few friends – and each other.
A fall migrant, this female Belted Kingfisher objected noisily to our presence. We usually have several kingfishers remain in our area throughout the winter.
A doe. A deer. A female deer. With a young fawn behind her. The fawn is nearly as large as mama.
In North America, the Red-headed Woodpecker population has declined over 50% since 1900. Likely causes are loss of nut trees due to disease and over-harvesting. Additionally, landowners have aggressively cleared dead and dying trees and snags which are primary nesting sites for this species. In Florida, declination is around 25% for the same time period with some populations holding their own in the past two decades. Fingers crossed for the future. Poor photographs but I was happy to see one at all!
The Barred Yellow (Eurema daira) goes through seasonal color changes. Very light during spring and summer and turning darker during late fall and winter.
A Great Egret scratches an itch in the early morning light. With those nails it needs to be careful! A bit later, it’s time for a fish brunch.
In the pine forest, purple seems to be an abundant fall color. We found several vines of Spurred Butterfly Pea (Centrosema virginianum) winding around whatever support it could find.
Northern Parula warblers breed in our area and become scarce during the winter months. Some will spend the winter in the southern part of Florida while others travel on to South America.
Tievine (Ipomoea cordatotriloba) is a member of the morning-glory family. It has fairly large flowers and can spread quite some distance if it can find supporting structure. The leaves can be sword-shaped or heart-shaped. In the second image, we found a dead-looking tree which the Tievine had made its own. The tree was over 20 feet tall.
A group of immature White Ibises passed overhead.
Appropriate for Florida with a combination of citrus and sunshine orange, the Gulf Fritillary (Dione incarnata) is a common butterfly for the area. Uncommonly beautiful.
More purple. Gayfeather, blazing star. There are 17 species of Liatris in Florida. This is one of them. No matter what you call it, we think it’s gorgeous!
In a field of Dogfennel (Eupatorium capillifolium), we found a number of caterpillars hungrily munching away. They appeared to all be the larvae of Salt Marsh Moth (Estigmene acrea). These caterpillars vary greatly in appearance depending on instar (developmental) stage. Similar to “wooly bears” but different family.
If events in our lives tend to become overwhelming, having a comforting familiar oasis in which to spend a morning can help us see more clearly. The batteries of our souls are recharged. A small change in perspective can yield large rewards.
As Johnny Nash sings it:
“It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
Look all around, there’s nothing but blue skies
Look straight ahead, nothing but blue skies.”
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!