Fall’s Flourishes

“Are you sure you feel like going out this morning?”

I got one of those looks that needed no words.

It was a logical question. Gini and I are emerging from over two weeks’ worth of some sort of flu. Not quite back to 100% yet, I was concerned she might still be a bit too weak to go chasing birds. Her common sense self advised that sunshine and fresh air would likely accomplish much more than some pill. Again, I point to my genius as evidenced by my choice in a life partner.

Some years, it is difficult to tell if Florida is in “autumn” or just an extended summer. There are hints. We actually have a few species of deciduous trees which drop their leaves beginning in October. Morning temperatures may decline a couple of degrees. Relative humidity has been known to ease below 50%. Then there are our seasonal visitors.

We begin seeing three times as many out-of-state license plates as usual. “Snowbirds” arriving en masse present challenges in driving and downtown parking. The economy is replenished.

In addition to the annual migration of snowbirds, the fields and forests and lakes become more colorful and noisy as a steady stream of actual birds escape the cold temperatures of their breeding grounds. Most of the avian travelers stop for a rest and a bite to eat and press on to sunny summer in Argentina. Some will choose to remain in our area all winter. In a few days, they will question the wisdom of that decision as we are scheduled for near-freezing temperatures. Good news, feathered friends! This is Florida! The cold will only last a short while. Honest.

Our morning was purposefully short, despite the whining objection about heading home. She knows I had her best interest at heart. Maybe.

Most of today’s sightings were from the vehicle. I got out a few times to try and get better photos but we had a really pleasant drive. Fresh tangerines were tasty and added a bit of Vitamin C to our systems.

Once upon a time, this season was known in the English vocabulary as “harvest”. As humans began to leave farms for cities, someone (probably a poet) began referring to this time as “autumn”. It wasn’t long after that someone else (probably another poet) talked about the “falling” leaves and we lazy humans shortened that reference to the “fall”. At some point, a bunch of folks thought it would be great fun to get in some wooden boats and see if they could find a new neighborhood. They did. Eventually, these “Americans” either couldn’t pronounce the word “autumn” (what’s the deal with that “n”?) or we/they just wanted to be contrary and have mostly referred to this time of year as “fall” while our erudite cousins in the very Great Britain preferred “autumn”. There you go. The complete and no doubt accurate etymology of our seasonal linguistic divide.

Herewith a few of Florida’s “fall” flourishes.

The Blue Jay is one of our most common birds and we all too often overlook its beauty. This one found a fresh acorn and may locate a crevice in a tree trunk to keep it in place while it hammers through the shell.

A bit larger than the Blue Jay and not nearly as common, the Brown Thrasher is surprisingly versatile in the song department. It has been reported the thrasher can sing over 1,000 different songs and may be a better mimic than the Northern Mockingbird. All I know is its rich brown plumage is a pleasant addition to the landscape.

It may be autumn in Florida but we still enjoy our status as a sub-tropical habitat. We’re therefore able to enjoy late season insects such as mosquitoes and – more importantly – what we as kids called “skeeter hawks”. We encouraged this female Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) to get busy and devour as many of the blood-suckers as possible!

One of the migratory visitors which remain with us in fair numbers all winter is the Gray Catbird. We counted a dozen this morning calling from all sides of the road giving us the impression someone had abandoned several felines during the night.

We were entertained by this Blue-headed Vireo as it grabbed a caterpillar and smacked it on the limb several times to make sure it was adequately tenderized.

The colors and patterns on this Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei) indicate it is a female.

Another very common local bird we tend to look past (to our shame) is the Northern Cardinal. This female does not have the solid bright red appearance of the male but is very attractive in her own right.

The highlight of the day for us was finding not one, but two Yellow-billed Cuckoos! This species breeds here but we also have migrants in the area during the fall. Normally they are quite shy and secretive. We found one feeding in the open and another quietly hanging about in a small tree.

More dragons! A bright male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) on the lookout for breakfast. Hopefully, it will include tons of mosquitoes.

One of the most abundant migratory songbirds we see is the Palm Warbler. They are easy to identify even at a distance by their constantly pumping tails.

Not content with finding dragons, we came across several butterfly species. One which was kind enough to pose for a moment was the small Cassius Blue (Leptotes cassius). Their wingspan is about 3/4-15/16 inches (20-33 mm) and they don’t hold still for long.

Another very common migrant which stays with us all winter is the Eastern Phoebe. Not only do they consume a lot of insects, they obligingly yell out their name for us. “Pheee-Beee“!

One more bug hunter was kind enough to allow a picture. The male Hyacinth Glider (Miathyria marcella) doesn’t perch often and when they do it is usually at a 45 degree angle as opposed to 90 degrees preferred by others in the skimmer family.

A quick fly-by of a Bald Eagle concluded our abbreviated morning outing. We appreciated it.

Call it autumn or fall or harvest. It is a good time to be outdoors. Migration brings diverse visitors. The landscape undergoes changes. Fresh air and sunshine provide healing for the body and the soul.

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

28 Comments on “Fall’s Flourishes

  1. I was sure that I had commented but nowhere am I seen so I guess not.

    One of the pleasures of blogging is seeing the difference in both the weather between regions and the species. Even without northern migrants cruising into town there are still plenty of your year ’round citizens that are not seen up here to keep one entertained.

    Glad to hear that you and Gini are out of the cold’s grip…or the grip’s grip, I guess…and enjoying time outdoors. Mary Beth tells me the same about getting out in the sun and fresh air. Whether in recovery or just for the exercise, nature is a better healer than sitting around the house all day…with common sense of course.

    And of course, even though we are in an unusual warm spell for this season, seeing butterflies and dragonflies gives one hope that our own will return as the earth gyrates a bit more and the sun rises higher in the sky. Thanks for sharing a bit of Florida’s nature.

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    • We try really hard to not take our climate here for granted. I think it’s easier for us not to do so since we have lived in cold and snowy regions.

      The new year has us feeling terrific! We participated in two of the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Counts over the past two weeks. Having been conducted for over 100 years, it’s a way for citizen “scientists” to contribute to a data base which might help avian future. From 0430 to 1730 yesterday we found over 50 species of birds and had fun doing it. Whew! Slept well.

      Thank you, Steve, for taking time to visit with us and leave such nice comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad the sniffles are fading and you could get out. I loved seeing your Yellow-billed Cuckoo, I’ve never seen one before. Hope your holiday was happy, and your new year will be full of new adventures and explorations.

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  3. Belated Christmas greetings, Wally and Gini, and my very best wishes for 2023. I hope that the dreadful weather that you are experiencing does not cause you, of the wildlife around you, too many problems.

    Thank you for this delightful post, which has brightened up the start to my Boxing Day. Sorry for the very late visit – it’s been a rough couple of weeks.

    Will be in touch with you directly re knees – – – Richard

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    • Since we abide by no schedule, we are delighted to hear from you any time, Richard!

      We are very sorry to hear you and Lindsay have had a rough time of it. You both remain in our thoughts.

      The freezing weather (in Florida!) hasn’t caused us too much pain. The timing was good as Gini spent the coldest days baking cookies and muffins for Christmas Day dinner at the Daughter’s. We are getting hate male from birds and squirrels about the frozen bird bath, however.

      A New Year approacheth!

      Best of luck to us all.

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  4. I thoroughly enjoyed everything about this post, Wally!! Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos and your etymological expertise. Keep warm this weekend, and make sure you’re both staying healthy!

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  5. Thank goodness we share one thing besides some pretty flowers: short-lived cold spells. Waking up to 18F and a 2F windchills not exactly fun, but in the past half hour I’ve noticed the Bluejays, Chickadees, White-winged Doves, and some sort of sparrow beginning to move about and come to the feeders. The squirrels, of course, were frolicking hours ago. They’re truly nutty.

    I was surprised to see the Brown Thrasher in the tree. I’ve only ever seen them on the ground, and it hadn’t occurred to me that they might perch higher from time to time. That’s a beautifully composed photo of the Thrasher among the limbs. I was thinking, “How in the world does he get photos like that from the car?” Then, I remembered your lenses.

    I didn’t know there are birds other than the Shrikes that ‘tenderize’ their meals that way. It’s a reasonable approach, and well known to anyone who has chicken-fried steak in their repertoire.

    It was fun seeing your Brown Anole. I ‘rescued’ one yesterday morning. After moving my Hawaiian schefflera into the dining room and a storage closet ahead of our blue norther, I picked up one of the plastic bins that had been sitting next to the plants on the patio. There was the lizard: staring at me with wide eyes that seemed to ask, “Is this the end?” It wasn’t. I managed to snatch him up while he still was in shock, then opened the door to the storage closet and plunked him down in the middle of the schefflera. I’d watered the plants well, and am keeping two light bulbs burning, so he may end up being the luckiest lizard in the neighborhood.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, a “short-lived” cold spell is still cold! My native Florida blood starts to thicken at anything below 60 degrees.

      As is typical with many creatures. the day before this front arrived there were feeding frenzies everywhere we went. The back yard was filled with titmice, jays, woodpeckers, White-winged Dove and, yes, The Squirrels!

      I’m not sure if the birds smacking the caterpillars on a branch are tenderizing them or if they want to make certain they don’t “wriggle and jiggle inside”. Tenderizing may be a happy byproduct.

      Your lizard tale is the best Christmas story I’ve heard this season!

      I must go now and perform my duties of Quality Control as the first batch of oatmeal/pecan/raisin cookies is coming out of the oven. It’s a tough job, but ….

      Merry Christmas, Linda!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I absolutely love yellow-billed (and black-billed) cuckoos – that second shot is great.. not to mention in my favorite pose.

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  7. Fabulous fall flourishes, indeed. There is nothing more therapeutic than spending time in nature and I hope all this beauty aided your complete recovery.
    Yellow-billed Cuckoo encounters are special for most of us, especially if they result in photographs as marvelous as yours!
    Now that fall is over, I’m wishing you a pleasant winter with very few frosty days, for everybody’s sake.
    Warmly,
    Tanja

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  8. Happy Christmas Wally and Gini. It’s good to hear you’re both 100% and ready for the big day. I sense that you are so looking forward to the autumn, leaves and birds but not Snowbirds. At least most should not be Snowflakes.

    I never did catch up with Blue-headed Vireo and it is certainly very striking, as much for the eye as the head. So too the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, great finds for your winter days ahead.

    You will be encouraged that to hear in readiness for the excess feasting, our shopping is complete, three days in advance, mine via the Internet Sue via Marks & Sparks and Aldi.

    Today is the shortest day, the Winter solstice, therefore as soon as next week the morning and evenings will be lighter. That of course does not mean the weather will be better and we are already promised more snow, the saving grace being that weather forecasters have been known to sometimes get it wrong.

    Wishing you all the best for 2023.

    I need to be off now so as to peel the potatoes for Christmas Day and the invasion of the Colorado Beetles, AKA the family who can destroy a mound of roast potatoes in seconds. Wish me luck.

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    • Family and Friends such as you guarantee it shall be a Happy Christmas!

      We don’t mind the Snowbirds as we know how to avoid most of them and they bring cash to spend locally. A good thing.

      The solstice today means I just got up and can now prepare to go back to bed. My kind of day. But first, I’m enjoying morning coffee from a new Christmas mug Gini bought. I’m worried the snowman on the outside of the mug may melt.

      Our next few days sound like yours except for snow, although some deranged teevee “climate specialist” said there is a possibility. I may be able to go looking for snowbirds in actual snow!

      Mostly, we’re just getting misty rain and cool temperatures which will dip near freezing over the next few days.

      Good luck with the potato peeler as well as the potato eaters. Around here it is cookie and bread baking day. I have unselfishly volunteered to provide quality control.

      Gini and I hope your New Year will be spectacular!

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  9. By any name, the change in season is predicted to bring us in the northeast a “cyclone bomb” to spoil Christmas get-togethers. Love all your photos, especially the crisp flying eagle.

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