As The Fog Clears
Header Image: Eastern Phoebe Eyes Bagworm Moth
We seem to relish foggy days. For one, as Gini noted on this day, it just seems so quiet. The stillness of an early morning on the bank of a lake blanketed in gray with sight and sound limited heightens the senses. More importantly, we know clear skies lurk just above the mist and the natural world will soon be going about the business of surviving another day. As will we.
This particular visit to Tenoroc Fish Management Area took place in mid-December. Morning temperatures were mild but made to seem cooler by the fog. Not too long after sunrise, we were basking in the warm Florida sun under bright blue skies.
Small birds were active but fairly silent while the fog clung to the earth. Visibility improved slowly and the morning commuter flocks could navigate from roosts to feeding areas. Scores of White Ibis, Double-crested Cormorant and Anhinga crisscrossed the patchwork of lakes. A pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks whistled overhead. A Great Blue Heron materialized from the fog and flapped his way onto a cypress tree branch. A distant screech from a Red-shouldered Hawk seemed to signal the official start of the day.
We progressed slowly from one favorite spot to another. Lingering along a trail or at a boat ramp or fence row provided an incredible diversity of our three main goals: birds, blooms and bugs. Migratory birds were sprinkled throughout our morning which increased the pleasure provided by our normal resident population. At this time of year we don’t encounter as many insects as during warmer months, but we still came across butterflies, moths, dragonflies and small creepies and crawlies all enjoying the relative winter warmth. A few flowers brightened up the landscape.
One day I will concentrate on including fewer images and creating shorter blog posts. This is not that day.
The pretty panorama of Picnic Lake was mostly obscured by the morning fog.
Bright yellow blooms in the water are but a memory. American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea) in winter.
The strength of the sun will soon overcome the damp gray blanket hugging the earth.
A positive result of the delayed sunrise is that the Moonflowers (Ipomoea alba) remain open longer. This bloom measured almost eight inches in diameter.
With its bright yellow eyes, a Common Grackle just chased away my opportunity to photograph our first observed migratory American Robin of this season. Sigh.
Skulking in the lower portion of the brush is another winter migrant, the Swamp Sparrow.
I was hoping to change to the macro lens for a detailed image of this spectacular Arrowhead Spider (Verrucosa arenata), but she was much quicker than me. Two clicks with the big lens and she disappeared.
One of our (many) favorite winter visitors is the Northern Harrier. Their distinct owl-like face and low, lilting flight as they hunt over a marsh or field make them quite unique. This one was uncharacteristically perched in a large field. Based on the fairly dark plumage, especially of the head, this is likely an immature bird. I thought it had just captured breakfast, but after 20 minutes it took flight with no evidence of prey.
Our presence may have been detected. This young Red-tailed Hawk wouldn’t stop squawking about us. More like “Tattle-tale” Hawk.
Winter dragon. Like the Harrier above, this male Hyacinth Glider (Miathyria marcella) is normally airborne and we’re always surprised to find one sitting still. Dozens of these were active over the same field where we found the Harrier and Hawk.
Yellow-rumped Warblers are among our most common winter migrant songbirds. The majority of these handsome birds fly on to South America but thousands remain in the area until spring.
Gini thinks too much coffee may be the reason a Ruby-crowned Kinglet seems to never hold still. Fidgety, constantly flexing its little wings, hopping from one twig to another. These are considered “short-distance” migrants since in the fall they move from far-north breeding grounds to the southern part of North America and typically no further. We appreciate them entertaining us all winter!
Speaking of fidgety and entertaining. Meet the House Wren. These little brown jobs are all over the place in winter! They may be small but they are intensely aggressive. They have a surprisingly loud and beautiful song.
More tourists. Savannah Sparrows are easily identified (for a sparrow) by the striped breast, distinct face pattern and usually a bit of yellow over the eye. This is our most abundant migratory sparrow.
It may not be as brightly colored as some butterflies, but we think the Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) is stunningly beautiful!
With no trace of fog remaining, an Eastern Bluebird has plumage which is nearly a match for the morning’s recently revealed bright sky.
More blue revealed! This time in the eyes of a White Ibis as it probes the shallows for breakfast.
Our imagination thinks the flowers are grateful for the sun’s rays and open a little wider in thanks. This Climbing Aster (Symphyotrichum carolinianum) bloom is one of dozens adorning the bank of a lake.
We began the day on the shore of a lake straining to see what might be in the distance. As the fog cleared, so did our vision and our spirits. Life can be like that. Gloom can restrict our sense of what is important. Eventually, barriers are overcome and all is right with the world.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!