Spring Mix

Header Image: Red-bellied Woodpecker

Ingredients: Baby Lettuces (Green Leaf Lettuce, Green Oak Lettuce, Tango Lettuce, Lollo Rossa Lettuce, Red Oak Lettuce, Red Leaf Lettuce, Butter Lettuce), Baby Greens (Tatsoi, Mizuna, Red Chard, Green Chard, Frisee), Baby Spinach, Radicchio, Ingredients May Vary By Season.

The above is from a label on a package from our grocer labeled: Spring Mix. Most of us purchase a similar package in July or December and don’t really care if it is Spring outside or not. We’re just happy to have something green and fresh-looking we can drown in some oil as we delude ourselves that we are eating “healthy”. Granted, it really is healthier than a hamburger. Taste – that’s an argument you will have to have with your inner self.

Wait a minute! Why are we discussing salad?

Gini and I made a foray to one of our favorite places recently and our morning was incredibly refreshing. You know, like a green salad. (Enough, already!) The day began as many do at this time of year in our low, wet places. Foggy. Also typical, the gray stuff didn’t last very long at all. Sunshine, birds and even some bright blooms made the day special. Before we knew it, it was lunchtime. Wouldn’t a garden salad be a lovely way to dine today? (Stop that!)

Colt Creek State Park never disappoints, because Nature never disappoints. Stepping beyond a line of cypress trees is like slipping behind a curtain where a completely different world is revealed. Here, one can find shallow water, tall trees standing and fallen, a carpet of wet leaves, fungi in abundance, quiet warblers searching for a meal, a noisy hawk alerting all to our presence. Today there was a pair of River Otters busily probing the dimly lit dampness until they spotted us. They silently and completely vanished.

Back in the open again, we disturbed a North American Racer sunning on the road and were immediately reminded why it’s called a “racer“. Wrens, sparrows and an unexpected Northern Waterthrush confirmed that Spring migration was still in progress. A Great Egret in breeding plumage, bright blooms and a few mosquitoes hinted that the calendar season known as Spring was upon us.

No additives needed to enjoy this Spring Mix.

Daylight delayed. Within the swamp, mist had been captured by the cypress trees and provided an ethereal beginning to the day.

We emerged from the veil of the cypress dome to find clear skies above Lake Mac with a few Cattle Egret lounging around last night’s roost.

It’s a bit early for a Northern Waterthrush to show up in our area as it heads northward to its breeding grounds. It is possible it spent the winter here. What’s not to like – plenty of warmth, water and bugs!

More taxing taxonomy. A North American Racer (Coluber constrictor) is also called Racer, Black Racer, Eastern Black Racer, Southern Black Racer and Everglades Black Racer. The latter two monikers are assigned to possible sub-species of C. constrictor. Whatever you choose to call it, this is a very handsome reptile. We have one in the back yard which helps in population control of such things as roaches and mice.

It is not in Carolina. It is not in the desert. It is not related to chicory. So, obviously, it is named “Carolina Desert-Chicory” (Pyrrhopappus carolinianus). Any questions? I happen to think it is an incredibly attractive flower. It has also been called “Texas Dandelion” and “False Dandelion”.

Avian migration brings us several bundles of feathered joy. One of them is the Sedge Wren. As you meander through the weeds, these little brown jobs jump up, fly a couple of feet and melt into the brown undergrowth. Occasionally, their inherent wren confrontational attitudes cause them to remain exposed for about three seconds. Plenty of time for a portrait.

Marsh Wrens are very similar to Sedge Wrens. They typically can be found among reeds growing in water whereas the Sedge Wrens prefer things a bit drier. Physically, the Marsh Wren does not have the strong wing barring and head stripes of its Sedge cousin.

An early-blooming favorite of ours is Walter’s Viburnum or Small-leaf Arrowwood (Viburnum obovatum). A member of the Honeysuckle family, this shrub can grow up to 10-20 feet tall.

Since we are fairly certain a pine tree does not (yet) produce acorns, we assume this Red-bellied Woodpecker stashed his treasure in a crevice during the winter so he could enjoy it on this bright warm day.

A Great Egret’s size makes for an impressive flight display against the backdrop of cypress trees and cattails. The reddish hues of the trees are aging leaves.

More Spring yellow! The Showy Rattlebox (Crotalaria spectabilis) may be an invasive plant, but the flowers certainly are – well – Showy!

(Age alert.)Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superman!” You were right the first time, it’s a bird. Some songbirds might think it’s “Superbird“! The Cooper’s Hawk is extremely fast and is very adept at negotiating dense forests and underbrush to capture its prey.

Speaking of small songbirds, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet scours the undersides of limbs and leaves for a bug brunch.

Yet another winter visitor, the Swamp Sparrow, spends migration season with us in fairly large numbers. We found eight of them today.

One more yellow bloom found this morning is the Mexican Pricklypoppy (Argemone mexicana). Such a wonderfully bright flower with a delicate poppy-like appearance but protected by a very thistle-like array of thorny leaves.

As we headed toward the road home, an male American Kestrel posed near the park exit. These handsome falcons nest within the park and we look forward to seeing a new family this summer.

Lunch time! Let’s see, what shall we have today? I know! A big, green, luscious salad! Perhaps a – Spring Mix? Try to get outdoors once your local weather permits and seek your own mix of Nature’s changing seasons.

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

32 Comments on “Spring Mix

  1. Quite the collection here Wally. Not sure where to begin.. oh, let’s go with salads and I are opposite poles of a magnet. I tell everyone I run just because I never want to look at a salad ha. Awesome shots with the Sedge Wren and the Marsh Wren – those are quite difficult to capture as you pointed out. Got lucky this year at Sweetwater (the one in FL) – two were skirmishing and they took a break to rest in the open. The Marsh was a bit easier this year. That first yellow flower is gorgeous. Oh, and I also saw my first black racer at Sweetwater while I was there – thankfully Linda sat that walk out.


    • Since I am too old to run any more (okay, who am I kidding, I have never been a “runner”), I have learned to embrace salads.

      The Little Brown Jobs invade each fall and many hang around until spring, but they are still a challenge to find and photograph. A snake in the grass is always preferable to one in your sleeping bag. Been there – done that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Aaand… now I’m, hungry, too! Great survey of the abundant attractions of this park, thanks for sharing it with us!


  3. Pingback: A Winter Getaway – tanja britton

  4. Everyone should have their own personal yard snake to keep the unwanted pests at bay. We have garter snakes, for the most part, but the occasional milk as well. That black racer et al (thank goodness for Latin to straighten that all out) looks like an efficient border guard.

    Our local country market sells their own spring mix, although they obviously bring it in from afar during winter months. All pre-washed and bagged.

    Your shot of the prickly poppy sure does show how it got its name and the Kestrel is a gorgeous bird. I see them here but never got a shot opportunity. The chicory looks just like that which we have lining our roads hereabouts. Except ours are blue and non-native.

    Great, as usual, post, Wally.


    • I tried to keep a garter snake as a pet when I was young. My mother and the snake had other ideas as it disappeared pretty quick. We see the “normal” Garter Snake around here with a darkish body and three light-colored stripes down its length. Florida also as a blue-colored species. Hopefully we’ll encounter one soon and we’ll post a picture.

      Thank you for your kind comments. Flowers are blooming more and more as we venture out. Just like us, they seem to like the warm days.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is the perfect blend! And we do have the best fruits and veggies in the stores right now. I’m enjoying the Florida strawberries! I love your beautiful Kestrel and we are seeing the false Dandelion everywhere…and even phlox along the roads. You see some birds I don’t see here or don’t recognize! Always a fun mix! Enjoy your weekend. The air is heavy today and feels more like summer but I better not start complaining this soon! lol


    • Thank you very much, Diane.

      We’re definitely fortunate to have a great mix of weather, habitat and wildlife.

      Yep, today is a preview of coming humid attractions!


  6. Thank you so much for such a splendid guided tour, Wally.

    Your photos are wonderful – it seems you’ve adapted very well to your new camera.


  7. I’m afraid our salads are a little less interesting than yours, Wally and currently the ‘wildlife salad’ is even less interesting. I need to break more new ground to forage for a more varied diet.

    Life here continues to be ‘two steps forward, one step back’ in most spheres, but we’ll get there in the end. Probably chose the wrong time to get a new camera?!

    My very best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard


    • Once in awhile, we “toss” the salad and just have steak! Changing routines does seem to help sometimes.

      In my l-o-n-g experience, there have been more times when it seems we’re marching in place than moving forward. Eventually, we begin making progress. Yes. Life is exactly like that.

      There is no such thing as a “wrong time to get a new camera”!! I just did. And so did you. Two of the smartest people on the planet can’t be wrong! 🙂

      Spring is not just for providing a salad mix and it is on the way to your neighborhood as we speak!


  8. An acorn snack in the Spring….smart RBWoodpecker! 🙂 Beautiful wren shots, I unfortunately failed at getting a shot of our Sedge Wren visiting the refuge this past early winter. When it started getting really cold, it smartly skedaddled down your way I am sure! 😉 That kestrel shot is wonderful, I hope you see and share family photos of them.


    • Good Morning, Donna!

      I think the resourcefulness of the Red-bellied Woodpecker is why it has thrived even with the encroachment of humans. Unlike some other woodpeckers, it has adapted very well to a changing habitat.

      No worries. That little wren and his friends should be winging their way back to you any day now. Just don’t forget to send ’em back this fall.

      Sure do love your photos of the Eastern Shore! Although it does make us miss real crabcakes!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good Morning, Wally!
        I just chased a RBWP off my house, he had the nerve to try to drill on my roof! 😲 He flew back up to the tree, lol. I’ve been watching him pull out an acorn in the tree crevices too, while chasing the nuthatches away from his ‘spots’. I am entertained so easily. hehe

        I just tried a week ago making crab cakes with canned blue crab meat. Yuk…not…the…same. Our mouths are watering for fresh crabs and it’s only been six months. It’s a Maryland thing. hehe

        Hey, have you heard the new song, “It’s A Maryland Thing’ by Jimmy Charles? If you search/find, excuse the “h” word but it describes Marylanders well, I think you will understand. 🙂


      • Our Florida Gulf blue crabs are terrific, but for some reason, crab cakes never became a “thing” here like in Maryland. On the other hand, our Cuban-inspired Devil Crabs are pretty hard to beat!

        Will search for your song later. Sounds interesting!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I’d not thought about it consciously until you mentioned the little beasties, but I haven’t seen a mosquito for some time: not since our heavier winter rains. On the other hand, yesterday I noticed my first damselfly of the year; it was resting on a dock line next to the boat I was working on. That view beats one from the corner office every time.

    Thanks for the pretty yellow poppy. After you mentioned your version of the plant, I had intended to look for some examples, and now I don’t have to. And I smiled at the photo of the Kestrel. There’s one that was given to sitting at the top of a bare tree near the entrance to the Brazoria refuge. I didn’t see him this year, but he was around for three previous years.

    I finally spotted the bird that has been making an unfamiliar call around my place, and it’s a Red-bellied Woodpecker. He seems to enjoy working his way up and down the palm trees here, no doubt searching for insects. I’ve never associated woodpeckers and palms, but that clearly was wrong.

    I wondered if your Pyrrhopappus carolinianus was a synonym for our Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus, but it seems they are two species. It’s both amusing and confusing that both the Carolina Desert Chicory and the Small-flower Desert Chicory also are known as the Texas Dandelion, but so it goes. Your version does appear a bit different from the ones I see here, but only on close examination.


    • We’ve been seeing dragons and damsels for about three weeks. Of course, if they are active, that means they must be eating something. Sure enough, skeeters are now making their Spring debut.

      That poppy is one of our favorites, I thought I had photos of its white cousin, Argemone albiflora (Bluestem Pricklypoppy) but couldn’t locate one. Now I’m on a mission!

      Around here, all of the woodpecker species spend time in the palms. Apparently a good source of food. They also frequently nest in them. I would think drilling a hole in a relatively soft palm tree preferable to a hickory!

      The two Texas Dandelions certainly appear similar. It’s okay by me. I still think it’s one of the most attractive blooms in the landscape!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. We’re big on salads in our household. We sometimes buy the large organic spring mix containers at Costco but they include no more than just a few varieties of lettuce (along with baby spinach). We usually add tomatoes, carrots, celery, cucumbers, cheese, olives, dried cranberries, croutons, and sometimes daikon and jicama. Like I said, big on salads.

    Your first photograph could pass for several places in Texas near the Louisiana border.

    Coluber is Latin. You may not have realized—why would you?— that the word’s Portuguese descendant is cobra.

    The Carolina dandelion isn’t in the same genus as chicory but it is in the same Cichorieae tribe within the sunflower family.


    • You have made me think about having a big salad for lunch, Steve! Or maybe I started that process.

      Cobra fits the the Racer pretty well. We often spot them pause as they slither through the grass and raise their head and look around.

      Hard to keep up with dandelions, false dandelions, Texas dandelions and related blooms. For me, they are all extremely attractive and I keep hoping to take a better photograph than the last one.


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