Resurgence and Transition
The weather forecast advised we would encounter heavy fog and once it lifted around mid-morning skies would be mostly cloudy. We decided to go anyway. Perhaps we could get some of those “mood” pictures of thick fog blanketing a lake.
We rolled up to the bank of Picnic Lake, its calm surface reflecting the crystal clear blue sky as the sun rose above the cypress trees on the far shore. The remainder of the morning was cloudless. “Weather presenters” are now calling themselves “climate specialists”. Their prediction rate remains the same. Sigh.
Gini pointed out a pair of Pied-billed Grebes bobbing up from a dive as they searched for breakfast. Sandhill Cranes trumpeted in the distance. The nearly ubiquitous “churrrr” of a Red-bellied Woodpecker seemed to come from just above us. An Anhinga gave us a nasty squawk as we startled it from its perch on a small cypress tree. The morning flights of dozens of White Ibises, Cattle Egrets and Double-crested Cormorants cruised across the clear sky.
One of our patches which we visit often consists of over 7,000 acres (2800+ Hectares) and contains lakes, stands of hardwood trees, upland pine forests, small open grassy areas and swamp. Nearly 30 miles of hiking trails are well maintained and the 29 lakes are managed for maximum recreational angling potential. Naturally, with such diverse habitat, the area is very attractive for wildlife, such as – birds!
We did not spend the whole morning here but during the couple of hours we were there, we were treated to a very nice selection of birds. Springtime is arriving with subtle changes. Trees are beginning to show new green growth, insects are visible in ever-increasing numbers, water levels are low and some creeks are completely dry, the humidity and air temperature are noticeably greater than a couple of weeks ago.
Migratory birds are still here but their numbers are decreasing. Some are forming into larger groups and feeding voraciously as they prepare for a long flight north. Right on schedule, just after Valentine’s Day in mid-February, Swallow-tailed Kites filtered into the area after spending the winter on the pampas of Argentina. Ospreys are fully engaged in home construction.
In late September last year, Hurricane Ian lumbered across Florida from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. Destruction was widespread. The southwest coast of Florida was devastated and recovery will take years. In our relatively small birding patch four miles from our house, overall damage was not severe as the more intense part of the big storm passed just to our south. However, every single Osprey nest of which we were aware was wiped out. I don’t mean damaged, there was literally no trace of a nest at all for nearly a dozen pairs of Osprey.
Happily, all of those nests have been rebuilt by these resilient raptors! The speed at which they have put together so many large nests has been remarkable.
Nature. We continue to marvel.
A bit of open water with cypress trees lining the edge of a small swamp. The big trees and all that Spanish Moss harbor huge populations of insects. Birds, residents as well as migrants, appreciate that.
One of our colorful winter tourists, the Yellow-rumped Warbler has a bit of yellow at the shoulder as well as above its tail.
A resident throughout our area wherever there is water and shoreline vegetation, the Limpkin, is a unique bird and the only member in its taxonomic family (Aramidae). Related to rails and cranes, Limpkins are pretty much dietary specialists dining on aquatic snails. In the second image, notice the gap near the end of the bill. The design helps the bill operate like tweezers to pull snails from their shells.
As breeding season progresses, the red legs and bills of the White Ibis will become more intense. Those blue eyes match the sky all year long.
Tricolored Herons are sort of the behavioral opposites of their larger cousins, Great Blue Herons. The latter appears almost stately as it slowly moves through shallow water stalking its prey. The rambunctious Tricolored Heron is more a rapid-fire hunter and seems to almost never hold still as it dances and lunges in the shallow water.
One of our most abundant winter migrant song birds, Palm Warblers, are divided into two sub-species. The “western” version has a mostly pale belly while that of the “eastern” population has a fairly bright yellow belly. Both sub-species can appear pale overall during non-breeding season. They breed mostly in Canada and the dividing line for identification appears to be east or west of Hudson Bay. The best feature for identifying these little bundles is their nearly constantly pumping tails. Pictured is a “western” Palm Warbler in breeding plumage.
Colorful Northern Parula warblers typically migrate during the winter, although it is not uncommon to find several if our temperatures remain mild. Beginning in late February, they begin returning to our tree tops and their buzzy trilling calls can be heard from almost every part of the area.
“Even the Fish Hawk is catching more than us!” No worries. Although my Dad had the same complaint each time we spotted an Osprey with a fish on our outings, is wasn’t long before we had our own luck. These magnificent raptors are truly a joy to observe as they fish, build a home and raise a family. Hopefully, we will never take them for granted.
Spring. A time of transition as Nature renews. We will soon say farewell to our winter feathered friends until we see them again in the fall. This particular Spring, we rejoice in the resurgence of the Osprey population as they rebuild from total destruction. Life is good.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!
Tenoroc Public Use Area (https://myfwc.com/recreation/lead/tenoroc/)
Had the opportunity to see all these birds on our recent trip through Florida. I must say, you have an AMAZING number of palm warblers there. I went from seeing one in my life to actually going in overload. The Limpkins are amazing birds (great shots by the way), we were lucky enough to see 6 newly hatched chicks on our visit to Payne’s Preserve. Soooo cute.
Sounds like your trip was great! Payne’s Prairie is a unique place. Yep, after Thanksgiving each year the most common refrain you hear from birders is “oh, just another Palm Warbler”. It has now been five days since we’ve had them in the yard so most are back home up north looking for nesting spots.
Love those Limpkins!
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It’s so great to be close to areas like this, teeming with wildlife and birds. It’s more of a challenge to take pics of the small birds with the leaves so thick but you always do such a great job! Enjoy the day!
We are definitely lucky to have so many natural places fairly close at hand. Little birds in leafy trees can be frustrating to photograph, that’s for sure!
Thank you for the compliment.
Hence why I call the forecast the “weather guess”. Happily so far this spring, our new solar panels are gleaning kilowatt hours despite the weather guessers declaring each day a cloudy one. Some have been but most are pretty sunny for a cloudy day and to prove it our electric bill this month was $0.00. I couldn’t be happier to be meteorologically misled.
For one who is in want for bird lore (me), you are a font of it. I am not sure what the fog might have done for your mood via moody pictures but all those lovely birds had to make for a very happy one. And the success of your osprey population would double that, I’d guess.
A late visit again, Wally, as we’ve had the pleasure of having two of our granddaughters with us for the past two days, and been kept somewhat busy!
It is remarkable how Ospreys remain faithful to their nest sites and, as long as the supporting tree or pole is still there, nests are quickly refurbished. We had one Osprey nest that I used to monitor at Rutland Water, and it grew and grew in height each year to the extent that the powers that be decided that, for the safety of next year’s chicks, it had to be reduced in height over winter when the birds were away. I guess it got to about six foot high with a distinct lean on it which would put the tower of Pisa to shame!
I would like to nominate your header image as ‘Photo of the Year’
Best wishes from middle England to you and Gini, where we have, at last, a beautiful sunny day.
Take good care – – – Richard
Tardiness due to Grandparenting is ALWAYS a valid excuse!
Even though quite common here, we remain fascinated by Ospreys. Gini and I both have familial connections to fishing and have a sort of bond with our fellow feathered fisher.
Thank you for your very kind remark about the header. I’ll be waiting by the front door for my trophy to arrive.
A sunny day! This calls for a song!
(Is Lady Lindsay’s knee up to dancing?)
Hello Wally and Ginni,
What a lovely spring walk this, before the birds go back.
Reading about the plundered Osprey nests made my heart sink, and then bob back to life; when you mentioned that they were re-building with fervour.
My 14 year-old and I also went to the wetlands last weekend to admire the bunch of migratory birds.
We were gifted with some brilliant sightings like the Greater Flamingo, an Osprey with its catch, a pair of Sarus cranes (the mate for life), a spotted owlet, rosey starlings, red headed buntings, paddy field warblers, pied avocets, painted storks, garganeys, a black francolin, etc…Okay, I must stop, I know I’m going overboard. Sorry!
I just need to blog about this in the coming week and the excitement should settle down. :))
Thank you, Natasha, for such uplifting comments!
Your trip to the wetlands sounds fantastic! Don’t let the excitement settle down. Embrace it!
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Awww, thank you. That’s such a sweet thing to say. Happy Easter. ❤
If I’d only seen that first photo of the Limpkin, without any context, I would have said ‘juvenile Ibis.’ A closer look at the end of the bill would have put an end to that! I remembered that Apple snails are their preferred food, and I also remembered that Apple snails have a pretty bad rap here in Texas; in fact, the Invasive Species Institute has them on their list. I finally figured it out when I found this:
“The native Florida Apple Snail (Pomacea paludosa) is the primary source of food for Limpkins in Florida. However the proliferation of a South American invasive Apple snail (Pomacea maculata) may be the key to the expansion of the Limpkin’s range westward. A population of Pomacea maculata established in Louisiana and Southeast Texas and is expanding. This food opportunity seems to be the driving factor in the expansion of the Limpkin’s range.”
In fact, there have been sightings of the bird near Brazos Bend (perhaps on that same ranch that Sam mentioned) and at Armand Bayou. Now that I know more about the bird, I might have a chance to see one. I’m just sure I’ve heard one of the calls included on the Cornell sight. It’s memorable, that’s for sure!
As for the Ospreys, I’m delighted that they’ve been able to reestablish their nests. If only I could persuade them to stop lunching atop our masts, and dropping entrails all over my office floor!
Perhaps check the eBird website for Limpkin sightings in the area and try to be there at just before sunup. That’s when they really seem to be the most vocal.
As far as your Ospreys sharing their lunch, I shall leave you with that old refrain from Roy and Dale: “Happy entrails to youuuu …”!
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So glad to hear your osprey news. I hadn’t thought to investigate here, and (thankfully) it’s been a while since we had a real blow, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled to see how re-used nests fare. Your Limpkin photos reminded me… I was out at Brazos Bend St Pk about 2 weeks ago, and I went looking specifically for our Limpkins. I didn’t find them, but I did hear them – on a ranch’s lake just outside the park boundary. You had commented on the eerie wild song of the Limpkin, and now I know just what you meant!
It is tempting to overlook our Ospreys as they are so abundant. That would be a mistake as they are so darned interesting!
Limpkins may not win nature’s most beautiful song contest, but they sure are unmistakable!
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Thanks for sharing the beautiful shots and the info. The devastating hurricane is a sad event, but the Ospreys rebuilding their nests is something even incredible. Magic nature!
Thank you! It’s always amazing to observe nature as it goes about its daily business of survival.
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If there are swallow-tailed kites, are there also kite-tailed swallows, or is that too much to swallow?
I would state categorically that there is no such bird but then someone would prove me wrong and I would end up having to swallow my pride and admit my error.
And remember these immortal words: A bird can fly but a fly can’t bird.
Stunning photos as per usual Wally and so glad the Ospreys are dong well.
So are we, Brian!
Very nice collection of photos and birds.
Thank you very much Brad.
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