Out There

Header Image: Northern Flicker (Female)

A trio of sleek Swallow-tailed Kites appeared above the cypress trees on the bank of the lake. Gini and I were enjoying a mid-morning brunch of fresh tangerines and granola bars and were content to sit back and enjoy the show. Long tails acted as rudders and the pointed wings hardly moved as they glided effortlessly just above the tree tops. Having spent the winter in South America, these raptors will soon select a tall tree near water and construct a nest. Lizards, snakes and flying insects provide the protein necessary for them to breed.

Our morning began about sunrise as we checked in at the Tenoroc Public Use Area headquarters. Light ground fog dissipated almost before our eyes as the strong rays of the sun spread across the landscape. The first stop found a Glossy Ibis preening its mother-of-pearl plumage atop a small cypress tree. It seemed odd on that perch as we are accustomed to watching it probe the shallow water among cattails. Osprey were busy fishing, woodpeckers could be heard hammering throughout the morning, Northern Mockingbirds demonstrated their incredible musical repertoire, Limpkins called to each other with that unmistakable scratchy screech and the ascending trills of the Northern Parula warbler had returned to our patch after its winter absence.

It is Spring! The mosquitoes are here. Not yet in force, but they are here. Butterflies are becoming abundant as are dragonflies. Trees are turning green. Flower buds are forming. Our dry season is lingering but will soon yield to the rains which will replenish the aquifer and provide the life force for the natural world to flourish.

I’m sure you get tired of hearing how blessed we are to live in such a natural paradise, but I fear if it isn’t repeated often we may come to take it for granted. It is just so amazing that we can travel ten minutes and see such diverse flora and fauna. We relish the thought of visiting a large wildlife refuge or special venue, but our nearby natural places will do just fine in the meantime.

The morning was all too short. Aren’t they all?

See what we saw.

In the dawn’s early light, it is no mystery how the Glossy Ibis received its name.

Both Gini and I grew up in central Florida and assumed the entire world was covered in Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) just like our forests were. As kids, we couldn’t have survived without the plant’s stems whittled to a point for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. If there were no palmetto plants, where would rattlesnakes hide? The profuse buds will soon turn to small white flowers and the aroma during this time is overwhelming.

One of the more common dragonfly species around here is the Red Saddlebags (Tramea onusta). To understand why we like dragons so much, you need to know our childhood nickname for them was “skeeter hawks”.

Just as we parked under the shade of a large oak tree for our brunch, a group of Common Grackles flew up from the nearby reeds. In this area, they are vastly outnumbered by their cousin, the Boat-tailed Grackle. A bright golden eye is diagnostic.

We think these are Rosy Wolfsnails (Euglandina rosea) but would appreciate confirmation or correction. They were present on many dried weed stems as well as metal fence posts. My understanding is once they hatch from just below the soil, they climb the first available thing to look for food, which can be lichens, moss, slugs or other snails.

A pair of Northern Flickers were busy for awhile on this dead tree but we aren’t sure if they were scouting for a nesting spot or if it was an all-you-can-eat buffet spot. The male sports a moustache while the female does not.

A male Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) begins life looking like Mom, all green. Within a few weeks, it begins to take on the powdery blue (pruinose) hue of an adult male. This one is in transition.

The White Ibis is very common in central Florida. Large and all white except for black wing tips and reddish legs and bill, it probes the ground and shallow water with its long decurved beak. When not posing for photos, that is.

The Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) is on the federally threatened species list and is known as a “keystone” species due to the fact its deep burrow is shared by over 350 other species once the burrow is vacated. For a moment, I thought I was looking in a mirror.

Swallow-tailed Kite. Magnificent.

Our morning was short, filled with delights and totally relaxing. To enjoy it all, we simply had to leave the house. See you – Out There.

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

32 Comments on “Out There

  1. You fortify my memory and enjoyment of the richness of the flora and fauna of Florida. Here in Connecticut I am surrounded by hardwoods and there is so much less diversity. Warblers a moving through, but too often hidden in leaves and shadows.


    • Thank you, Ken.

      We tend to assume everyone enjoys similar natural diversity until we travel and discover that is not the case.

      Your warblers may be a challenge to spot but at least when you do see them they are fully dressed in their finest breeding plumage! They save their drab old apparel for spending the winter with us.

      Hope your day is one of the good ones.


  2. As always love these walks and the images are undoubtedly spectacular beyond words. The Northern Flicker is such a beauty. As are the Dragonflies.

    I love the Gopher Tortoise, something supremely wise about this gentleman or lady!

    Recently I heard the Red Naped Ibises calling from our neighbourhood, in the wee hours of the morning. On a walk discovered a nest and a nestling too. The only think that surprised me is that they live in colonies and a solo nest seemed a bit out of the scheme of things.

    Some day I wish to shoot images as deftly as you do.

    Sharing my part 2 of the birding series this week.


    Have a great week Wally and Ginny. 🙂


    • Thank you so much, Natasha!

      Since Gini and I both grew up with an abundance of Gopher Tortoises around, it’s easy for us to take them for granted. They are very special creatures and we have learned to admire their place within the ecosystem.

      I just listened to the calls of the Red Naped Ibis. How wonderful to have that near your house! And with the bonus of finding a nest, with a young one!

      Your photographs seem just fine to me. If you need help with technique, perhaps you could find a 14-year old girl with a camera in her hand – oh, look, there’s one now in your living room. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • The last lines. ha! ha! :)))

        What camera do you use? The 14 year-old uses a Canon SX70HS.

        Happy week.


  3. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE swallow-tailed kites. One or two usually get lost and show up somewhere we can easily drive to to experience their graceful in-air feeding. Probably not a welcome sight to the local dragonflies ha. This year we drove to them and saw several in our Florida leg of our migration trip. Great shot of the turtle, you made me laugh.


    • We can almost set our clocks with the annual arrival and departure of the Swallow-tailed Kites. Mighty sleek raptors.

      In another lifetime, used to hunt for rattlesnakes huddled up in winter in the Gopher Tortoises’ burrows. No, I can’t explain why we did that. Redneck heritage thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. To have such fabulous wildlife so close to home is a real privilege and delight, Wally – not just for you and Gini, but for the rest of us mere mortals that you share your observations with.

    I know that you’ll not be surprised to know that your dragons in this post were a real highlight for me – I’ve yet to see a dragon this year and may not for a while as it’s raining (again!) and cold enough that I’m contemplating putting the heating back on again.

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


    • Privilege is a good word to describe how we feel about being able to access so much of the natural world so easily and, as you point out, having the ability to share a small bit of it with others.

      That same feeling, of course, is mutual. So many wonderful people go about the same process. We get to learn about such places as the Scilly Islands and see an Orange-tip butterfly at Middleton Lakes in England, for example.

      What a wonderful world!

      Gini has announced the blueberry, apple and banana muffins are ready! More coffee and the day begins.

      Reflecting best wishes to you and Lady Lindsay.


  5. The third photo of the snail shell is especially pleasing. The way you’ve centered it within the stems is perfect, and the markings on the snail’s shell seem to coordinate nicely with those same stems. That said, my favorite photo is the White Ibis in the midst of the Spanish moss. The vertical draping of the moss is perfect for that statuesque bird!

    Does your Saw Palmetto produce berries? I think it must. It looks like blooms-to-come in both photos. We have some palms here that have long bunches of flowers that eventually produce round, black fruits that the birds adore. Some places cut the blooms to keep the messy fruits to a minimum, which is understandable in commercial areas, but unfortunate.


    • The snail phenomenon was pretty neat. I’ve read the shells darken with maturity. Their carnivorous nature is fascinating.

      Took me a long time to get the moss back drop hung just right. And the model was impatient.

      Yes, the berries of the Saw Palmetto have been harvested very extensively and the extract is marketed as a remedy for everything from hair loss to enlarged prostate. Even the snakes think it’s an oily business.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great photos! You hit the nail on the head, identifying the need to travel to enjoy the wonder of places outside our comfort zones.


    • We are continually amazed at what we find close to home. Then we go to a big refuge and we are amazed at what we find there, too!

      I reckon we’re just easily amazed!

      Thank you very much for your visits and comments, Brad. We appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Very welcome. It’s good to be amazed, that means we are still learning.


  7. Your morning may have been short, but it sounds (and looks) just perfect. Thank you for sharing it with us.


    • You are very welcome, EC!

      Gini says we’ll try to figure out how to stuff all that into bottles and send you a case!


  8. I really like the pretty shells that adorn the dry stems. They represent all the wonderful little details we only notice when we take a close look.
    And to know you identify with what appears a sage and imperturbable animal makes perfect sense to me from what I have learned about you on your blog. 🐢


    • This is the second year in a row we have found those snails at the same spot. Hopefully, we’ll be able to learn more about them.

      Me identifying with a prehistoric tortoise is totally apt on many different levels.

      Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hope you will keep finding the snails and start a new spring tradition.
        Thanks for the good wishes. Not sure how this happened, but the weekend is almost over, so I wish you a good new week.


  9. This patch is definitely worth celebrating. I really enjoy the beauty and variety of life you share with us. Your mirror-tortoise made me chuckle, and that Kite is just fantastic.


  10. You do seem to live in a land of faunal plenty.

    If your childhood nickname for dragonflies was “skeeter hawks,” ours in New York was “darning needles,” which fostered the unwarranted apprehension they might sting us with their tails.


    • Once upon a time, long before she appeared in my dreams, there are tales of my beloved, as a mere tow-headed waif, skillfully capturing dragonflies by hand and deftly pinching their heads from their bodies. Apparently, she was fascinated by the jewel-like appearance of the eyes. She secreted a matchbox filled with Odonata heads in a dresser drawer until, one fateful day, Mother traced a faint odor to its source – “VirGINia!!!!”. A potential career as a world-class entomologist was nipped in the bud.

      Liked by 3 people

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