Our central Florida summer has provided flashes of childhood memories. Hot with regularly scheduled thunderstorms every day. As a kid, handling the heat was an easy task. Simply run around in the rain to keep cool. A drainage ditch full of water was even better! If there was a day with no rain, simply turn on the garden hose and make your own rain. Life was so much simpler when we had to manufacture our own entertainment.
Thank goodness I have matured. With daily temperatures reaching the high 90 degree (F) mark and thunder, lightning and heavy rain occurring by noon every day, I do what any sensible nature-loving adult would do. I take a plastic bag to keep my binoculars and camera dry!
I’ve been trying to become more like a “real” birder is supposed to be and have discovered I am apparently obligated to declare a local birding venue as “My Patch”. Research indicates I’m not actually supposed to go out and purchase “My Patch”, which therefore means it isn’t really my “My Patch”. Instead, “My Patch” is a place I go regularly to scratch that interminable itch caused from being infected with the “birding” virus.
The place nearest the front door to which we travel with some sort of regularity is the municipal park at Lake Parker. The city of Lakeland, Florida does a good job of maintaining this area and it provides a decent oasis for resident as well as migratory birds. Visiting on a weekend or holiday can be hazardous to one’s health due to the overwhelming crowds, but an early weekday morning can be very pleasant. As it was recently.
Many birds are very busy raising new families and, just like the rest of us, are discovering the joy of incessantly screaming babies demanding to be fed. As the adult wanders off to find food, junior discovers his feet can be used to go places, which is how the game “Hide-and-Seek” was invented. When Mama returns with food and finds the baby gone much hysteria ensues. There follows long lectures about the many evils lurking in the big bad world. Parenting is fun.
Herewith are a few images from a morning at “My Patch”.
Camouflage is not the strong suit of the Roseate Spoonbill. They are sort of pretty, though. The unusual shape of that bill helps filter nutrients as the bird swings it back and forth through the water.
A Halloween Pennant is hard to miss with its bright orange color and striped wings.
Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina)
This dragonfly was intent on following me along the lake shore. He would fly a few feet toward the lake, circle back and position himself right in front of my face. The Prince Baskettail is very aggressive about protecting “His Patch”!
Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps)
One of those babies mentioned earlier has discovered those huge feet will take him all sorts of places! Hopefully, the young Common Gallinule will soon discover how handy those wings can be in the event of alligators, snakes and hawks. Mother will be along soon to explain it all.
Common Gallinule (Juvenile)
Speaking of Mother. This Limpkin is hunting for an Apple Snail breakfast. Once secured, she patiently shows her youngster how to remove the operculum with that handy scissor-like bill which will allow the tasty meat to be extracted. As with kids everywhere, most of the instruction is forgotten once the morsel of escargot appears. “Do it again, Mom!”
More Mothers. The adult Purple Gallinule strains to see where Junior has gotten to. Ah, there he is, under a lily snatching bugs. Good for him! He’s learning!
Purple Gallinule (Juvenile)
The female Four-spotted Pennant has very subtle “spots” on her wings as opposed to the male which is a very dark dragonfly with distinct wing markings.
Four-spotted Pennant – Female/Immature (Brachymesia gravida)
This immature male Eastern Pondhawk started his adult life a bright green just like an adult female. Gradually, the green gives way to the powdery blue signifying a male.
Eastern Pondhawk – Male (Erythemis simplicicollis)
Characteristic wing bars and shiny dark face identify this large dragonfly as a Bar-winged Skimmer.
Bar-winged Skimmer (Libellula axilena)
Patience is a virtue. Just ask this Great Egret. After waiting and waiting and waiting…..he suddenly struck the water so fast one couldn’t follow the movement. His reward was a nice juicy tadpole.
Great Egret With Tadpole
Many of Florida’s water birds are similar in appearance. This all white bird is actually an immature Little Blue Heron. They remain white until their first spring and then begin to show some of the slate blue colors of an adult. A bill that appears to be two-toned, all yellowish legs and dusky wingtips help to distinguish this species from the Snowy Egret. All of the above plus size separate it from the larger all white Great Egret, also pictured below.
Little Blue Heron (Immature)
The Tricolored Heron is usually no problem to identify. It has gray-blue plumage overall above, a sort of purplish chest, a white stripe under its long neck and white underparts. It is the only dark heron in North America with light underparts.
There were very few mammals active during this visit and the reason why was discovered when I spotted this Gray Squirrel on a coffee break.
It’s hot, it’s humid, it’s rainy. What else could you possibly be doing? Go find “Your Patch” and see how many birds, babies and bugs are waiting for you!
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!
Lake Parker Park