I photographed this Pileated Woodpecker in Florida. I think what I like most about these beautiful birds is their size. It is a pleasure to see them weave around trees. Their loud call always give me a thrill. They are truly kings (and queens) of the forest.
The King Rail is another bird that is exciting to see. I have only ever seen two in my life. They are shy marsh birds and stay in the safety of marsh plants. They do not appreciate being seen. It was quite a thrill to see this one at the edge of the marsh. Once in a while he would come out of the grass.
The purple Gallinule is also a shy marsh bird. They can easily hide in the tall plants. I was amazed to see this one climb up plants. They must not weigh much. It took me a while to find these but I have now seen many of them. The best way to find them is to talk to other birders, and when you find where they might be get out early in the morning. It is worth it!
This is a juvenile Purple Gallinule. He is just starting to show his true colors. I watched this one for a long time and was amazed how these birds can seemingly walk on water. See its large feet. The most fragile vegetation will easily hold them.
The Green Heron is a small bird and very beautiful. It is truly striking with their velvet-green back, rich chestnut body, and dark cap. They generally perch on a plant and wait patiently for lunch to show up in the form of small fish, eels, snails, or frogs. They strike with lightening speed, and lunch has been served.
Another bird that is really beautiful is the Blue Heron. It is much smaller than the great blue heron that often fishes along creek banks. I have never seen a Blue Heron in the north. I photographed this one in Florida. They are very quiet birds often seen in shallow water looking for food.
This was the first and only Reddish Egret I have ever seen. He was beautiful. Reddish Egrets are smaller than great blue herons, but I still could not get over his size. I had been keeping my eyes open for one but thought they were smaller. One day as I was walking on the beach this bird suddenly appeared.
A few years ago I built a peanut feeder. It was mainly built by trial and error. I am still changing the design. I closed the hole on the side. The only way the birds can get peanuts is from the bottom. I thought that having the access hole on the bottom would deter the sparrows and other undesirables. Alas, it was not to be.
The blue jays learned to fly to a shrub about twelve feet away and use it as an airstrip. They take off and fly to the hole and quickly grab a peanut before they lose altitude. The Grackles stab into the hole and poke at the peanuts. They quickly drop to the ground and grab the peanuts before other birds can eat it. The sparrows, oh, those sparrows. Never mind, let’s not think about sparrows.
This blue jay has pretty much learned the ropes.
A Red-bellied Woodpecker enjoys his meal.
Most of the woodpeckers that feed at the feeder are red headed woodpeckers. One morning a red headed woodpecker was sitting on top of the feeder making a huge fuss. Finally my wife asked if the feeder was empty. I knew it was, but I was out of peanuts at the time. The woodpecker continued fussing. The next morning he sat on the feeder again and continued scolding me for my carelessness. Finally I bought peanuts and filled the feeder. All was well. The woodpecker was happy.
About a week later one morning I was sitting by a window in the sunroom when I heard what sounded like a jackhammer on the roof. I ignored the sound, but every so often the jackhammer pummeled the roof. Finally after a really loud drumming right above me I looked up. There was the woodpecker hanging from the gutter glaring at me. When I looked up he flew off. I knew that the feeder was empty again. That was weird. How did he know to come to me to have the feeder filled!
Esther and I had the privilege of taking my cousin Barbara and her husband Wayne to Florida. They, along with their son and daughter in law, were great travel partners. After dropping them off in Tampa we went to Sarasota.
Of course one of the things on the agenda was to visit friends. The other thing on the agenda was to go to the Celery Fields. The Celery Fields is the place to go if you enjoy birding. It is also the county’s primary storm water collection zone. The Celery Fields comprise 300 acres of which 100 acres is planted in aquatic plants.
Sarasota County, in conjunction with Sarasota Audubon restored a greater part of 80 acres into a traditional wetland. This has attracted a large amount of birds. In 2009 when we first visited the area we were greatly impressed with the abundance of birds. A year later we saw major renovations begin. Now the project is finished. And, what a grand project it is! No serious birder will miss this area when visiting Sarasota.
This juvenile Purple Gallinule is looking for seeds.
The parent keeps a sharp eye on things while also searching for seeds.
The Great Blue Heron is a graceful bird.
The Little Green Heron can be quite feisty!
My favorite is the American Bittern. They are graceful birds and blend beautifully into their surroundings.
As I was driving down the road I saw a doe and two fawns ahead. As soon as I saw them I pulled over and stopped. The deer looked nervously at me and stamped her foot. She was trapped since there was water on both sides of the road. I wondered how a smart deer could find herself in such a trap.
The deer looked at me for only a moment and then started coming toward me. We held a conversation for awhile. In no uncertain terms she let me know that it was absolutely not fair that she, with the responsibility of raising twins, should not be able to get into the woods.
I watched as she stamped her foot again. “Come,” I said, “I am not going to hurt you.”
She did. With rapid steps she came closer. I zoomed my camera out. Then she stopped with head held high letting me know that we people never keep a peace treaty, and “Let’s face it, I really do not trust you, but I have to get off this road so let me go.”
“Come,” I said again, “I am staying quiet so don’t be nervous. I know our history about keeping peace treaties, but you also need to face the fact that if you do not trust me why should I trust you?” The twins listened attentively. I am pretty sure they understood what I was saying.
She did not like that very much since she set off at a run toward me. “Hey, what’s up? You make me nervous. Slow down. What are you going to do? Attack my vehicle?”
She continued running toward me. Closer and closer she came. I continued to zoom out. My camera settings were all wrong, but when a deer runs at you, camera settings do not seem important. Finally she stopped, and looked straight into my eyes. “You make me nervous!”
“Wow, what a revelation. Who is running at whom? I haven’t moved and I make you nervous? Check yourself mama. I am the nervous one.”
“This really is not fair. There is water on each side of the road. I need to get past you.” Finally she swerved and circled the fawns. I waited. She turned again stomping her feet. “Back off.”
“I am not backing off. I have told you that I am not going to harm you. Come.”
“It’s the peace treaty,” she muttered as she turned, went into the woods, and waded through the water.
I like to take frequent trips to places where cell phones, email, and meetings are not allowed. The distance I go is determined by how willing I am to give up the chatter of communication. When I can stop what I am doing without fear of getting run over, being yelled at, or getting behind, and hear nothing but the wind whispering secrets to the trees, the birds singing cheerily, and the squirrels barking, I know I am almost there. Only when I have turned off all communication devices have I arrived. Only when I have arrived can I hear what the wind is saying to the trees, what songs the birds are singing, and what the squirrels are barking about.
Once all manmade things are silent, and I can distinctly hear the whispering wind, the warbling birds, and the barking squirrels, then can I immerse myself into the real world designed by God. This is the world that makes sense of life, that heals stress and mends relationships. This is the retreat where everything is placed in perspective. Outside of this place, much is found wanting.
“Lord, let me take more trips to a world without cell phones, email, and meetings. Just a meeting between you and me.”
Life normally consist of small things. Like links in a chain, they keep life moving, separating events. Though small, they are meaningful. Think great barbecued pork chops, a special birthday party, great fellowship, an inspirational song. We delight in those things, but then along comes another great barbecue, another birthday, another wonderful time of fellowship, and an inspirational song. Once in a while little things come along that cannot be easily duplicated, like meeting a whitetail doe with her small fawn! Meeting those two was a great encounter, but her pausing until I could get a good photo was phenomenal. That was a big deal; something to fawn over!
The evenings are warm now. I delight to go outside in the evening and revel in summer’s pleasantries. There is something about being outside in the warmth of the night that makes life seem to run right. Gazing at the moon through the trees holds a kind of mystery. As I watch the moon roll off the tree limbs I remember when, as a young boy, I would gaze out the window on a moonlit night and dream of the future. It is now the future and I dream about the past. I didn’t have much wisdom back then, but one thing I thought I knew for certain was that it was better to be older. The only thing that I know now for certain is that my future is bright. It is bright because God holds my future in His hands, and the moon is still at the same place it always has been.
People who travel our roads with a horse and buggy see things that many motorists miss. Stop and smell the roses becomes a reality when walking the horse up a hill. There is lots of time to observe the flowers growing beside the road and watch the deer grazing in the woods. When you are traveling in a buggy, the destination is important, but the trip . . . read more