Thursday, July 25, 2019

A peaceful morning in the Wounded Wetlands

Early Sunday morning is the most quiet time for walking out into our local south Florida birding patch, which is adjacent to residential subdivisions. We owe the existence of the preserve to the developers who, to mitigate their damage to the original Everglades, were required to set aside the land in perpetuity as a wildlife and water conservation area. 

Few people are up and about. This morning they are not hurrying to work or bringing kids to school. Operation of machinery such as lawn mowers and other power equipment  is restricted on Sunday. Yes, the sounds of human activity are much reduced, but it is not truly silent. 

In the spring, Northern Mockingbirds may sing very early or even all night when the moon is bright:
Northern Mockingbird 02-20181109

Northern Mockingbird macro at sunrisecrop  01-20181031

In the pre-dawn darkness we are surrounded by the sounds of life, from the mosquitoes humming in our ears, the songs of crickets, grasshoppers, toads, tree frogs and the sweet warbling of geckos. Most birds are not yet singing-- but listen closely to hear the Chuck-will's-widow as it repeats its name in a never-ending cadence, or, overhead... the call of a Common Nighthawk:

Common Nighthawk and Strawberry Moon 20180602 

A nighthawk is barely visible as it suddenly zooms down and pulls up with a loud "woosh" just over my head. Is it attacking me or the cloud of mosquitoes that I have attracted? Is there a nest or are young birds nearby? 

Common Nighthawk in flight 3-20170617

Why did I fail to identify the calls of screech-owls for the first couple of years after I started taking these early morning walks? I think I did hear them but did not distinguish their soft monotone trill from the competing ambient noise of automobiles, airplanes and air conditioners. Now, I not only hear, but also take pains to listen.

Eastern Screech-Owl:

Eastern Screech-Owl 021-20170219

Common sounds become background "white noise" which our brains filter out. One autumn morning shortly after returning from our second home in Illinois I heard but almost failed to recognize the calls of a species which infrequently visits south Florida during migration. 

I had become so accustomed to the sound of its voice in Illinois that I did not immediately realize that this American Robin was was out of place, atop a tree along the trail:

American Robin HDR 4-20160211

If the Moon is bright, Mourning Doves may already be cooing, and Blue Jays calling.

Mourning Dove at sunrise 20190528

Mourning Doves 20130322

Blue Jay 20190317

Blue Jay 01-20170406

The sky is lighting up. The Northern Cardinals begin their morning chorus almost exactly a half hour before sunrise. At the same time the Chuck-will's-widow stops its chant. Why? Something triggers opposite responses in two different species. Poetically speaking, is it the length of the night, or the strength of the light? 

A male cardinal sings from a conspicuous perch, but listen closely...

Northern Cardinal singing 05-20180228

...the female may join him in a duet:

Northern Cardinal female 01-20171104

Still well below the horizon, the sun has created a deepening red glow in the eastern sky.  On this spring morning, Jupiter was still visible above the crescent Moon (March, 2019):

Moon and Jupiter over stormy sunrise 20190303

When I reach the shore of the lake I enjoy watching the show as the sky changes minute by minute. Photos do not capture all the colors I see: pink, rose, orange, yellow, purple, blue and green and shades in between. 

The Thunder Moon of July sinks into the line of storm clouds:

Thunder Moon sinking before sunrise 20190717

Facing west towards the lake, I am conscious of riding on a sphere which is rotating backward. The shadow of the earth's horizon behind me is moving steadily over my head and falling down in front of me. First rays of the invisible sun tint the eastern sky but do not pierce the darkness of the land on the opposite shore. Reaching the storm clouds over the Everglades, the rays outline their tops before setting their upper reaches on fire. 

West shore at sunrise 20190531

Before the sun ever gets down to the treetops on the opposite shore, it has illuminated the entire sky. 

Rising Sun touches Pine Bank20190110

Then the brilliance of the vegetation is revealed, and suddenly the colors of the sky fade into gray and blue tones. 

Sun touches wet prairie HDR 20160309

Most mornings, usually around sunrise, we see one or sometimes two adult Bald Eagles, navigating a perfect course from the vicinity of their nest, located to the northwest, towards the large lake in our subdivision which has a lighthouse on a small island. 

Their two eaglets have migrated north to find cooler waters, but the adults choose to stay here all summer. The lake, with its fish, ducks and herons will feed them. They will also keep watch over the nest and chase away any intruders such as Great Horned Owls, Raccoons or crows which could set up housekeeping and claim it as their own. 

Bald Eagle male 03-20190310

A young Marsh Rabbit nibbles on the grass and seems to ignore me. Hoping for a nice image, I cautiously mover closer to it, a few steps at a time, stopping to take yet another photo in case it decides to flee. 

Marsh Rabbit juvenile 05-20190710

Yet it allows me to get ever so close before hopping off. Well, "hopping" is not really accurate in the case of this species. Running or, as I see it, galloping (as in "giddy-yap") better describes their mode of escape, as their hind legs are much shorter than those of other rabbit species. They also have big feet with splayed toes to help propel them through the water. 

Although closely related to the Eastern Cottontail Rabbit, the Marsh Rabbit does not have white on its tail and its undersides are dull gray, as can be glimpsed in this photo:

Marsh Rabbit juvenile 02-20190710

(A reader recently asked why their ears were so short, as longer ears normally benefit rabbits and hares in hot climes by dispersing body heat. I could not find a science-based answer, but noted that they usually swim with their bodies underwater and maybe short ears provide less resistance. They also have very sparse fur, which may help keep them cool.)

Marsh Rabbit juvenile 04-20190710

As the land heats up, the rising air pulls in winds from the ocean to the east, spoiling the mirrored surface of the lake. Moisture in the air condenses into clouds which portend afternoon storms. It looks like it will be just another summer day for south Florida.

Gathering storm 01-20190629

Storm brewing 01-20190616

Quote from an a pertinent article at this link:  How bird-watching could be incredibly beneficial for your mental health  

"Perhaps one of the most interesting results of the studies was the fact that even if people rated their depression/stress/anxiety levels high in the mornings, several hours of bird-watching were seen to consistently raise these feelings and helped people to feel much happier in themselves and the world around them.... What’s more, it didn’t matter what kind of birds were spotted; whether these were native birds or all different species and varieties or lots of the same species, the benefits seem to remain the same."

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Our World Tuesday by Lady Fi

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh

 Linking to Fences Around the World by Gosia


Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display



  1. The owl made me smile

    The bunny gave me an awww

  2. Great post, what a display of bird photos. Your Sunday morning excursion looks wonderful.

  3. Really stunning skies, with a couple shots including the moon as a bonus! So interesting how rabbit ears differ so much from one area to another. The desert rabbits I'm used to seeing have ridiculously large ears. A great example of animals adapting to their environment over time.

  4. Wow, I think that's the best sunrise I've ever seen in Florida. Gorgeous photos

  5. Great and birds and rabbits!

  6. One of these days I'd get my husband to visit the nearby wetlands in the hope of seeing some birds. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Worth a Thousand Words

  7. What a beautiful post, both words and pictures, and imagined sounds. It made me feel happy to read it.

  8. I had a hard time trying to pick a favorite. I love your pics!

  9. Ho Mr. Kenneth! ... you are a poet of photography and word describing a remnant of what should be a paradise and which the greed of men has destroyed and wants to continue to destroy. Thank you for describing this beauty to us and encouraging people to fight for its conservation.
    God bless you.

  10. Hello, I agree with the quote, birdwatching is relaxing and stress free. It is great you have a patch close to home. I love the Nighthawk and Screech Owl. Beautiful variety of birds and photos. Your sky watch images are just gorgeous. Lovely post. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

  11. You have such amazing panoramic views! Makes me wish I could paint one of the scenes! Beautiful sightings! Happy weekend!

  12. Awesome birds, and I like the other pictures too.

  13. What a fab set of photos and that owl has the most amazing eyes, wow. Have a good week, Diane

  14. That owl image just blows me away! Awesome. Ken, thanks for pointing out my ID error. I should have paid more attention.

    Thanks for joining us at I'd Rather B Birdin' this week.

  15. gorgeous shots of the cardinals!

  16. Love the sound of doves cooing. When we lived in California they would roost in the eucalyptus trees behind our home. - Margy

  17. Great pictures - and a good point about hearing things. We have Eastern Spinebills in our garden, and I hear them most days - but I think I had lived here for a couple of years before I noticed them. Strange.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  18. Have never seen a photo with so much red of the American Robin - beautiful - and the one of the two mourning doves are lovely! Smiled, because the way you describe the sunrise is very sensory, not only as an MD but also as an artists:) I appreciate your weekly presence at All Seasons so much! Have a fantastic week:)

  19. A beautiful post Ken...the bird portraits wonderful and the landscapes are fine art . And your own words as well as the quote at the end inspiring.

  20. This is the kind of post to wallow in for a while, there is so much to absorb. I note that the Eastern Screech Owl is a red morph bird; the grey morph is far more common here.


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