Saturday, December 8, 2012

Beauty revealed in scarred land

Our South Florida weather has turned from cool and dry to muggy and unsettled. Some of our forays were cut short by "pop-up" rain showers. This is the view from our patio one morning this week.  

Sunrise HDR 20121205

That day, rather than venture out into the wild, we decided to take the car to Chapel Trail Nature Preserve. Almost as soon as we started out on the boardwalk, a heavy rain fell for about five minutes. I caught this Palm Warbler, which we saw bathing in the raindrops.

Palm Warbler in the rain 20121203

After spending most of my summer in Illinois, I feel a bit like Rip Van Winkle. The grass in our local birding patch has grown up above eye level along the levee path, obstructing our view of the surrounding landscape. I had to push through a wall of grass for this photo in early morning light, proving there can be beauty even in our disturbed wetland. 

In this now-abandoned utility right-of-way, Ospreys, hawks and eagles as well as a variety of other birds roost on the old poles and wires. Wetlands extend from the easement to the lake, which is to the north, on the right. We would like to see an osprey platform atop one or more of the poles to make up for the destruction of the Melaleuca grove where they previously nested 

Abandoned Utility Easement 20121205

The high water has receded, and "wreckreational" off-road vehicles have left behind muddy tracks, fire rings and litter in wetlands that are struggling to recover. The riders vandalize the utility junctions and markers along the canal next to the heron rookery. Not a single fiberoptic cable marker was left standing.

ORV user damage to utilities 20121202 

An  immature Yellow-crowned Night-Heron visits one of the nest trees, perhaps where it was hatched last spring.

 Yellow-crowned Night-Heron immature 20121202                    

Herons, egrets, ibises, storks and one remaining Roseate Spoonbill share the shallow water at the edge of the lake with discarded refuse.   
ORV Litter 3-20121202   

The spoonbill strolls with an immature Little Blue Heron. 
    Spoonbill and Little Blue Heron 20121205

 It is joined by a White Ibis and a Snowy Egret.
       Ibis Egret Spoonbill 20121205

Tricolored Heron enters the picture.
      Ibis Tricolored Heron Spoonbill 20121205

just can't get enough photos of the colorful spoonbills. 
Roseate Spoonbill 5-20121205

The early morning light adds a golden glow to the scene.

Roseate Spoonbill 20121205

An adult Little Blue Heron adopts its characteristic hunting pose, tip of its bill just touching the water.
           Little Blue Heron 3-20121205

Not as flambouyant as the spoonbills, the graceful heron is beautiful in its own right.

Little Blue Heron 2-20121205

Even from a distance, its posture distinguishes this immature Little Blue Heron, in the foreground, from the white egrets and ibises.
           Little Blue Heron immature 20121202

The immature Little Blue Heron is at the bottom of the dominance ladder, and is picked on by adults of its own and other species, such as this Snowy Egret, which chased it across the lake.          

Snowy and Little Blue not getting along 20121201

American White Pelicans approach for a landing...   
          American White Pelicans arriving 20121201

...and "water-ski" to a stop.
            Pelicans landing 2-20121201

Pelican water ski landing 20121201

They haul out on a rock to dry off and bathe in the morning sun.

Pelican arrangement 20121201

 A Tricolored Heron demonstrates its landing technique, putting on the air brakes.            
Tricolored Heron landing 20121201

Not to overlook the "little guys, " we visit the woodlands along the canal. We find this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 20121203

Another gnatcatcher hovers as it gleans insects from the foliage.
                                       Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 20121201

It dives to snatch an insect in mid-air.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3-20121201

Scores of Northern Mockingbirds are already defending nesting territories in the shrubs that border the wetlands.

Northern Mockingbird 20121205

Yellow-rumped Warblers, migrants from the north, have become fairly common. (The spiral ribbon was probably what remained of a party balloon carried here by the winds.)

Yellow-rumped Warbler 2-20121205

A Blue Jay tries to find out how many acorns will fit in its beak and gullet.

Blue Jay 20121205 

 The Jay flies up to an extinct electric cable.

Blue Jay 2-20121205

A White Peacock butterfly lends its beauty to our surroundings.

White Peacock 20121205

A Soldier butterfly, member of the Monarch group, rests on a high stalk of marsh grass.

Soldier 20121205


  1. wow! another fabulous set of photos! i'd love to see a little blue and a tri-color! and the shots of the gnatcatcher are wonderful! i hate to see the vandalism and trash, though.

  2. A brilliant set of photos Ken. I just love that Little Blue heron - not overshadowed in any way to me eyes mainly because I only ever see Little Egrets and Grey Herons.Your first landscape shot is just awesome by the way - are all mornings like that? Worth an early rise for that. Shame about the "plonkers", or worse as we call them who go through life as if the natural world is of no significance to them - until man destroys the World.

  3. A fantastic collection of photos! The spoonbill is such a fascinating bird! I have never seen one!

  4. Thanks!
    @Phil-- those colorful sunrises will become less common as we go into the dry season. I shot this one because I saw green in the sky. Hey, "Plonkers," a new vocabulary word for me!

  5. you can call me jealous!! You have blue jays in Florida?!!! So, how come they're not here in Corpus?!!! I'm bummed.

    Love the gnatcatcher action shots and I most definitely enjoyed your commentary this week...along with the neighborhood sunrise - stunning sky.

    Thanks for linking up at the Bird D'Pot this weekend. Have a great week ahead.

  6. Ken, Awesome birds and photos. The Spoonbills and Little Blue are some of my favorites. Great post!

  7. Great shots, I always struggle to fet thar Blue-grey Gnatcatcher they are so fast.

  8. Beautiful Series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  9. Thanks!
    @Anni-- I didn't realize that the range of the Blue Jay does not quite extend down to the Corpus Christi area. We did not have them when we lived in the mountains of New Mexico, either, though a straggler once showed up in our yard.

  10. I don't know where to begin, Ken. So many fabulous images! I love the big wading birds. I am sorry about the destruction left behind by some rowdy youths- I guess there's not much you can do about except document it

  11. So many great shots! I love the white pelican shots and that little gray jumping is pretty funny.

  12. What a fabulous set of photos, Ken!

  13. All great photos but the birds in flight are especially nice. That little Gnatcatcher is amazing! Litter like that is horrible and happens everywhere. I found someone had apparently gone out to the sandspit I wrote about this week and dropped an empty bottle out there as well!

  14. Great set of pictures (of the birds!).

    Some people really don't get it!

    cheers and thinks for linking to WBW.

    Stewart M - Melbourne

  15. WAU - where some great pictures you show.
    Beautiful new blog you've got.
    Wish you a good day :)
    Hanne Bente

  16. the birds and photos you share are amazing. The gnatcatcher might be amall but I love that image where it is hovering. :)

  17. Well, once again, hard to pick a favorite. Gnatcatcher in action, Little Blue Heron is one of my favorite birds, colorful spoonbills, pelicans landing......sigh. Nice job! Enjoyable post.


  18. Such a beautiful array of bird photos here, Ken. I love those rosy colored spoonbills- fantastic mid-air Gnatcher captures- sassy Snowy egret and poor Little Blue.
    I'm irritated and saddened by those mindless creatures of destruction!

  19. A beautiful extravaganza of birds Ken! Your photos are exceptional as always but I must say the shots of the Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are just unbelievable!

    I love the new look of the blog. Is the background a shot from the Hammock?

  20. Thanks all!
    @Wally-- I removed a duplicate post. Need to familiarize myself with the workings of Blogger-- it makes it look as if there was something objectionable. By all means, no!
    @Larry-- the background is one of the standard Blogger template images. My "fake hammock" had gotten to look like a sorry place with the vandalism and removal of the 5 large trees that shaded its center. It is now overgrown with tall grasses.

  21. I love Florida! Can't wait to get out and do some birding now that we're back.

  22. Of course I should have added that I love Florida except for the "wreck-reationists" which is a good title for those people who use the outdoors as their personal dump...they give the rest of us people a bad name! Unfortunatly, that ilk is found in every state as I am sure you know already.

  23. Gosh, that's a lot of beauty in one post! Wow.


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