March 14, 2019
Mel and I have been in Florida for almost two months now and have been to most of the local nature preserves and trails multiple times– plus a few of the far away ones at least once. It’s getting harder and harder to find new places to visit, especially when we are reluctant to battle the traffic. But yesterday, we headed out early in the morning hoping to avoid ‘rush hour’ and drove northeast for about 40 miles to Morris Bridge Park in Thonotosassa, Florida.
We arrived at Morris Bridge early enough to enjoy a few minutes of the ‘golden hour’ of sunlight as it illuminated a beautiful anhinga. Its wings were spread wide to capture the morning rays. What a lovely sight! We just kept snapping pictures hoping to catch at least one that we might be happy with.
A little farther down the boardwalk and through the dense mangroves, I spotted a limpkin pecking around for oysters and apple snails. Most of the time he was so deep into the shade that he was hard to photograph. Eventually, though, he wandered into a little patch of sunlight and I took a few shots.
The Limpkin diet “is almost exclusively apple snails, which it deftly finds and opens with the aid of a bent and twisted bill tip, leaving characteristic piles of unbroken snail shells.” I attempted to get an artistic shot of one of these empty, unbroken apple snail shells but failed to notice, when I took the picture, that there was an ugly pop can tab right next to the shell! (But it’s good for size comparison!)
After Morris Bridge, we headed down the road to Lettuce Lake Park. The unusual name of ‘Lettuce Lake’ comes from the floating plant life in the lake that seemed to resemble lettuce for the person who originally named the lake. Hmmm. I would have gone with something a little more interesting, I think.
At any rate, it was a great place to visit! Even though Mel and I didn’t see many birds yesterday, we kept busy trying to capture damselfies and dragonflies–of which there were many! Picture this: both of us perched on the edge of the boardwalk with our long 600mm lenses leaning over the railing and down into the swamp while other visitors would stop and look to where our cameras were pointing wondering where the heck the alligators were! When we tried to point out to them an all-but-invisible damselfly, we got mostly blank looks–probably because a 600 meter lens looks like overkill for a damselfly, or a more likely scenario: alligators are just much more interesting to most people.
Just before leaving the park, I spotted a small songbird in the tree ahead of me and hoped my camera was on the right settings as I clicked away. Surprisingly, it was and I captured a relatively decent shot of a bird I’ve never even heard of before, let alone seen– a Northern Parula!!
This small warbler is often hard to see as it forages in dense foliage of the treetops. Northern Parulas hide their nests inside hanging Spanish moss in the South, where they are impossible to spot except by the actions of the parent birds.
Between the stunning anhinga at Morris Bridge Park, the abundant sunshine, and the elusive Northern Parula, it felt like the old song lyrics,‘Just another day in Paradise’!