August 14 – BOTD – Catbird

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s  Bird of the Day (BOTD) challenge.

Gray Catbird perched on a branch
Gray Catbird perched on a branch

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s  Bird of the Day (BOTD) challenge.

The gray catbird has its name for good reason. The sound that comes from this elusive fellow sounds just like a cat in heat. You would think, oh it is just another gray bird, but when you get it in focus with the binoculars or your camera lens, you see that famous black mohawk on the top of its head. I think I will call this the “Mr. T” of the birding world.

August 13 – BOTD – Common Yellowthroat

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s  Bird of the Day (BOTD) challenge.

Common Yellowthroat
Male Common Yellowthroat

The Common Yellowthroat is a very hard songbird to get in focus. They will flit & flutter from branch to branch. This male sat pretty on this branch just long enough for me to get the shot.

August 12 – BOTD – Anhinga

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s  Bird of the Day (BOTD) challenge.

Anhinga sunning to dry out those feathers.

One of our favorite resident birds in Florida. They are often referred to a snake birds because they will dive for their food and reappear with that long neck coast along the water. To learn more about these awesome feathered friends, check them out on Wikipedia.

Also another great read is from Audubon about how climate change is changing the range of these birds. Rare bird sightings maybe the new norm.

The Perfect Country & Western Song

My submission for Song Lyric Sunday – Name Dropping. A Unique Title for Me

My country roots brought us here today. There wasn’t a honky tonk in the 80’s that didn’t have a cover band playing this song at least twice in one night. Those were the days.

You Never Even Called Me by My Name – David Allan Coe

Well, it was all That I could do to keep from crying’
Sometimes it seemed so useless to remain
But you don’t have to call me darlin’, darlin’
You never even called me by my name

You don’t have to call me Waylon Jennings
And you don’t have to call me Charlie Pride
And you don’t have to call me Merle Haggard anymore
Even though you’re on my fighting’ side

And I’ll hang around as long as you will let me
And I never minded standing’ in the rain
But you don’t have to call me darlin’, darlin’
You never even called me by my name

Well, I’ve heard my name
A few times in your phone book (hello, hello)
And I’ve seen it on signs where I’ve played
But the only time I know
I’ll hear “David Allan Coe
Is when Jesus has his final judgment day

So I’ll hang around as long as you will let me
And I never minded standing’ in the rain
But you don’t have to call me darlin’, darlin’
You never even called me by my name

Well, a friend of mine named Steve Goodman wrote that song
And he told me it was the perfect country & western song
I wrote him back a letter and I told him it was not the perfect country & western song 
Because he hadn’t said anything at all about mama
Or trains, or trucks, or prison, or getting’ drunk
Well, he sat down and wrote another verse to the song and he sent it to me
And after reading it I realized that my friend had written the perfect country & western song
And I felt obliged to include it on this album
The last verse goes like this here

Well, I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison
And I went to pick her up in the rain
But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck
She got run over by a damned old train

And I’ll hang around as long as you will let me
And I never minded standing’ in the rain, no
But you don’t have to call me darlin’, darlin’
You never even called me
Well, I wonder why you don’t call me
Why don’t you ever call me by my name

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: John Prine / Steve Goodman

You Never Even Called Me by My Name lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

FOTD – Mexican Petunias

Here is my entry for Cee’s  Flower of the Day (FOTD) challenge.

Mexican Petunia
Mexican Petunias

The Mexican Petunia is drought tolerant & multiplies pretty quickly. It blooms during the day and by late afternoon, early evening, all the flowers have fallen off until the next day. Throughout the year, they will continue to bloom, but during the summer they are at their peak. They are visited by bees and butterflies…and the occasional hummingbird. Hummingbirds prefer the other flowers specific to them in the other gardens. Mexican Petunias are a beautiful contrast to the other foliage that shapes our front yard.

Circle of Life

One of the most alluring things about nature is the unexpected. This great wondrous creation, that we’ve been gifted, is constantly changing with surprises around every turn. Many of the special places we write about are favorites we return to again and again, excited with the knowledge there’s a chance we’ll see something truly special. That’s where our story leads us today and as the saying goes, expect the unexpected.

Red Maple Boardwalk, University of North Florida
Entrance to the Nature Trail at the University of North Florida

Two weeks ago, we were hiking down the Red Maple Boardwalk nature trail. The trail is part of the University of North Florida’s Environmental Center and is an integral component of the Sawmill Slough Preserve. With 382 acres and approximately 5 miles of trails it’s a true treasure and an important natural area inside the Jacksonville city limits. Please look forward to more information on the preserve, nature center and trails in future posts.

University of Florida Lake
University of North Florida Lake

It was about 2pm and the sky was grey and spitting rain off and on. There was a nice breeze to keep the bugs down and the temperature was warm, unlike the blazing sweat producing sweltering heat and humidity of a normal July day in Northeast FL. In other words, the weather was perfect for an afternoon jaunt through the woods in search of our avian friends. With our binoculars attached securely to our bodies & cameras in hand, we set off on our adventure of the unknown.

The boardwalk borders the entire southern end of a beautiful lake and has a raised loop in the middle that circles through a mixed wetland forest. We walked down the the boardwalk and took the loop through the woods. This eco-system is full of all types of lush green foliage, vines, palmettos, hard woods and soft woods. We had the entire trail to ourselves accompanied only by the sites, sounds and smells of what could have been an ancient southern forest. These are truly special moments when the worries of the day to day world melt away and we become part of nature itself.

Pileated Woodpecker
We missed the shot at UNF, but this is a photo of a Pileated Woodpecker taken at
Timucuan Preserve (more on that coming soon)

We observed a Pileatted Woodpecker high in a pine tree searching for his next meal. They are the largest woodpeckers in North America (except for the Ivory-bill which are considered extinct) black and white with a beautiful large flaming crest. That’s right, they look like Woody Woodpecker. Next, we came into a flush of migratory birds mixed with our local residents.

One of the really exciting things about birding is sometimes you can walk for the longest time and see almost nothing and all of a sudden there’s a group of birds. Usually if there’s one species, you’ll see other species as well. It’s beautiful and rewarding to see how different types of birds work together to keep each other safe. A lesson that would prove poignant later on during our afternoon escapade.

We continued down the boardwalk and turned right on the trail that circles the rest of the lake. On the other side is a bridge that takes you to an island. I stepped onto the bridge and crossed slowly as there were 3 turtles sunning themselves on a piece of wood in the water near the bridge. While I took a moment to watch them, a snapper turtle splashed out of the water just under the bridge where I was standing. He was a big un’ and fun to see!

Red-tailed hawk on the ground with a baby cardinal in its talons
Frank is only about 8 feet from the Red-tailed hawk.

When I finally crossed the bridge, Frank had been over on the island for a bit & I noted that he was off to my right. When I looked over at him, he motioned for me to be quiet & approach with caution. Instead of turning right off the bridge, I continued forward & flanked him after I walked about 100 ft. It was at that moment that I saw what had him paused & pulling his camera from his pack.

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed hawk

There on the ground about 8 ft from where Frank was standing was a red- tailed hawk. At first I thought it was injured as it was hopping around on the ground. This was certainly a rare situation. Most birds of prey will fly off into a tree as humans approach, but not this guy. I started clicking off shots & shooting video. What I couldn’t see was what the hawk had in its talons on the ground. Now the hopping made sense but I still didn’t know what was on the ground.

With us standing right there, the hawk flew from the ground to a lower branch of the small tree in front of us and covered something. As it covered its wings around the branches, I knew it was a nest. The male & female cardinals were chirping up a storm, fluttering from bush to bush and flying in and out of the tree, trying anything they could to distract the hawk. Nothing worked and my heart sank.

Any video that I was taking at this point became pointless. I was shaking and upset and feeling sick. Now I know as much as anyone who loves being out in nature, that hawks have to eat too. The balance of nature and the circle of life is what it is. Even with that knowledge, this was difficult for us to see.

Love Bird posed on drift wood
Tweety, our Love Bird had a great personality.

As hard as that was to witness, the death of those baby birds wasn’t the part that made me sick. I was reliving a terrible memory of what happened in my life 12 years ago. Our beautiful beloved love bird Tweety was sunning himself on his perch in the backyard after his bath. Out of nowhere, Tweety was knocked off his perch and onto the ground by a red-tailed hawk. The same thing happened. The hawk covered him with its ginormous wing span & flew away with him in the grips of its talons. Just like the cardinals, it happened right in front of me and there was nothing I could do about it.

Male Cardinal in a bush
Defeated Male Cardinal after the Red-tailed Hawk cleaned out the nest.

As nature promptly broke our hearts when we saw the circle of life happen before our eyes, it made the moment we had seen earlier so special. We saw Cardinals, Tufted Titmice, Carolina wrens, Carolina chicadees and Yellow-Throated Warblers…five different bird species working together in the woods. They traveled from tree to tree eating, resting and watching out for each other as if they were a family.

When we see and live experiences like we had this day, we feel alive and a part of something so precious and so special. As we like to say, open your eyes to your surroundings and see what is really there. You never know what’s around the corner.

August 10 – BOTD – Canada Goose

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s  Bird of the Day (BOTD) challenge.

Canada Goose at Perdue Pond in Jacksonville, FL

Perdue Pond used to be on our schedule of birding hot spots in North Jacksonville near the airport. We would find all kinds of waterfowl. Depending on the time of year, we would see Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallards, Mottled Ducks, Domestic Geese, Redheads, Buffleheads, Pied-Billed Grebes, Northern Pintails, Blue-Winged Teal, American Coots, the rare American Black Duck that took up residence for a few years and of course the Canada Goose. Several years in a row, we observed a Snow Goose flying over in the winter. However, in recent trips this past winter and spring, there was not a single bird on the pond. I have to wonder why?

August 9 – BOTD – Black- Crowned Night Heron

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s  Bird of the Day (BOTD) challenge.

Black-Crowned Night Heron at Lettuce Lake Park, Tampa FL

The Black-crowned night heron is generally seen at dusk or night time, however, they get out throughout the day in Florida. This photo was taken in the middle of the day. To learn more, check out the link at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

August 8 – BOTD – Smooth-Billed Ani

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s  Bird of the Day (BOTD) challenge.

Smooth-Billed Ani at Little Talbot State Park, Jacksonville, FL

The Smooth-Billed Ani is a member of the cuckoo family. It is a resident from southern Floridathe Bahamas, the Caribbean, parts of Central America, south to western EcuadorBrazil, and northern Argentina. How it made its way to North Florida is a true mystery & was rare bird for around these parts. This bird hung out at the park for weeks at the end of 2018 & beginning of 2019. We went back several times just to catch a glimpse one more time. We were able to see it 4 times in 4 separate trips before we didn’t see it any longer. This was a life bird for us and we were able to put it on our count for both years.

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge

Blue Angels performing at Jacksonville Beach during air show.

My entry for this week’s photo challenge.

I don’t go to many air shows & it’s been 10 years since I’ve been. Seeing the Blue Angels in all their glory was on my bucket list. After 12 years in the Marine Corps, I never had a chance to see these F-18’s so close to my personal space. They soared with precision & with a huge smile on my face I could barely hold my camera still. My experience was especially awesome because this event is free & over the Atlantic Ocean. I shot these pics with my Nikon D50 (god rest it’s soul) & a 300mm telephoto lens. Very amatuer camera but took awesome photos…I was just starting out.

If you’ve never seen the US Navy’s Blue Angels, please take the time to do it. Live in or near the Jacksonville area or planning a trip, the Sea and Sky Air Show is October 26-27, 2019. Don’t miss your opportunity to see an incredible spectacle for yourself that will leave your adreline pumping for hours and a memory that will last a lifetime.

Blue Angels, Jacksonville Beach – 11/9/2009
Jez Braithwaite

Taking the camera for a walk!!!

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