Wednesday, May 13, 2009
A water lily near Watermelon Pond, in southwest Alachua County.
The academic year is finally over. I'm done with lecturing and grading (and dealing with the aftermath of grading—hell hath no fury like a B+ student), and now I can finally focus on my own research. And birds.
The former pursuit has gone productively this week. The latter, not so much: just when my schedule has opened up, spring migration has come to an end. How cruel is that?
Still, ordinary resident birds are better than no birds at all. A former colleague and avid birder once told me—years before I started birding officially—that there's no such thing as a boring bird. And it's true: even the most common of birds, if you watch it long enough, will do something really twisted.
But this week's birding was so uneventful that the most notable thing any bird did for me was stay still while I photographed it. On Sunday at La Chua Trail, it was wall-to-wall alligators, and few interesting birds (although I heard the unmistakable—and unseasonable—honking of Sandhill Cranes in the distance, I only saw them briefly, flying high overhead.). For a while, all I saw were noisy Red-winged Blackbirds. They were all over the place, and they really are quite pretty:
The warm weather also brought out the butterflies: I think this is a Gulf Fritillary—mostly because every orange butterfly out here turns out to be a Gulf Fritillary. And it looks like the pictures in my seriously underused copy of Butterflies of Florida Field Guide (Our Nature Field Guides)
Even when the birding is dull, the rest of the natural world continues to reveal its surprises. On Saturday, Alachua Audubon had a field trip to Watermelon Pond, which had evaporated into a mere puddle (there was a prominent boat ramp that led to a dry grassy field.) But in the middle of this field was what was left of the pond: our trip leader said this was an alligator hole: the resident gators had dug deep and wide to ensure enough water for themselves until the rainy season resumes, in July. This puddle was probably filled with 10-footers:
And it won't be long before I head back to California for the summer! I can't wait to see my husband again. And my Black Phoebes and Anna's and Costa's Hummingbirds. And get some decent Chinese food for a change.
But I'll miss the Northern Cardinals and Carolina Chickadees at my feeder, and the dive-bombing Mississippi Kites soaring above my neighborhood.
I guess I'm lucky to be able to get all of this—even if I can't get it all at the same time.