Crayon green linear leaves sprout from underground bulbs amid the knees of a cypress tree growing in the shallow water at the edge of Lake Tsala Apopka. Amid this attractive foliage, snow white flowers bloom on the end of long green stalks in the Florida sunshine. The blooming of the spider lily is a welcome sign of spring and one that we look forward to each year.
Chickadees sing and cardinals whistle around us as Anne and I walk in our community here in Central Florida. Although it is January, the days are growing longer causing hormones to surge through birds’ bodies stimulating males to begin the task of setting up nesting territories to attract mates.
A mockingbird stands guard atop a hedgerow of shrubs nervously looking in different directions. Have seen it here a few days now. Perhaps it is setting up shop here for nesting.
It will be a place to keep an eye on. It will provide good photographic opportunities, but it also may be a place to keep our distance from. Once eggs are hatched the adult birds will fiercely defend their young against any and all threats.
Revelers will be celebrating a new year in urban jungles around the world. In various venues in Orlando, Florida, confetti will fly, fireworks will explode and people will cheer.
On New Year Eve’s morning in a central Florida wetland, I find several black vultures sitting on a railing oblivious to our traditions, look them in the eye and wish them a happy new year. These large black birds turn and tilt their heads as if they are trying to understand what I am saying. For these vultures, it will just be another night.
It is mid-December with blizzard conditions in the mid-west, lake effect snows in the Great Lakes and a six-inch blanket of snow on the suburban lawns of Long Island, New York. A polar vortex powers its way south into the U.S causing temperatures in the teens with highs in the 20s. Many birds have fled the icy north and are “vacationing” in Central and South America. Birds that have remained in the north are well adapted to the adversity of the weather.
On this mid-December day, Florida refuses to participate in winter. It is sunny, 85 degrees and quite humid. White Ibis rest on the edge of a lake oblivious to the challenges of their counterparts in the north. Their only concern is to watch for gators that want to make a meal of them. It is a peaceful and relaxing scene.
Anne and I decided to take a break from holiday shopping and preparations by riding into the central Florida countryside. We drove past cattle ranches, long leaf pine farms, orange groves and a vineyard. When we reached Clermont, we discovered a U-Pick Orange Grove and decided to check it out.
A short walk from the parking lot, through and out the back of the country store, we were in the grove. Rows and rows and rows of citrus trees as far as the eye could see were laden with lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit. Some of the mature produce had fallen to the ground leaving behind fruit in varying degrees of ripening.
Flower buds, tricked into “thinking” it was spring by the warm December sun, bloomed attracting honeybees to sip the sweet nectar.
Back at the country store, Anne browsed the shelves of orange blossom honey, homemade soaps and local orange and citrus infused wines. She bought a few items to give as Christmas presents. It was a hot, humid day so I decided to pick the oranges in the store bins that were already harvested from the grove. We left, refreshed, relaxed and ready to cope with life’s challenges.
It is early November in central Florida and although the evenings are cool, the days warm quickly with the rising sun. By mid-morning Gulf fritillaries, orange brown butterflies, visit Firebush shrubs in our backyard. These butterflies pour into the Florida peninsula for the winter retreating to frost free areas in the southern part of the state where they overwinter. Not sure how long they will remain here, but I will enjoy watching them until they move on.
Deep violet blossoms pepper a dark Cypress forest giving the shady woodland some pleasing color. Each flower’s dark violet center guides bumblebees to the flower’s nectar. As it leans in for the nectar, the bee’s legs rub against pollen and by default, pollinates the plants when it flies from flower to flower. By noon, the flowers close and new ones will open the following morning providing a welcome sight in the Central Florida woodlands.