Florida Wading Birds and Low Winter Sun
Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) at the Lake Jesup Wilderness Area
in Seminole County, Florida
I don't know if this little guy only had one leg or if he was holding one leg up to warm it from
the cool weather. Today was the first shot of cool air to infiltrate Central Florida in a year.
Snowy Egrets are among the most elegant of the herons, the slender Snowy Egret sets off immaculate white plumage with black legs and brilliant yellow feet.
Click on any image for a larger view
While we have escaped any freezing temperatures there has been ample early morning frost caused by radiational cooling. The frost doesn't last long, but it is damaging enough to burn some tropical foliage
Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major) at a mooring on the St. Johns River
The glossy blue-black males of this species are hard to miss as they haul their long tails around or display from marsh grasses or telephone wires. The rich, dark-brown females are half the size of males and look almost like a different species. Boat-tailed Grackles take advantage of human activity in increasingly bulldozed Florida, scavenging trash and hanging out in busy urban areas away from predators.
Great Egret (Ardea alba) in the Lake Jesup Wilderness Area
The elegant Great Egret is a dazzling sight in Florida wetlands.
Great Egrets hunt in classic heron fashion, standing immobile or wading through wetlands to capture fish with a deadly jab of their yellow bill. Great Egrets were huntend nearly to extinction for their plumes in the late 19th century, sparking conservation movements and some of the first laws to protect birds.
Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) in the Lake Jesup Wilderness Area
A small, dark heron arrayed in moody blues and purples, the Little Blue Heron is a common but inconspicuous resident of marshes and estuaries in Florida. They stalkj shallow waters for small fish and amphibians, adopting a quiet, methodical approach that can make these beautiful herons surprisingly easy to overlook at first glance. Little Blue Herons build stick nests in trees alongside other waterbirds. Their numbers are in decline due to relentless development.
Lake Jesup Wilderness Area
The Lake Jesup Wilderness Area is kind of a misnomer. It is a 500-odd acres site located on the north shore of Lake Jesup just west of a massive tollroad (SR 417, Greenway). The property was purchased for the purpose of preserving habitat to aid in restoration of Lake Jesup.
I am quite fond of the palm forests composed mainly of Sabal palmettos (above). These trees remind me of the Florida of my youth. One should not go walking in this area without proper protection from bugs (mosquitoes, spiders), snakes (all kinds), and alligators. I always wear thick leather boots whether it is hot or cold, to protect against all things that would like to bite.
There are also some impressive Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) in the wetlands, some so old their limbs reach back to touch the ground (above).
There are about 3 miles of trails in the wilderness area that are periodically flooded. One might expect to see Anhinga, Bald Eagle, Floria Box Turtles and many Alligators as they traverse the extensive flood plain of the shallow lake.
What is most amazing is that this exists only a stone's throw from one of the busiest toll-roads in Central Florida. So, wilderness? Not so much.
There are few trees without leaves in Florida this winter. These Black Cherry trees (Prunus serotina) are confused. Some have lost most or all of their leaves, some have lost a few leaves, and some are in full bloom with new leaves. It has been a very warm winter.
At 29° N. Latitude the sun still casts some long shadows at mid-day, even in late January. At its max the sun reaches an altitude of 42.5° in the southern sky in late January across Central Florida.
The low winter sun reflects off of all sorts of surfaces, especially water (below)
and clouds (above).
. . .and shines low through the Live Oaks at mid-day. Notice how green we remain despite recent frost. Especially under tree cover the frost has little chance of forming.
Below, a spider's web catches the low winter sun.
Below, the sun shines through stratocumulus clouds that have been parted by a pair of jets passing overhead.
More sunlight (below) shining through the thick foilage of a tangerine tree. These wild tangerines are one of the few species of citrus that have survived the plague of citrus greening that is wreaking havoc with Florida citrus.
St. Johns River Landing
Above, a panorama of the St. Johns River landing near home. Below, the same shot with a filter looking directly into the sun as boaters prepare to launch into the river on a warm January afternoon (Click on the image for a larger view).