Tag: Birding

I’ve been “for the birds” most of my life…


The Pileated Woodpecker inspired one of my favorite childhood cartoon characters, Woody Woodpecker. Not only could I see examples of those majestic birds daily in the woods along the ranch’s creek as I walked to and from the bus stop on State Road 62, but I also often saw one or more of the other common woodpecker species flitting about in the shadows of the oaks and pines:  the Downy, Hairy, Northern Flicker, Pileated, Red-Headed, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers.




From “Cranes,” the 23rd chapter of Growing Up Floridian:


My interest in “birding” or birdwatching began at age six when my maternal grandmother made her first visit to the ranch in Manatee County from her Springfield, Massachusetts home to see her daughter and grandkids. As she and I walked along my favorite haunt, the ranch’s dark, lazy creek, a flash of black, white, and tantalizing red cast a flickering shadow amongst the water oaks and lit at the base of a huge pine tree. Gram grabbed my shoulder, squeezed, and pointed silently at the crimson crested head of a crow-sized bird who confidently hopped about the tree trunk in an upward spiral.

“That’s a pileated woodpecker,” she whispered.

“I see them all the time, but I never knew what to call them. So, I just call them big hammers. Smaller birds that act the same I call little hammers. There are four of five different ones.”

Two weeks after Gram returned to New England, she sent my first copy of Peterson’s Field Guide to Eastern Birds, which allowed me to attach accurate names to many more soaring, darting, flitting shadows that populated my rural boyhood wanderings. The pileated, red-bellied, red-headed, hairy, and downy woodpeckers, described in great detail and compared with one another in the text, became more tangible and ordered in my mind.



Sandhill Crane population seems healthy locally

Seven different pairs of Sandhill Cranes herded offspring around the River Run Golf Course last Friday. The chicks ranged in size from about 10 inches to over 4 feet tall. Two family groups less than 100 yards apart loudly proclaimed their rights to the territory for about five minutes. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission contends the resident population of Florida Sandhill Cranes is between 4 and 5 thousand birds, while another 25,000 greater Sandhill Cranes migrate to Florida in the winter. There are six subspecies of Sandhill cranes—greater, lesser, Florida, Cuban, Mississippi and Canadian with the Cuban, Mississippi and Florida subspecies of Sandhill cranes being non-migratory. National Wildlife Federation link with subspecies info.


Link to Will McLean’s “Courtship of the Sandhill Crane


From the 23rd chapter of Growing Up Floridian :

The loud rattling kar-r-r-r-o-o-o I often heard at sunrise as a boy on the central Florida ranch immediately brought to mind the image of an elegant, gray bird of almost five feet in height that stalked both the marshes and flat open land I roamed. The long black bill, white cheeks, and brilliant red cap marked the sandhill crane as the classiest member of my favorite Florida birds. Long running strides the bird used at takeoff coupled with the powerful wing strokes that propelled the crane aloft were athletic moves which defined the stately bird as a beautiful symbol of wild Florida.

Although I often saw Sandhill Cranes on golf courses up and down the state in later years, my most enjoyable view as a child was a sunrise takeoff when several of the birds were silhouetted against the red-orange sky as they gave their rolling calls that bounced off the tree line and came echoing back. Several others wading in a marsh below, would looked up, and give an answering call. Several times in more recent years, I have observed a pair of cranes sail overhead across I-75 into the sunset as I returned to Florida from a trip north. Each of these sights was a classic National Geographic moment I have enjoyed over and over again.

%d bloggers like this: