Rhythm

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Lately I’ve been considering why it is I find birding so continuously fascinating, and even addicting. Of course there’s the beauty of the birds, the thrill of finding them (especially rarities), and the challenge of learning to identify them.

I also have great interest in learning about their behavior–why they act the way they do. It’s a fascinating endeavor.

But recently I’ve become more aware of another reason why I’m fascinated by birding–the rhythms of nature.

Painted Bunting – One of my favorite migrants, though we get to see these all winter long as well.

Bald Eagle – Bald Eagles are residents here in Florida, and they breed here, but thin out in the summer time.This one stole a Rock Pigeon from a Cooper’s Hawk and flew off with it.

I’m growing in my appreciation and understanding of this aspect of birding–I certainly have not arrived. But year after year, I’m starting to at least appreciate the rhythms of nature in Florida and how it affects my birding.

Northern Parula – These warblers breed here, but they are also one of our earliest migrants, and a few actually winter here

Peninsular Florida has a rainy and a dry season. We talk about the four seasons, and I suppose you could say we experience them to some degree, but October to May is our dry season and June to September is rainy. So our summers as hot and wet and our winters are relatively cool and dry. As you might imagine, our dry season is my favorite time for birding.

Louisiana Waterthrush – One of our early migrants in both Spring and Fall


Bay-breasted Warbler – It seems like the third week of October is the prime time to find this bird.

Interestingly, I’m learning that at least some birds are migrating to or through Florida throughout most of the year. Warblers begin to arrive here in February and continue through May, with a few staying to breed. Then as early as July, Fall migration begins. Shorebirds start coming through in July, and warblers begin to trickle through. By September, migration is in full swing. Here on the eastern side of the state, there’s almost a predictable order for when you can expect to see certain species. Some come over a wide range of dates, like American Redstarts, and others seem to come through very quickly, like Bay-breasted Warblers; if you blink, you might miss them. Flycatchers, tanagers, thrushes and other songbirds also come through during this time.

Saltmarsh Sparrow – In the right habitat, it seems like the first half hour after sunrise is the best time to find these guys

Grasshopper Sparrow – On cool, crisp, sunny and windless mornings, you might just find one of these perched out in the open

As October draws to a close, we see far fewer warblers, but then we have the fun of seeing more and more sparrows coming through. And then in November and December we can look forward to ducks and finally gulls coming through to spend the winter here. This is also the time that we can look forward to vagrants coming here to spend the winter with us.

Northern Pintail – Many winter here

Black-legged Kittiwake

From mid-May through July, I can devote a great deal of my birding time to searching for breeding birds. June is probably the quietest month of the year, and one of the hottest, but it’s still fun to see what may have decided to breed in the area.

Brown-headed Nuthatch – These wonderful birds breed in pine forests near my home

Carolina Chickadee

The winter months though are also a great deal of fun. It’s dry, and you can walk around without sweating. And it seems like there are always vagrants to be found. Sometimes the same bird comes back to the same general area every year.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher – This one has come back to the same park (and almost the same tree) and spent the winter here four years running.

The rhythms of nature now fill and inform my birding calendar. They tell me the places to visit and the species I should look for. These rhythms also give me a greater a greater appreciation for the place I live. It’s a beautiful world we live in, and birding helps me see that more and more.

Scott Simmons

Scott Simmons

Scott Simmons, based in Florida, is a lover of nature, landscape, and wildlife photography. Scott became interested in photography in 2001 when he was given his first SLR camera. When he acquired a telephoto lens, he became progressively more interested in birds and other wildlife. Scott enjoys learning about bird habitats and behavior, striving always to take images that are both beautiful and interpretive. Scott believes photography is a great vehicle to help others to appreciate the wonder for the stuff of earth.

Scott Simmons

Scott Simmons

Scott Simmons, based in Florida, is a lover of nature, landscape, and wildlife photography. Scott became interested in photography in 2001 when he was given his first SLR camera. When he acquired a telephoto lens, he became progressively more interested in birds and other wildlife. Scott enjoys learning about bird habitats and behavior, striving always to take images that are both beautiful and interpretive. Scott believes photography is a great vehicle to help others to appreciate the wonder for the stuff of earth.

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Tim Walker

A nice piece of prose – thanks!