PEGGY SIAS LANTZ

Author, Editor, and Florida Master Naturalist

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Around the Year at Lake Lucy

These early experiences have influenced my life and my writing.

One year I was given a blank book and it became a journal of things that happened in my woodsy area around Lake Lucy in 1984. I didn’t write in it every day, but I put down the special things I noticed as I walked down the dusty lane for the morning newspaper and the afternoon mail or down by the lake.

These are some of the entries.

In January “the ferns and vines and grasses were all dead and brown, leaving everything looking open.I heard the Red-tailed Hawk kreeing loudly, a low-pitched raspy drawn-out cry, and toward the lake the Yellow-rumped Warblers were beginning to migrate through.” They used to be called Myrtle Warblers, because they would flock to the wax myrtle shrubs and eat the gray, waxy-coated berries.

One day I watched a Great Blue Heron try to swallow a fish it had caught. The fish was too big, but the heron kept trying. Wading birds have to throw their catch in the air and swallow it head-first so the fins don’t stick on the way down.The bird picked it up, set it down, lay it on the grass, put it back in the water, tossed it, caught it – over and over. Finally – I must have watched for ten or fifteen minutes – the heron flew away, leaving the fish on the shore. I walked down to see if the fish were still alive, but it was gone. It must have flopped itself back into the water.

“One of the arching live oaks near the house died, and we cut it down. What would people think if they knew I wept for a tree?”

I totaled the rainfall I had recorded each day the year before in 1983. It was 64.52 inches for the year. “A wet one.”

That day “a couple of Killdeer swooped by at dusk.”

Another day I found our resident ‘possum sleeping under a hollow tree. “Only its furry gray back showed. I retrieved my camera and apologized to it before I poked it gently with a stick until it turned its head for a portrait. It showed me ferocious-looking teeth. What good is a dead tree? It’s a cozy day’s rest for an opossum!”

“The migrating birds are flocking in the trees. I have identified a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a Yellow-rumped Warbler, and a Downy Woodpecker, and lots of Flickers and Mockingbirds.”

“I walked down to the bay this morning without looking ahead, and flushed the Green Heron and the Great Blue Heron. They were fishing, and they were very upset with me for disturbing them. I was sorry, too. If I’d been looking I could have watched them longer.”

“On January 26, new growth is sprouting out of the wilted plants. A little bit of rain helps. The bluets in the woods are in bloom. A pair of Carolina Wrens spoke very angrily to me from the saw palmetto as I walked down the lane.Today was beautiful and warm – in the 70s.”

“January 30. Cold, then warm, cold, then warm. It’s 50 degrees this morning and expected to go down into the 30s tonight. But winter lasts only two months. I love Florida!”

“A covey of eleven Bobwhites shuffled through the leaves out of the woods this evening while I was feeding the cat and dog. They crossed the lane, chirping softly, and began scratching in the leaves under the trees.”

And that was just January!

Wouldn’t you like to know what happened in February?

A couple of years later, I used a shortened version of my journal for our Christmas card to our friends and relatives.

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