Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Arabesque," egrets in flight

Another beautiful day in paradise. This is what living in southern Florida is like; there's always something to see, another new thing to learn, a wealth of nature's bounty right at my doorstep.

Today was no different. The Alligator Flag are in full bloom. This large leafed plant may grow up to 12 feet tall, sprouting slender stalks of odd-shaped purple flowers at its peak. The winter snowbirds who flock to our community usually miss their bright green leaves which frame the ponds and lakes from June through November.

Sometimes called arrowroot or fireflag, the plant announces the beginning of the summer season, and the end of fall when they wither into wheat-colored shards, dry and crisp.

Next to the flag is a gray wood piling that juts from the pond and serves as perch for the anhingas in the area. Today a new bird paid a visit. At first I thought it was a snowy egret, but noticed that the bill was shorter and thicker. The legs were blackish, but without the yellow feet attached. The bird was also too small for an egret.

I filed away an image of the bird in my head until I could refer to my audubon guide. According to the description, my visitor was an "immature" little blue heron. My reading explained why the legs didn't look black; they were actually a "dull slaty olive." In time, this juvenile will sprout the slate-blue wings and body of its parent and the long purplish back and head plumes of courtship.

As I walked past the second lake on my journey, a piercing "killdee" turned my head. Three killdeer, members of the plover family, had seen me before I had seen them. They scissor-stepped across the grass, heading closer to water's edge; their ear-piercing shrieks loud in my ears.

The killdeer are brown above and white below, with two black-striped chest bands; a striking contrast against the brilliant white chest feathers. Up close, the killdeer's black eyes pop out against a red backdrop. Even in flight their high-pitched song is unmistakable.

This is the same lake that inspired my painting: "Arabesque," named for the graceful white egrets that frequent the area. Landing, lifting, or flying across the lake, their movements resemble a graceful dance.

Brilliant white feathers make a striking contrast against the blue-green waters and the copse of trees in the background.

Arabesque" is a 14x18 oil on canvas with barnwood frame; for sale at $275 plus shipping. Giclees, prints, or cards may be purchased at: