Evening at Ding Darling

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I do love the summer clouds of Florida.

During our trip to Sanibel Island last week, we also drove through J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge one evening, to compare it with our morning sightings.

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The Roseate Spoonbills were actively feeding.

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Spoonbills feed in shallow waters, walking forward slowly while they swing their heads from side to side, sifting the muck with their wide flat bills.

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Also actively feeding: a Reddish Egret!

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Audubon, Reddish Egret

A conspicuously long-legged, long-necked wader of coastal regions, more tied to salt water than any of our other herons or egrets. Often draws attention by its feeding behavior: running through shallows with long strides, staggering sideways, leaping in air, raising one or both wings, and abruptly stabbing at fish.

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I really got into the Reddish Egrets on this trip. They are the rarest herons in North America and Sanibel is one place you can see them.

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Along for the ride again, the dawg.

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Incidentally, here is one of the dog-friendly things we liked about Sanibel. And it was so hot the whole time that we all needed to drink a lot of water and stay hydrated.

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Reddish Egret looks a little funny head-on.

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Families were also visiting the refuge in the evening, in search of snook. These folks were also watching a manatee.

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We spotted three Reddish Egrets in three different locations, all looking for dinner. All were pretty far away so the photos aren’t great, just good enough.

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Really unique coloring.

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One wing.

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Feathers on the head and neck look sort of shaggy at times.

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Common Grackle nomming the tree berries.

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Yellow-crowned Night Heron.

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Birds at Sanibel pier

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A sign near the Sanibel City Pier.

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Wonder if the Osprey is eating one of the Frequently Caught.

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Birds were standing around on the beach, waiting for people to catch fish.

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Not this bird, though.

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In a tree near the pier, a couple of egrets arranged themselves for comparison, Great and Snowy.

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In another branch, a juvenile Reddish Egret!

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Perched on a railing right next to me, a young Snowy Egret.

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Egret and husband on the city pier, yesterday.

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Great Egret in a tree.

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The Reddish Egret at surf’s edge with a Snowy.

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The Snowy on the railing had funny legs, black in front, yellow in back. I guess it is changing from young to adult.

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Birds looking for bait.

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Snowy Egret is letting me stand next to it.

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Close up.

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See what I mean about the legs.

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Here’s the Snowy Egret legs I’m used to.

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Side by side comparison.

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Great Egret still in the tree, looking sort of slinky yet majestic.

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Osprey still working on that fish.

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Love this shot, and that sea eagle’s eye!

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Birds of the refuge, Sanibel

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This morning around 8 a.m. we drove the one-way road through J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge here on Sanibel Island, where we are staying for a few days.

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We saw this Yellow-crowned Night Heron in mangroves near a short boardwalk.

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Look at that red eye.

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It was overcast and the light wasn’t great, especially looking up, but heck! here’s a Red-bellied Woodpecker anyway.

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Lots of nonchalant rabbits, munching here and there.

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Dogs are allowed in the refuge, in cars or on leashes, so we brought ours.  He’s cool with birds but the rabbits were torture.

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Spotted Sandpiper, my second I’ve ever IDed. The first was two days ago.

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John spotted it from pretty far off.

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A flock of Roseate Spoonbills and one cormorant looked like they were just waking up.

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The refuge is home for over 245 species of birds, according the the Ding Darling website. The Roseate Spoonbills are one of the Big 5 that attract birders to the refuge. We saw some birders with scopes set up, watching this flock.

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One by one, some of the spoonbills took off and flew away. We were watching them from the observation tower.

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Bird coming towards us over the water.

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Green Heron perched just below the tower. You can really see some green in this one.

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Another colored heron, the Little Blue, was waiting just at the bottom of the tower.

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There is something a tiny bit comical about this bird. It seems poised between different feelings, stuck in indecision.

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Hey, bird.

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A decent look at the spoonbill’s bill.

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On the side of the road in the mangroves, a Snowy Egret was standing on one leg as birds are sometimes wont to do. Love the bright yellow feet.

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Not many cars on a July morning. That one ahead was driving slowly past a white bird.

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It was a Great Egret stalking along in the grass.

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When the car drove on, it walked towards us.

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And past.

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The egret was keeping an eye out for lizards and other delicacies.

Birds were my tasty breakfast delicacies! Figuratively, of course.

A few more birds from the causeway park

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One of the fishing piers at the west causeway under Jensen Beach bridge, looking north at the Indian River Lagoon. Guys were netting fish. A couple of members of the heron family were lurking nearby.

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Little Blue Heron on a light post.

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LBH.

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Great Egret near the boat ramp.

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Both heron and egret appear to have breeding plumage still.

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Looking toward the mainland, I spotted an Anhinga drying its feathers, its back to the sun, in classic Anhinga pose.

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Feathers and palm fronds.

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An Osprey was fishing the Indian River Lagoon. That’s the Florida Power & Light nuke plant in the distance.

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Osprey, boat traffic on the Intracoastal, and Nettles Island.

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Anhinga was not happy with the dog and me being so close. We gave it some room to keep sunning.

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You can almost count its feathers from this angle!

Bird #180

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Radar, find me a new bird!

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Good boy!

Some sort of medium-sized sandpiper with big brown spots.

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White eye ring, yellowish legs. I thought maybe a Spotted Sandpiper? I got confirmation on Facebook’s What’s This Bird.

From Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

The dapper Spotted Sandpiper makes a great ambassador for the notoriously difficult-to-identify shorebirds. They occur all across North America, they are distinctive in both looks and actions, and they’re handsome.

Also,

The Spotted Sandpiper is the most widespread breeding sandpiper in North America.

This one appeared to be traveling solo, and didn’t linger long.

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At Jensen Beach Causeway this morning, Radar was also a big help carrying my keys, clipped to collar and leash. Reminder to self: wear something with pockets when you’re juggling camera and dog on leash.

Audubon, Spotted Sandpiper

Most sandpipers nest only in the far north, but the little “Spotty” is common in summer over much of North America. As it walks on the shores of streams, ponds, and marshes, it bobs the rear half of its body up and down in an odd teetering motion. When startled, it skims away low over the water, with rapid bursts of shallow wingbeats and short, stiff-winged glides. Even where it is common, it is seldom seen in flocks.

 

Lazybirding at the local pond

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I guess I’ll just change the name of this blog to the Indian RiverSide Park Pond Blog.

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But you can see why I go there: I watched all these birds while sitting cross-legged in one little spot on an ant-free patch of grass, with my German Shepherd in a down-stay beside me.

A birdy place in the not very birdy season of Florida summer. And within my 5-mile radius.

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This photo is like a natural history museum diorama of wetland bird life!

Left to right: juvenile White Ibis; Black-bellied Whistling Duck; Tricolored Heron; Mottled Ducks.

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They had no problem sharing space. I took these photos Friday around 7 p.m. The park was busy, including a softball semi-final game with extra cars and people.

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A male Mottled Duck, Anas fulvigula, with a bit of blue secondary feathers (wing patch, speculum) showing on the wing.

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The ibis was the busiest, probing here and there, and the duck the least busy, standing with zen-like calm.

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The ibis was carrying a little minnow around for a while.

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Such a diversity of water loving birds here in wet Florida.

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The Black-bellied is quite a different looking duck from the mallards and mallard-like Mottleds I see regularly. And funny that it is standing in the water.

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Two very different bird beaks.

The beak, bill, or rostrum is an external anatomical structure of birds that is used for eating and for preening, manipulating objects, killing prey, fighting, probing for food, courtship and feeding young.

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Neat illustration on Wikimedia Commons.

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The Tricolored Heron is a sleek and slender heron adorned in blue-gray, lavender, and white. The white stripe down the middle of its sinuous neck and its white belly set it apart from other dark herons. This fairly small heron wades through coastal waters in search of small fish, often running and stopping with quick turns and starts, as if dancing in a ballet.

And stabbing them with its beak, en garde! A little fencing heron.

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You can see the tip of the Black-bellied Whistling Duck’s beak turns down a bit at the end. That part is called the nail…

All birds of the family Anatidae (ducks, geese, and swans) have a nail, a plate of hard horny tissue at the tip of the beak. This shield-shaped structure, which sometimes spans the entire width of the beak, is often bent at the tip to form a hook. It serves different purposes depending on the bird’s primary food source. Most species use their nails to dig seeds out of mud or vegetation, while diving ducks use theirs to pry molluscs from rocks. There is evidence that the nail may help a bird to grasp things; species which use strong grasping motions to secure their food (such as when catching and holding onto a large squirming frog) have very wide nails.

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An ibis beak has a special addition.

The bill tip organ is a region found near the tip of the bill in several types of birds that forage particularly by probing. The region has a high density of nerve endings known as the corpuscles of Herbst. This consists of pits in the bill surface which in the living bird is occupied by cells that sense pressure changes. The assumption is that this allows the bird to perform ‘remote touch’, which means that it can detect movements of animals which the bird does not directly touch. Bird species known to have a ‘bill-tip organ’ includes members of ibisis, shorebirds of the family Scolopacidae, and kiwis.

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This young ibis was carrying this little fish around a for a while.

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Not sure what it was waiting for to gobble it up.

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The colors of the juvenile White Ibis are a nice gray brown.

When baby White Ibises hatch their bills are straight. Their bills don’t start to curve downward until they are 14 days old.

Wow! Maybe so they can break out of the shell?

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New vocabulary word…

The speculum is a patch of often iridescent color on the secondary feathers of most duck species. It is often seen as a bright patch of color on the rear of the wing when the wing is spread during flight or when the bird is stretching, preening, or landing. The color of the speculum will vary by species, as will its width and any non-iridescent borders.

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The other duck’s wing patch is off-white and looks like a stripe when the wings are at rest.

The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is a boisterous duck with a brilliant pink bill and an unusual, long-legged silhouette. In places like Texas and Louisiana, watch for noisy flocks of these gaudy ducks dropping into fields to forage on seeds, or loafing on golf course ponds. Listen for them, too—these ducks really do have a whistle for their call. Common south of the U.S., Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks occur in several southern states and are expanding northward.

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The Tricolored Heron is petite compared to the big ones I photograph all the time.

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Like this Great Egret a short distance away, owning its spot by the pond.

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What our juvenile White Ibis will look like when he’s all grown up.

They look like a flock of bird ghosts, spooky and cute.

Say ah, Anhinga

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Anhinga at Indian RiverSide Park.

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I am Anhinga, hear me roar!

At first glance I thought it was a cormorant because of the thick neck. But it has a straight pointy bill and cormorants have a downward curve at the tip of their bills.

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Was it trying to swallow a big fish? I really have no idea.

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It had its mouth open the whole time I was taking photos. It wasn’t actually making any sound (like roaring).

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This is a female or juvenile, with the light brown neck and upper body.

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Long neck.

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See how the feathers are wet – looks like wet dog fur, almost. They aren’t waterproof like  a duck’s feathers and need to dry after swimming. One reason Anhingas don’t live in cold places, I guess.

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Good swimming feet.

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The Amazed – no, Amazing! – Anhinga.

Nyctanassa

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I saw a brown heron-like bird fly past me and land in a tree by that pond I like in Indian RiverSide Park.

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Some sort of juvenile Night Heron – probably Yellow-crowned, I thought.

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Oh hey, what’s in the same tree? An adult.

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In the animal kingdom, among back-boned animals, their Class is Aves, Order: Pelecaniformes, Family: Ardeidae (herons), Genus: Nyctanassa. The Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Nyctanassa violacea, is the only surviving species in the genus, as the Bermuda night heron is extinct.

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The name comes from Ancient Greek words for “night” and “lady” or “queen”, referring to the yellow-crowned night heron’s nocturnal activity and its beauty.

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The other night herons around here are Black-crowned and their genus is Nycticorax (“night raven”) with two species on earth living and the rest prehistoric or extinct.

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It was Saturday evening and the park was pretty busy, but these birds were not spooked.

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Big eyes, like the ones in stuffed toys.

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Audubon…

More solitary and often more secretive than the Black-crowned Night-Heron, the Yellow-crowned is still quite common in parts of the southeast. Particularly in coastal regions, often feeds by day as well as by night. Its stout bill seems to be an adaptation for feeding on hard-shelled crustaceans — it is called “crab-eater” in some locales.

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A good look.

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The adult flew down and stood by the water for a bit, but I left before I saw it catch any dinner.

White feathers

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Great Egret yesterday morning at Indian RiverSide Park in Jensen Beach, Florida.

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Preening feathers.

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Every single feather on a Great Egret is white.

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From All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

The elegant Great Egret is a dazzling sight in many a North American wetland. Slightly smaller and more svelte than a Great Blue Heron, these are still large birds with impressive wingspans. They 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 hunted nearly to extinction for their plumes in the late nineteenth century, sparking conservation movements and some of the first laws to protect birds.

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Morning light is just right for egret photos.

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I positioned myself to get the light on the bird and a nice background too. I was sitting in the grass, and hoping I chose a fire-ant-free spot.

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What a beauty.

This pond at the park a couple of miles from home is a great spot for birds, especially this stump. It should have a wildlife live-cam focused on it to keep track of the birds that use it!

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Great Egrets are fairly common around here, but I’m glad I took some time again to really look and appreciate this magnificent white bird.

Snakebird

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Anhinga around 7 p.m. last night by the pond at Indian RiverSide Park.

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The anhinga (Anhinga anhinga), sometimes called snakebird, darter, American darter, or water turkey, is a water bird of the warmer parts of the Americas.

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The word anhinga comes from the Brazilian Tupi language and means devil bird or snake bird.

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There are four species in in the Anhingidae family of water birds, distributed worldwide mainly in warm places. They are in the order Suliformes, along with their cousins the boobies, gannets, frigatebirds, cormorants and shags.