Some people are birdwatchers, but all crows are peoplewatchers

Some birds mind their own business. Crows do not.

They keep an eye on you. They study you. I guess this can be rewarding for them, since they are scavengers and we are messy and careless.

This crow flew over to perch near me as I walked up the path onto the berm at the entrance to Green River. It flew a short distance and I followed, then I walked off and it followed me.

I assume it was a Fish Crow because of my location. I had come with my camera for Kites – Swallow-tailed or Snail. Didn’t find them.

Calling now and then, maybe to let another crow nearby know something about the situation? “Betty, I’m watching a human. Keep the kids quiet. I’ll see if she squashes a lizard or drops a cracker.”

Do crows caw at people? I doubt it. But if so, they are talking and we just aren’t getting it.

I’ve noticed that when Blue Jays are watching you and you start watching them back, they don’t like it and they fly off. But crows will hold your gaze longer. They are interested; we are interesting.

Some people are birdwatchers, but all crows are peoplewatchers.

Just another bird

A limpkin alone.

Aramus guarana is the only species in its genus and family, a member of the Gruiformes order of cranes, crakes and rails.

The weather was dark last Saturday, like my mood a month into the coronavirus shutdown. I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, more like sorry and a bit angry for everything and everyone on earth. And I wanted to get out of the house.

I brought my camera as an excuse why I was leaving loved ones at home and stalking off alone. I expected the photos would not be great with the washed-out early afternoon overcast sky, forecasting the coming rainy season. And sure enough, none of them were great.

But I did like this picture of the limpkin. Just one bird standing still in the middle of a field, balanced between indecision and resignation, and keeping an eye on things.

In the field I also found some nice little Florida wildflowers, easily overlooked, growing and blooming whether or not anyone notices.

Culvert birding near Green River

Pink bird, gray wall.

This Roseate Spoonbill was on its way to a roadside culvert along Green River Parkway yesterday.

Spoonbills incoming.

This mucky spot has been attracting a lot of birds lately. “Something hatched,” my husband theorized. He’s been biking past this spot and telling me, almost daily, that there’s a nice concentration of photogenic birds there.

The pipes pass under Green River Parkway to a series of freshwater ponds in the fenced-in area known as Green River.

Limpkin and chick, looking for lunch.

The gangly, brown-and-white Limpkin looks a bit like a giant rail or perhaps a young night-heron. Its long bill is bent and twisted at the tip, an adaptation for removing snails from the shell. Limpkins are tropical wetland birds whose range reaches into Florida.

When I approached the culvert, there were three women and three kids there already. The women were talking while two of the three kids threw rocks and snail shells in the general direction of the birds.

The spoonbills didn’t seem to mind. The boys’ aim wasn’t very good. But I still felt someone should take the birds’ side in this matter.

“Hi,” I said. “Just letting you know, I see an alligator here sometimes. Down where the boys are.”

“We’ve seen that alligator before,” said one woman. “It’s a little one.”

Forget Florida Man, there should be a Florida Mom meme!

I’d include the time I was at the beach and saw a shark in the waves and kids swimming nearby while moms were on the beach chatting and I thought, I don’t want to be annoying but they would probably want to know about a shark. I would. So I told them and one said, “We saw it. It’s a lemon shark.”

I took a few more photos while the boys tossed stones, then I tried a new angle. I said to the little girl who was not throwing stones (loud enough for the moms to hear), “Do you see the chicks? Aren’t they cute? See that one there, all little and brown and fuzzy, hiding behind its mom?”

“Aw, it’s cute!” she said. Soon the small group of humans continued on their way.

I continued north on the bike path, scanning the drainage ditch for birds like this Great Egret.

And this Tricolored Heron.

I passed one of the side entrances to the southern section of Savannas Preserve State Park.

Wildlife enthusiasts and photographers will enjoy the diversity of habitats this undisturbed area has to offer. 

But not right now.

State parks are closed, to prevent gatherings of more than ten people in one place.

So I kept walking north, the road and ditch on my left and the forbidden state park on my right.

Behind me, the bike trail crosses over the ditch on a small bridge, perfect for bird and alligator watching. This is near the boundary between Martin and St. Lucie counties.

Savannas Preserve to my right, so inviting.

I met a man walking south along the low dike as I walked north. He had binoculars around his neck, a good sign. We talked birds and favorite places to find birds. We lamented loss of access to a park we never see anybody else in. We agreed we don’t care if handshakes, hugs, close-talking and crowds never make a comeback. Then we each continued our own solo stalk along the margins.

Great Egret.

Spoonbill above. I turned and retraced my steps back to the culvert.

A White Ibis had arrived while I was gone.

I watched Limpkins.

This one stayed close to the foraging adult.

Roseate Spoonbills and Limpkins.

Limpkins eat almost exclusively apple snails (genus Pomacea), plus at least three other native freshwater snail species and five species of freshwater mussels. They also eat small amounts of seeds and insects, along with lizards, frogs, insects, crustaceans such as crayfish, grasshoppers, worms, and aquatic midges. Where the water is clear, Limpkins hunt for snails and mussels by sight, walking along the water’s edge or into the shallows (rarely wading deeply) and seizing prey quickly with the bill. When waters are muddy, or have extensive vegetation, they probe into the water rapidly, rather like ibis, sometimes with the head submerged. If vegetation cover is extensive, Limpkins often walk out onto the mat of floating vegetation to hunt snails that cling to the undersides of leaves and stalks. To extract the mollusk from its shell, Limpkins place the forceps-like tip of their bill into the snail or mussel to cut the adductor muscle, using scissoring motions. They then discard the shells, often in a pile if prey is abundant in one spot.

I got a good long look at Limpkins, a bird I had never heard of before I moved to Florida a few years ago.

Getting a good start in life.

My final culvert bird was a solo Wood Stork.

Great spot, I shall return.

Before driving off, I decided to pop over to Green River for a quick look. I was thinking: I bet there’s one more special thing out there before I’m finished for the morning.

There was. Flying low over distant marsh, my first Snail Kite!

The highly specialized Snail Kite flies on broad wings over tropical wetlands as it hunts large freshwater snails.

The kite is blog bird #224.

I found an owl

This owl is not feeling well.

I found it on the grass in a busy park yesterday, at the end of a long, slow walk with my 14-week-old puppy Ruby. It was on its side like this, eyes closed. I bent close and it seemed to be alive so I scooped it up gently – it was so soft – and placed it in the nearest tree.

A quick iPhone photo… looks like the strangest Easter basket.

At home, I posted the photo on the Facebook group What’s This Bird? with these words…

Yes, it’s an Eastern Screech Owl. Initial comments agreed to leave it there, then there were some questions about whether it might be sick since it was on its side. I went back later, found it was gone and called Treasure Coast Wildlife Center to see if someone else brought it in. Yes, they did. The woman on the phone said the owl was sick, they didn’t yet know with what sickness, and they would do their best.

I posted the update on the facebook group. Tremendous interest and engagement… my post garnered 221 likes or loves so far, 33 comments, 5 shares. All these humans from near and far, gathered around the unwell owl, concerned and trying to be of help.

Be well, little owl.

Anhinga vs cormorant

A slender bird neck, not a stick.

I watched an Anhinga in the freshwater pond at Indian Riverside Park in Jensen Beach.

It slid below the surface and reappeared a short distance away.

Sort of camouflaged among the vegetation.

A flock of pigeons arrived for a quick drink and a splash.

Pretty green shine on this one’s neck.

I have been noticing cormorants in the pond recently, formerly not a typical visitor.

A sudden struggle.

Fighting over a fish.

Winner takes all.

On the prowl.

Nearby an Anhinga surfaces with a fresh catch.

Walks out of the water with the cormorant closing in behind.

Anhinga is a spearfisherbird.

Yikes.

Can the Anhinga swallow this fish?

Heads up, the thief is closing in.

Anhinga and Double-crested Cormorant face off.

Not in focus, but this was the dramatic moment I had to include!

Winner!

Gulp.

Down the hatch.

And then they just stood next to each other, and pretty close to me. What a strange wildlife moment, close to home.

Nice opportunity to compare two birds that are often confused for each other.

A short time later, two cormorants on an old nest box.