Catch of the day

Nice to come home from an idle wander with a crazy shot like this.

This Anhinga speared a relatively massive Mayan cichlid in the pond at Indian Riverside Park. I couldn’t imagine how this was going to work out. So I had to keep watching.

It started just as I was getting ready to leave after an hour of walking around the park on a beautiful Florida-winter morning and spotted the anhinga rising from the deep with a fresh catch.

There was some maneuvering and the anhinga dropped the fish once or twice.

It worked to get the fish into the right position for what was to come.

It’s going to figure out that this fish is too big to swallow, I thought.

It can’t possibly.

How is this happening?

What??

I am learning something about anhinga throats right now.

Geez, there’s a whole fish in that bird’s neck!

The fattened bird toddled off to the edge of the pond and sipped some water…

…then slid away, well fed.

I believe this is the same bird, a bit earlier in my walk. It’s a female or immature male, by the color of the neck. Males’ necks are black.

Wetlands in early dry season

I stopped by “Green River” to see what I could see. It’s always easy to see a tall white bird like a Great Egret.

As wet season ends and dry season begins, the water is high right now at this water management area off Green River Parkway in Jensen Beach, near the Martin/ St. Lucie County line.

A Great Egret’s wingspan is between 52 and 67 inches. So, up to 5 and half feet from tip to tip.

Win at bird trivia!… The bird with the longest wingspan is the Wandering Albatross, Diomedea exulans, at 11 feet, 11 inches.

A Common Gallinule (heading left) and an American Coot.

Nice side by side comparison as they passed each other among the lily pads. Both species are in the Rallidae family along with rails, soras, crakes, moorhens and swamphens.

I see gallinules at Green River all year but coots only rarely and only in winter.

The waterborne American Coot is one good reminder that not everything that floats is a duck.

“Not everything that floats is a duck.” Nice. Pithy. Reminds me of Tolkien’s Aragorn: “Not all those who wander are lost.”

This pond cypress was a sort of weird Florida Christmas tree with a mirror skirt of water. It’s all so pretty with the lower angle of sunlight as we approach the winter solstice.

Look, a present under the tree… a Common Gallinule.

And this Anhinga was a pretty ornament.

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.

eBird mobile, ducks, geese and golf balls

Duck on a golf course.

Goose on a golf course.

Egyptian Goose to be precise.

They are native to Africa but have busted free of zoos and backyard breeders and established wild populations in Florida and elsewhere.

A Mottled Duck, a common Florida duck.

This is a male, with the yellowy-green bill. Females have an orange bill. Very tame little guy. Looking adorable – hoping for a bread crust, I suppose.

My birdwatching wanders yesterday morning, at the Hutchinson Marriott Resort. I was trying to get close to a few ponds and look for winter ducks.

Also yesterday I used eBird mobile for the first time. The night before I (finally) completed the free course eBird Essentials in the Cornell Lab or Ornithology Bird Academy.

Here’s me trying to zoom in on some distant gulls to figure out what species were loafing around on the golf course. (Laughing gulls and Ring-billed Gulls, it turns out.)

Over the course of the hour I watched birds, I saw three different groups of Double-crested Cormorants. There were five individuals in each group. Cormorants come in fives?

My old eyes tuned in to the fact there were a bunch of little sandpiper birds out there too. I should have brought my binoculars but I felt like carrying my camera was enough.

They flew over to a different patch of grass. I hope nobody thought I was telephoto-stalking the golf players!

A lady walking her dog advised me to keep an eye out for flying golf balls.

Ruddy Turnstones, a couple of Sanderlings, some Killdeer.

And one lone Dunlin! It’s the bird with the longest bill in the photo above. A new bird to my blog, number 218.

Five Killdeer and one Ruddy Turnstone.

A small duck caught my eye. Wished I could get closer. Like, hitch a ride on a golf cart to go private-golf-course birding! There should be such a thing.

It was a Hooded Merganser, by itself.

In another pond was a group of three Hooded Mergansers.

I’ve seen this species of duck one other time, on a pond in NH in January 2016.

Winter visitors.

Anhinga and gulls out on the golf course, with the other winter visitors. Walking around the condos I noticed license plated from Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia.

Fuzzy, cropped in pic of a Pie-billed Grebe, also down from the frozen north.

Ahoy, six mystery ducks!

My first Lesser Scaup, bird number 219!

In another pond I saw a bunch of floating golf balls.

Wait, do they hit golf balls into the pond on purpose? That’s weird.

Here’s my complete eBird checklist from my two-mile walk: January 29 Hutchinson Island Marriott.

Wakodahatchee in nesting season

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Hey, Cattle Egret… it’s time for your makeover…

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Oh you sexy thing!

First photo was taken last fall. Second photo was taken a couple of days ago at the amazing and renowned Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach. It was our first visit during nesting season and there was LOTS to see. I took a thousand photos, for real. I will be posting some of the good ones over a few days.

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I had noticed a bit of buff coloring on breeding Cattle Egrets before but never have I seen the candy corn bill and purple “lores” just in front of the eyes. Eyes are a different color too!

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A boardwalk through the wetlands gets you closer to the birds.

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This female Anhinga is also in breeding plumage with a blue ring around her eyes and a greenish tinge to her lores. Her chin is black too.

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She let me stand right next to her and take this glamour shot.

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Hello, bird.

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Glossy Ibis chick!

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Chubby and fluffy like chick, but with a bit of ibis curve to the (striped) bill already.

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Great Egret chicks watches the skies for the return of mom/ dad.

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I played hide-and-seek with a Green Heron.

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Black-bellied Whistling Duck at rest.

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They have longer legs than you might guess.

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Another a water’s edge.

 

Anhinga at the park

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I got some nice shots of this Anhinga a few days ago at Indian Riverside Park.

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I haven’t been visiting the birds as often as I’d like because we bought another house nearby that we’re remodeling. It’s crazy-busy at the moment, but in a good way.

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But now and then the planets align and I’ve got my camera with me when birds are nearby doing pretty bird things like drying the feathers of their wings.

Early November in Savannas Preserve

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American Kestrel looks fierce and cute at the same time.

I saw this bird and others on Saturday during a solo 1.1-mile walk in the Martin County section of the wonderfully unique Savannas Preserve, off Jensen Beach Boulevard.

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Entrance fee is $3, self service. There is a picnic pavilion and a bathroom building.

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Info.

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The main trail heads off into the wild.

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Holly berries gave a festive, late autumn look to an otherwise not very autumnal landscape – at least for those of us who have lived in north most of our lives. This is Dahoon holly, I think.

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Wood Stork.

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Great Egret heading in the other direction.

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Main trail goes straight. This time I took the side trail to the right, heading east towards a lower, wetter area.

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Northern Mockingbird posed on a stump.

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Wildflowers in bloom.

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A group of Wood Storks was feeding near a Great Egret.

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Holly and a nest box, at the edge of the wetlands.

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Wood Storks took off and then I counted them (two others went in another direction).

My eBird checklist for the walk is HERE.

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Great Blue Heron was standing very still.

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A came upon a large trap. I guessed it might be for wild pigs, which can be such a problem in Florida.

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A pair of Anhingas.

IMG_9939Raccoon has been here.

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This part of the trail was a bit muddy from recent rains.

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Mystery track. Sort of cat-like and cat-sized. Domestic cat out for a prowl? Fox?

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Sort of boring yet oddly beautiful landscape, to me.

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Silvery saw palmettos between the freshwater marsh grass and slash pines.

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I heard this kestrel calling before I saw it.

American Kestrels have a fairly limited set of calls, but the most common one is a loud, excited series of 3-6 klee! or killy! notes lasting just over a second. It’s distinctive and an excellent way to find these birds. You may also hear two other common calls: a long whine that can last 1–2 minutes, heard in birds that are courting or feeding fledglings, and a fast chitter, usually used by both sexes in friendly interactions.

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A bit windy that day.

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North America’s littlest falcon, the American Kestrel packs a predator’s fierce intensity into its small body. It’s one of the most colorful of all raptors: the male’s slate-blue head and wings contrast elegantly with his rusty-red back and tail; the female has the same warm reddish on her wings, back, and tail. Hunting for insects and other small prey in open territory, kestrels perch on wires or poles, or hover facing into the wind, flapping and adjusting their long tails to stay in place.

 

Birds and a turtle and an otter, oh my

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I spied on half the gallinule family and a terrapin on Saturday morning. They were in the reeds at freshwater pond at Indian RiverSide Park, Jensen Beach.

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I think this turtle is a Red-eared Slider, a member of the pond turtle/ marsh turtle family.

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The gallinule chicks are growing up fast.

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Beaks and legs are very different from the adult.

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Much time was spent preening the feathers.

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Was this vocalization directed towards the turtle?

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All birds looking up (in that one-eyed way I remember from my backyard hens), while the turtle continues to watch the gallinules.

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Amazing red and yellow color match between the turtle’s face and tail and adult gallinule’s beak and legs.

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Birds of all species hang close together at this pond, but do the birds and reptiles hang close together too?

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Speaking of coexisting with reptiles, I wondered if this White Ibis lost a leg to an alligator.

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One more photo of the gallinules. What spectacular toes!

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Nearby, Little Blue Heron gets its stalk on.

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A woodpecker flew onto this old tree. I’m guessing it’s a juvenile Red-bellied Woodpecker. It will grow a lovely scarlet cap soon!

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Anhinga perched on one pathetic little tree branch, or root. The park people need to leave more dead wood around the pond.

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This Anhinga is a female, with the light brown neck.

I also walked the boardwalk into the mangrove swamp. It was a breezeless 90 degrees and it felt like 100 in the humidity…

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But I saw an otter! The River Otter, Contra canadensis, lives in and near fresh water in a large part of North America, including throughout Florida except the Keys.

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This looks like a yawn but it may have been a crunch. I could hear it eating something, fish or crab?

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Sharp little teeth, cat-like whiskers, elf ears and a body like an aquatic dachshund… what a strange and wonderful animal.

Also, don’t mess with them… they bite! River otters in Florida got into multiple fights with kayakers last winter.