The ibises got to the tree first. The egret was late to the game.
Something disturbed these wading birds in the shallow waters where they were feeding on Monday at Savannas Preserve State Park. It may have been me, though I wasn’t very near them. I zoomed in to get these photos.
This is what it looked like when they all took off. I was the only person out there. It would be odd if I had spooked them, when ibises especially don’t seem to mind people.
There was a prescribed burn in this part of the Savannas recently.
White Ibises on a burnt tree trunk, the lone perching spot at the edge of wetlands. Their curved pink bills are distinctive.
One of the most numerous wading birds in Florida, and common elsewhere in the southeast. Highly sociable at all seasons, roosting and feeding in flocks, nesting in large colonies. When groups wade through shallows, probing with their long bills, other wading birds such as egrets may follow them to catch prey stirred up by the ibises.
From this high spot they got a good look at things and soon decided to go back to the shallow waters.
The last bird was joined for a few moments by a Boat-tailed Grackle.
This Roseate Spoonbill was on its way to a roadside culvert along Green River Parkway yesterday.
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.
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.
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.
… to a strange and wonderful place known as Bird Island. It’s very close to home.
This Magnificent Frigatebird knows the way.
Black frigatebirds on lower branches, white Wood Storks above.
The storks are the most numerous nesting birds at this time of year on this small mangrove island in the Indian River Lagoon that’s just off our peninsular town of Sewall’s Point.
Frigatebirds don’t nest here, they just roost, I’ve been told. But I’m keeping an eye on that situation!
We took a boat out on Tuesday, March 17, late afternoon with the newest member of the family, Ruby the 10-week-old German shepherd. It was her first boat ride and she was great! (We are members of a boat club in Manatee Pocket, about a 20 minute ride to Bird Island.)
Brown Pelicans had reserved their own roosting and nesting spots in one section of the canopy.
Big wings, big bill.
Wood Storks flew close to the boat.
Very common sight in Sewall’s Point at this time of year, as they fly over on their way to Bird Island, sometimes even stopping in our trees to break beaches for nesting material.
Peachy pink feet visible in this photo, as well as some color under the wings.
Speaking of color, the White Ibis have more intensely colored bills and feet in breeding season.
I am so glad this island was designated a wildlife area.
A Great Blue Heron among the Wood Storks. Looks like a Little Blue Heron mixed in there too.
Ruby was watching them too.
White Ibis flying over. They don’t stop on this island – they have their own on the other side of the Intracoastal Waterway.
White Ibis zoomed in.
My husband’s favorite bird was this Fish Crow perched on the sign, as if to draw attention to its important information!
Wood Stork coming in for a landing.
“Honey, I’m home!”
“Great to see you, gimme a smooch!”
I’m looking forward to getting out to Bird Island again later in the season, when the chicks pop up.
Looking down from the boardwalk we could see a Purple Gallinule.
Lurking in the marshes of the extreme southeastern U.S. lives one of the most vividly colored birds in all of North America. Purple Gallinules combine cherry red, sky blue, moss green, aquamarine, indigo, violet, and school-bus yellow, a color palette that blends surprisingly well with tropical and subtropical wetlands. Watch for these long-legged, long-toed birds stepping gingerly across water lilies and other floating vegetation as they hunt frogs and invertebrates or pick at tubers.
Blue frontal shield with a yellow-tipped red bill, very colorful!
Look for Purple Gallinules in dense freshwater wetlands in the extreme southeastern U.S. and farther south—sites that have both emergent and submerged vegetation such as water lilies, lotus, water hyacinth, and hydrilla. They can be fairly easy to spot as they walk on floating vegetation.
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.
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!
A boardwalk through the wetlands gets you closer to the birds.
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.
She let me stand right next to her and take this glamour shot.
Glossy Ibis chick!
Chubby and fluffy like chick, but with a bit of ibis curve to the (striped) bill already.
Great Egret chicks watches the skies for the return of mom/ dad.
I often wander the Haney Creek North section but a few days ago I finally explored “East” shown on the map above highlighted in yellow. It’s located in Stuart, Florida north of the St. Lucie River.
A trail leads away from the pull-off area along Dixie Highway.
We can thank Stuart City Commissioner Jeffrey Krauskopf for helping save this land from development. There is a freshwater marsh on the right hand side here, and brackish swamp with mangroves on the other.
Blue flag? It used to bloom by our New Hampshire pond in spring. I didn’t know it grew in this part of Florida.
Boardwalk with plenty of cautionary signs.
Got a good look at a young Little Blue Heron. Yes, they start off as Little White Herons.
Maple? Also haven’t noticed that around here. Maybe swamp maple… which also grew by our old pond 1400 miles north of here.
Palm Warbler in the trees.
Unless you live in Canada, spring, fall, and winter are your best times to see Palm Warblers. They spend the winters in the Caribbean and in a narrow strip along the southeastern United States and occasionally along the West Coast. They’re a fairly common early migrant across much of the East, reaching New England by mid-to-late April. They start slowly heading south in late August.
Weedy fields, forest edges, and scrubby areas are great places to look for them during migration and winter. Look through groups of birds foraging on the ground—they’re often with sparrows, juncos, and Yellow-rumped Warblers—so watch for their characteristic tail wagging to pull them out of the crowd. They also forage in low shrubs and isolated trees in open areas, where they sometimes sally out for insects like a flycatcher. Palm Warblers typically aren’t skittish, so if you find one, you should have enough time to get a good look.
I like the way the light hit the bird’s eye in this shot.
Also spotted a Downy Woodpecker, near the southern end of its range too.
View walking back on the boardwalk over freshwater.
A came upon a large trap. I guessed it might be for wild pigs, which can be such a problem in Florida.
A pair of Anhingas.
Raccoon has been here.
This part of the trail was a bit muddy from recent rains.
Mystery track. Sort of cat-like and cat-sized. Domestic cat out for a prowl? Fox?
Sort of boring yet oddly beautiful landscape, to me.
Silvery saw palmettos between the freshwater marsh grass and slash pines.
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.
A bit windy that day.
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.
On Sunday my husband and I drove 45 minutes south of our Stuart home to the monthly Cars & Coffee event at Palm Beach Outlets to look at cool vintage and custom cars. Afterwards, we went to a place that is the opposite of crowds, cars, noise and sunbaked parking lots.
“Moorhen.” An old guy with a big camera and a practical wide-brimmed hat pointed to the gallinule and called it the old-timey-birdwatcher name.
Mostly we had the place to ourselves. Thank you, whoever built this boardwalk. It’s the only way I’m ever going to travel through such wet woods and fields, in Florida, in August.
We skipped the nature center in favor of getting right out in nature.
I think this is a Common Arrowhead flower, Sagittaria latifolia, aka duck potato.
Lovely pond cypress trees, rooted in a few inches of water and a lot of inches of the finest Florida muck. Air plants grow on them quite decoratively.
This wetland is an example of doing the right thing to build a sustainable urban environment. The naturally clean waters of the preserve are supplying the drinking water for West Palm Beach and helping keep the aquifer healthy. At the same time, all these wetland plant and wildlife species have a place to thrive and townsfolk have easy access to this beautiful place.
Walking out into the “grassy waters” you can see how this was (is?) part of the original northern Everglades. From the Grassy Waters Conservancy…
Historically, the Grassy Waters area was part of the northern Everglades watershed and headwaters of the Loxahatchee River. In the 1890’s, approximately 100 square miles was purchased by Henry Flagler to supply water to West Palm Beach and Palm Beach. In 1955, the City of West Palm Beach purchased what remained of that system. In 1964, the Florida Legislature recognized the area’s uniqueness and importance, and created the Water Catchment Area affording 19 square miles special protection. The U.S. EPA has identified portions of Grassy Waters as an Aquatic Resource of National Importance.Today the Water Catchment Area along with other adjacent lands make up Grassy Waters Preserve, an approximately 24 square mile natural area located in and owned by the City of West Palm Beach. It remains the principle source of the water for West Palm Beach, Palm Beach and South Palm Beach, and is unique in that it is a surface water supply.
The Preserve is almost 50 percent of the land area of the City and contains miles of hiking and biking trails, a boardwalk, and a nature center which is currently being expanded, where the City provides environmental education programs.
The Preserve remains a pristine remnant of the original Everglades ecosystem and critical component in maintaining water levels for environmentally sensitive areas. In addition to its historical significance and key role in the regional water supply, it is one of the largest areas of undisturbed wetlands in Palm Beach County, allowing it to be a refuge for many threatened and endangered species including the Bald Eagle, Wood Stork, and Everglades Snail Kite.
Peace of the Everglades.
View over grassy waters.
Zoom to: Great Egret.
I’ve been seeing these swallows for about a week now, over parking lots, airports, open fields. I’ve gotten a good look at them, but not a good photo – they are too fast! I’m pretty sure they are Barn Swallows, migrating through.
Glistening cobalt blue above and tawny below, Barn Swallows dart gracefully over fields, barnyards, and open water in search of flying insect prey. Look for the long, deeply forked tail that streams out behind this agile flyer and sets it apart from all other North American swallows. Barn Swallows often cruise low, flying just a few inches above the ground or water.
This bigass grasshopper is actually a fine fat example of an Eastern Lubber Grasshopper.
The Eastern lubber grasshopper (Romalea microptera (Beauvois)) is a large colorful flightless grasshopper that often comes to the attention of Florida homeowners.
Shrubbery along the boardwalk: I noticed cocoplum and wax myrtle, both of which I admire. We planted some cocoplum in our backyard last year. I just bought a couple of wax myrtles for the front yard (and the birds) a couple of days ago.
Wax myrtle and saw palmetto, among other lush green things. Not to bitch (and we’re as guilty as the next Florida homeowner) but it’s really nice to take a break from the flat-topped hedges, emerald lawns, tropical ornamentals and constant grinding whine of landscaping machines and see how native, wild Florida plants arrange themselves and grow (so quietly).
“Ah, you may sit under them, yes. They cast a good shadow, cold as well-water; but that’s the trouble, they tempt you to sleep. And you must never, for any reason, sleep beneath a cypress.’ He paused, stroked his moustache, waited for me to ask why, and then went on: ‘Why? Why? Because if you did you would be changed when you woke. Yes, the black cypresses, they are dangerous. While you sleep, their roots grow into your brains and steal them, and when you wake up you are mad, head as empty as a whistle.’ I asked whether it was only the cypress that could do that or did it apply to other trees. ‘No, only the cypress,’ said the old man, peering up fiercely at the trees above me as though to see whether they were listening; ‘only the cypress is the thief of intelligence. So be warned, little lord, and don’t sleep here.” – Gerald Durrell, My Family and Other Animals (A favorite book! It’s set in Greece. I first read it when I was 12 or 13 and I love it still.)