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.
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.
A week ago, on March 21st, I went on a field trip organized by the local Audubon to Platt’s Creek Preserve, a restored wetland area in St. Lucie County.
These were Mottled Ducks. We had two expert birders leading the trip, Eva Ries and David Simpson, and their identifications and commentary were so helpful and educational.
A couple of males were fighting for a few minutes.
A male and a female watched.
Boat-tailed Grackles were everywhere, and the males were noisy, bold and impossible to ignore.
When you smell saltwater on the East Coast, it’s time to look out for Boat-tailed Grackles. The glossy blue-black males are hard to miss as they haul their ridiculously long tails around or display from marsh grasses or telephone wires.
In our party of 10, I am the one who spotted the Bald Eagle first and I’m pretty proud of that. What a bird, look at those wings!
Northern Harrier that appears to be pursued by a Tree Swallow? This could have just been the angle of the photo, or maybe that little bird was pissed off.
We saw a couple of harriers working the boundaries of the woods and marsh area. Very cool raptors.
The Northern Harrier is distinctive from a long distance away: a slim, long-tailed hawk gliding low over a marsh or grassland, holding its wings in a V-shape and sporting a white patch at the base of its tail. Up close it has an owlish face that helps it hear mice and voles beneath the vegetation.
Also soaring around up in the sky, a couple of Swallow-tailed Kites. This one was eating a lizard while flying, nice trick.
The lilting Swallow-tailed Kite has been called “the coolest bird on the planet.” With its deeply forked tail and bold black-and-white plumage, it is unmistakable in the summer skies above swamps of the Southeast. Flying with barely a wingbeat and maneuvering with twists of its incredible tail, it chases dragonflies or plucks frogs, lizards, snakes, and nestling birds from tree branches. After rearing its young in a treetop nest, the kite migrates to wintering grounds in South America.
Common Gallinule keeping an eye on us.
Sandhill Crane in someone’s backyard. Some birds are easier to spot than others.
Limpkin stalking the pond side vegetation.
An unusual bird of southern swamps and marshes, the Limpkin reaches the northern limits of its breeding range in Florida. There, it feeds almost exclusively on apple snails, which it extracts from their shells with its long bill. Its screaming cry is unmistakable and evocative.
In all, we tallied 51 species in our 3-hour, 1.5 mile walk. David Simpson posted the checklist to eBird HERE. Very helpful photos and descriptions for us birding newbies!
We took a drive all the way around Lake Okeechobee yesterday. On one little walk we spotted this wild animal!
Just kidding. It’s Radar, our goofy German Shepherd.
On another stop we spotted the aptly named “Stilt” bird… the Black-necked Stilt.
We were at the Harney Pond Canal Recreation area on the west side of the lake, near the little town of Lakeport.
There is a strange rickety bridge/ boardwalk over to an island.
Nice views of what, from this Army Corps of Engineers map, appears to be Fisheating Bay.
On the little island is another boardwalk with a view, going up to a little observation spot. Hundreds of dragonflies everywhere!
Here are a few.
It was very windy, with an east wind, and some dragonflies were clinging to branches, windblown.
Looking back at the recreation area across the bridge.
Looking out into the bay and marshes.
Hey, what’s that bird? It’s new to me. I searched the internet later and discovered it’s a Limpkin!
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:
The limpkin is a long-legged species of waterbird that has dark brown feathers with streaks of white on the head and neck and absent on the rest of the body. Limpkins can grow up to 28 inches (71.1 centimeters) long, with a 42 inch (106.7 centimeters) wingspan, and weigh up to 46 ounces (1,304 grams) (The Cornell Lab of Ornithology 2011). White blotches and triangular marks can be found on the neck and upper body. The key physical feature of the limpkin is their down-curved bill, which is used to feed on their primary prey, apple snails.
Thirsty Turkey Vulture.
Black Vulture soaring over us.
Limpkins and maybe some kind of gallinule?
A nice watery, marshy spot.
View from the rickety bridge.
A striking black-and-white bird with very long, thin red legs, the Black-necked Stilt is found along the edges of shallow water in open country.
They have the second-longest legs in proportion to their bodies of any bird, exceeded only by flamingos.