Tag Archives: Little Blue Heron

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.

Just looking

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Just thinking.

We took a boat out on Monday, from our boat club in Port Salerno. I brought my camera and the best photos were these, of a heron at the dock before we even left.

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A Little Blue Heron. They are common around here.

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This one let me walk right up to him and take his picture.

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blue crane or heron

Blue Crane, or Heron – John James Audubon

There, and at this season, reader, you may see this graceful Heron, quietly and in silence walking along the margins of the water, with an elegance and grace which can never fail to please you.

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!

Hawk’s Bluff on a hot, almost-birdless day

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Life before lawns, South Florida.

There might be a bird in this photo, but I did not see it.

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We walked the Hawk’s Bluff Trail in the quiet southeastern corner of Savannas Preserve State Park, Jensen Beach, yesterday late morning. It was hot and still.

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The trail comes down to a cool view over the wetlands, now in their full summer wetness. A Little Blue Heron flew by.

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Fragrant water lilies, Nymphaea odorata, aka American white water lilies were blooming.

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Red dragonfly perched nearby. Maybe an autumn meadowhawk?

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I’ve seen a lot of dragonflies lately, eating mosquitoes and gnats I hope!

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Savannas Preserve State Park provides a representative sample of a basin marsh that extended throughout Southern Florida  prior to the rapid suburban sprawl.

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Lilies and lily pads.

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Partridge pea and a palmetto.

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Partridge pea wildflowers appear in summer and fall in most places but year-round in South Florida.

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Red-winged Blackbird at the wetland’s edge.

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The trails are mainly (hot) white sand, but not too soft. You just have to watch out for snakes.

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Savannas Preserve protects southeast Florida’s largest freshwater marsh.

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Little Blue Heron wading at water’s edge.

Snook Nook look

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The fishing pier, little beach and waters of the Indian River Lagoon behind the Snook Nook bait and tackle shop is an eBird hotspot that also falls within my 5-mile radius. After breakfast at the delicious Mary’s Gourmet Kitchen yesterday (open at 7 a.m. for early birds) we traveled a short distance north for a look-see at the ‘Nook.

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Osprey on sea grapes at the edge of the lagoon, making some noise.

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I’m pretty sure this is a Reddish Egret, on a quick fly by. The current U.S. population, located on the Atlantic coast in Florida and all around the Gulf Coast, is roughly 2,000 pairs, according to Audubon.

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On the dock, just one bird. So much for Hotspot!

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It looks like a “second winter” Laughing Gull. Photo at Cornell.

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Laughing Gulls are year-round residents here. I remember when I was a kid visiting my grandparents at the Jersey Shore we would only see these gulls in summertime. Their distinctive laughing call is a soundtrack to happy childhood beach and boardwalk memories.

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Next a small, spotted wading bird flew into the scene.

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Definitely a rare Dalmatian Heron, right?

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Just kidding. It’s a young Blue Heron growing up and molting from white to “blue.”

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Little Blue Herons may gain a survival advantage by wearing white during their first year of life. Immature birds are likelier than their blue elders to be tolerated by Snowy Egrets—and in the egrets’ company, they catch more fish. Mingling in mixed-species flocks of white herons, immature Little Blue Herons probably also acquire extra protection against predators.

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With their patchy white-and-blue appearance, Little Blue Herons in transition from the white first-year stage to blue adult plumage are often referred to as “Calico,” “Pied,” or “Piebald.”

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When I was a young girl going through my horse phase I remember learning the odd words “pied” and “piebald” for that particular black-and-white horse color.

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The famous Pied Piper from the Middle Ages tale is “pied” because of his multicolored clothing.

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This pied dog is a Dalmatian, of course.

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Pied little blue in the IRL.

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Wonderful photos and description at Mia McPherson’s On The Wing: Age Related Color Morphs of Little Blue Herons

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Wading bird wading, with the causeway to the bridge from the Jensen Beach mainland to Hutchinson Island beyond. Layers of moody tropically-moist storm clouds tell the story: rainy season has begun.

Savannas in early May

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Partridge pea is blooming at Savannas Preserve State Park. We went for a walk there yesterday, at the far south entrance off Jensen Beach Blvd.

Savannas Preserve State Park encompasses 6,000 acres stretching 10 miles from Jensen Beach to Fort Pierce with the largest freshwater marsh in South Florida. Water levels are seasonally variable.

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This is a marsh overlook, with trusty dog and adventurous husband, but without much water to see at the end of the dry season.

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But the water is coming. In fact, half an hour after our walk it rained hard off and on for the rest of the day. Rainy season officially begins May 15 and lasts to Oct. 15.

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Not a lot of birds got close enough for me to photograph. The exception to the rule was odd: a Little Blue Heron flew to the top of a tall pine tree.

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Bird’s eye view.

Check out the Nature & History of the park at the Friends of Savannas Preserve State Park webpage.

The Savannas comprises six natural communities: pine flatwoods, wet prairie, basin marsh, marsh lake, sand pine scrub, and scrubby flatwoods. Each community is characterized by a distinct population of plants and animals that are naturally associated with each other and their physical environment. 

Of particular interest is the sand pine scrub, a globally-imperiled plant community covering the eastern boundary of the park. It is dominated by sand pines and is home to the Florida scrub-jay and gopher tortoise.

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We were walking on trails through the flatwoods and scrub. But that is not a Scrub Jay…

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Those feet seem to work for perching as well as the usual shoreline wading.

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Little Blue.

Check out this drone video of the Savannas by Alan Nyiri on Youtube.

Little Blue breakfast

I went out with my camera to get warblers this morning, and I got them, but there were all kinds of other birds doing cool bird things. Just too many awesome avians!

Here is one, a Little Blue Heron walking and stalking in a neighbor’s driveway. The photos pretty much tell the story.

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Haney Creek list

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Green Heron!

Not an uncommon bird, but hard to spot. This is my first sighting since we moved to Florida.

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I went for a walk at Haney Creek yesterday late morning. I kept track of the birds I saw and heard and posted an eBird checklist for the first time in a while.

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The first to greet me: a couple of Gray Catbirds.

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Meow.

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Next, a non-bird.

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A slow-moving Gopher Tortoise was grazing at the edge of the path.

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On the fence at the dog run, an Eastern Phoebe.

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“Phoebe!” it said, helpfully.

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I expected to see more wading birds in the wetlands but only came up with this immature Little Blue Heron.

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That is a school just beyond the wetlands.

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The Little Blue is starting to get its adult colors.

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Why do they start off white and turn slaty blue-gray? I don’t know.

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On the hunt.

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Mirror, mirror.

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Last time I was at the dog park at Haney Creek (two days before), there were a pair of Sandhill Cranes and a pair of Great Egrets having a turf battle. I did not have my camera. I was hoping to see them this day but no luck.

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Next I walked a trail through sand pine scrub.

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There were little birds calling but I only got a good look at a few, including this Yellow-rumped Warbler.

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There have been a ton of butterbutts around this winter. I’m almost getting sick of them.

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More info on Florida sand pine scrub, an endangered subtropical forest ecoregion.

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Another gopher tortoise out for a stroll.

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Finally an animal that can’t outrun me, or fly away.

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Lots of Northern Cardinals around.

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I think it’s nesting season for them.

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Chestnut cap helps identify this (out of focus) Palm Warbler.

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Who doesn’t love a Green Heron??

Park birds, pond

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We went to Indian Riverside Park yesterday in the late afternoon. But why did I take so many pictures of birds! Oh well, because I love them. Here they are…

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Woot! it’s a Coot!

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I have never photographed and IDed an American Coot, until now!

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Duck, Mottled.

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Little Blue Heron, a grownup in its inky dark plumage.

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Snowy Egret.

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Standing still.

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That ol’ coot.

You’ll find coots eating aquatic plants on almost any body of water. When swimming they look like small ducks (and often dive), but on land they look more chickenlike, walking rather than waddling.

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The pond in the park was clearly the avian place to be.

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White Ibises, a coot and a Little Blue Heron.

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Also a few Cattle Egrets.

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A brief kerfuffle among the Mottled Ducks.

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Then all was well again.

Compared to other species of ducks, pair formation occurs early, with nearly 80% of all individuals paired by November. Breeding starts in January, continuing through to July and usually peaking in March and April.

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The male has a yellow bill, the female orange.

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Coots are tough, adaptable waterbirds. Although they are related to the secretive rails, they swim in the open like ducks and walk about on shore, making themselves at home on golf courses and city park ponds.

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Worth a read from Audubon.org The Sketch… The American Coot: A Tough-Love Parent.

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Bills can be swords, reminds the Cattle Egret.

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Cattle Egrets have broad, adaptable diets: primarily insects, plus other invertebrates, fish, frogs, mammals, and birds. They feed voraciously alone or in loose flocks of up to hundreds. Foraging mostly on insects disturbed by grazing cattle or other livestock, they also glean prey from wetlands or the edges of fields that have been disturbed by fire, tractors, or mowing machinery. Grasshoppers and crickets are the biggest item on their menu, which also includes horse flies, owlet moths and their larvae, cicadas, wolf spiders, ticks, earthworms, crayfish, millipedes, centipedes, fish, frogs, mice, songbirds, eggs, and nestlings.

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Another place birds find food in the park is from people. I was across the pond and couldn’t see what she was feeding them. The dogs were doing an amazing job of ignoring the birds… for treats?

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Another member of the Rallidae family (Rails, Galllinules and Coots): the Common Gallinule.

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The Common Gallinule inhabits marshes and ponds from Canada to Chile. Vocal and boldly marked with a brilliant red shield over the bill, the species can be quite conspicuous. It sometimes uses its long toes to walk atop floating vegetation. This species was formerly called the Common Moorhen and is closely related to moorhen species in the Old World.

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Whoa, those toes!

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A couple of nonnatives, Egyptian Geese, were enjoying the feeding from the ladies with the dogs.

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Ibis, ibis, goose.

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There are some feral populations of Egyptian geese in the area. They are probably more closely related to shelducks than geese. They were sacred to the ancient Egyptians.

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Facsimile Painting of Geese, Tomb of Nefermaat and Itat, ca. 2575-2551 from The Met.