Constant companions on our walk yesterday, Boat-tailed Grackles are the noisy ambassadors of the Pine Glades Natural Area in northern Palm Beach County.
They love Florida wetlands.
Pine Glades is 6,651 acres of freshwater marshes and ponds, wet prairie and pine flatwoods west of Jupiter, Florida.
A family fishing from this platform reported they had caught a few gar. At a covered fishing platform nearby, another family reported crappie and bass were lured by their minnow bait.
There is also a canoe and kayak launch near the small parking area.
We were there for the birds though, and a walk in sunshine.
My husband was excited to see his first Eastern Meadowlark.
I have only seen one before, myself, on a trip to Lakeside STA , a manmade wetland area in western Martin County near Lake Okeechobee.
This bird was singing prettily.
The male Eastern Meadowlark’s primary song consists of 3 to 5 (sometimes up to 8) pure and plaintive flutelike whistles all slurred together and gradually dropping in pitch, up to 2 seconds long. Male have a repertoire of songs, singing one song repeatedly for a time and then switching to a different version. They typically sing from an exposed perch, but occasionally sing in flight as well.
This bird was perched in one of the few remaining melaleuca trees.
Removing invasive melaleucas was one part of the Pine Glades restoration work that began in 2008. It included installing culverts, removing berms and asphalt roads, land grading, and prescribed burns to reduce invasive species and stimulate native vegetation to seed itself. The project was finished in 2013.
Pine Glades is an eBird hotspot, with 163 species sighted as of this posting.
When I asked my husband later what his favorite bird moment of the day was, he said, “When I saw the Wheels Up King Air that had just taken off from North Palm Beach Airport.” (That’s his new job and new plane.)
“No,” said I, “BIRD moment.”
“Oh then the meadowlark, for sure.”
He had also never seen a Loggerhead Shrike.
I got to explain how they were basically bloodthirsty songbirds who like to impale their prey (lizards, insects, small birds and mammals) on thorns or barbed wire for later eating. Seriously.
After we walked the short, paved trails to the two observation/ fishing platforms, we returned to the parking lot where there was the beginning of the longer hiking trails.
The Quail Trail is packed sand, shells and gravel. It’s open, high and dry, and has good views of the wetlands.
First wading bird we got a good look at was a Limpkin. Not sure why it was hanging its wings like that… maybe hiding a nest? sunning?
There was a sort of canal/ lake and the path would turn just past here to travel south alongside it.
Great Egret on the hunt.
Snowy Egret. I think of them more as coastal birds but this one proved they visit inland wetlands too.
A view back toward the small parking area.
My highlight bird of the day was this Pie-billed Grebe. I’ve seen them a couple of times before, but never gotten a decent photo.
It was alone on this body of water, diving occasionally, keeping an eye on us.
Grebes are little diving birds more closely related to flamingos than ducks, loons or coots. Their awesome nicknames include dabchick, dive-dapper, hell diver and water witch.
Their bills are “pied,” or two-colored, in breeding season, not now.
Across the water we spotted a small group of Roseate Spoonbills.
Pretty in pink.
The flamboyant Roseate Spoonbill looks like it came straight out of a Dr. Seuss book with its bright pink feathers, red eye staring out from a partly bald head, and giant spoon-shaped bill. Groups sweep their spoonbills through shallow fresh or salt waters snapping up crustaceans and fish.
As we headed south on the trail, wetlands were to our right and grassy, open pine flatwoods on our left.
It’s the dry season and the drier areas are more brown than green. I miss the big fat wet-season clouds too. These little winter clouds just can’t compare.
An easy walking surface, for sure. Probably should have brought some water. The sun was hot though the air temp was probably only about 80 and not too humid.
I’ve been trying to get rid of a lingering cough and I feel sure the sunshine and birds helped!
The Quail Trail bent around and headed west, connecting to other longer trails we will explore another day.
Right here we actually heard the call of a Northern Bob-white quail. I didn’t know they lived in Florida. (The trail name might have tipped me off, ha!) Seems we are at the southern end of their range.
We spotted an Eastern Phoebe, a petite flycatcher that visits Florida in winter. Not enough bugs up north? Come to Florida, little friend. (Actually, we forgot to wear bug spray and had no trouble with mosquitos.)
A Red-shouldered Hawk circled overhead, calling and calling.
Pine Glades is a quiet place (except for the grackles) and a good place to stretch your legs and rest your eyes on some natural beauty.
More info on Pine Glades at Wild South Florida.