I visited two birding hotspots in Palm Beach County yesterday. I’m posting about the second stop first, Peaceful Waters in Wellington, because of three wading birds I discovered at that location, including a rare bird.
Peaceful Waters is a peaceful place, a 30-acre wetland next to soccer fields in a park in the village of Wellington, Florida. A boardwalk and trails pass over and around shallow waters.
Florida Mottled Ducklings.
It’s baby bird season, which is one reason I made the trip. You’ve heard the expression seize the day. In Florida, birdwatchers want to seize the spring! for its nesting season AND migration.
Here is the first of my big-deal birds at Peaceful Waters: a Lesser Yellowlegs.
It’s a big deal to me because I have not seen one before, though I’ve known they exist ever since I saw a Greater Yellowlegs in a Hampton, New Hampshire marsh in October 2016.
The Lesser Yellowlegs is a dainty and alert “marshpiper” that occurs in shallow, weedy wetlands and flooded fields across North America during migration. It’s smaller with a shorter, more needlelike bill than the Greater Yellowlegs, but otherwise looks very similar. It breeds in the meadows and open woodlands of boreal Canada.
Looking at this Abundance Animation map, it looks like some spend winters in Florida; others go to South America.
Look for them in shallow marshes, ephemeral mudflats, and flooded fields in spring and fall, or on the tail ends of drawn-down reservoirs where nutrient-rich mudflats are exposed.
The Lesser Yellowlegs is Bird #225 for me on my sidebar count.
I also saw a striking wading bird, the Black-necked Stilt. I’ve seen them once before in the marshes near Lake Okeechobee, in April 2017.
Black-necked Stilts are among the most stately of the shorebirds, with long rose-pink legs, a long thin black bill, and elegant black-and-white plumage that make them unmistakable at a glance. They move deliberately when foraging, walking slowly through wetlands in search of tiny aquatic prey.
They have the second-longest legs in proportion to their bodies of any bird, exceeded only by flamingos.
When they are not resting or preening, Black-necked Stilts spend much of the day wading in shallow waters to capture aquatic invertebrates, small crustaceans, amphibians, snails, and tiny fish. They prey on larval mosquitoes, soldier flies, brine flies, caddisflies, dragonflies, mayflies, crickets, grasshoppers, many kinds of beetles (including weevils), water-boatmen, crayfish, brine shrimp, tadpoles, and very small frogs and fish.
Black-necked Stilts are in Florida in all seasons. I guess I haven’t been looking in the right places! I must spend more time visiting the freshwater wetlands away from the coasts.
I might have overlooked this sandpiper if I didn’t ask a birdwatcher nearby for help IDing the Lesser Yellowlegs. He said, “And did you see the Ruff over there?” and pointed.
Then I remembered that morning, when I had glanced through eBird to see what I might see in my planned trip to Green Cay. In the Palm Beach County section, there were lots of photos of the Ruff and I had noticed the location too: Peaceful Waters.
But then I forgot about it because I was so focused on Green Cay. Plus I’m not really expert enough to go chasing rare birds.
But at Green Cay, I got to chatting with a few birders who recommended some other locations in the county, including Peaceful Waters. I thought, “That sounds nice; I’ll go there after lunch.”
What’s the big deal about this Ruff?
“They live in Europe and Asia,” the nice birdwatcher told me.
“Oh geez,” I said, “that bird took a wrong turn.”
That happens sometimes, then a flock of birders will show up to see and appreciate the rare bird. South Florida Rare Bird Update.
The Ruff did not want to share its little patch of green and chased away any other bird that came near.
Apparently adult male Ruffs are striking in breeding season, with lots of extra plumage fluffing up in a “ruff” around its head and neck.
This far-wandering Ruff is blogged bird #226 for me!