Remember to Recycle!

July 1, 2013 at 2:32 am | Posted in The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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Just a friendly reminder from wildlife everywhere to please recycle! This girl is checking in, making sure we humans are getting it right.

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Happy Bald Eagle Day!

June 21, 2013 at 1:52 am | Posted in The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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What a beautiful, majestic bird it is. A symbol of our country. So to all of you raptor lovers out there, Happy Bald Eagle Day!

Robin’s Have Invaded Green Cay

March 19, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Posted in The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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It was another beautiful day in South Florida.  Not to be wasted, my son and I wen’t for a quick walk at Green Cay to enjoy the cool air.  Turns out we weren’t the only ones loving the beautiful South Florida weather this day, but we’ll get back to that later…

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Most of the usual suspects were out and about today.  There seemed to be a larger than normal number of Blue Winged Teals and they were rather rowdy, making all kinds of noise and flying about.  Perhaps they were displeased with the Red Shoulder Hawk that had perched itself upon a Wood Duck nesting box.  I don’t entirely blame them in that case, that seems like cheating to me.  All of the usual (but no less beautiful) Heron’s were out and about looking for breakfast too.

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Toward the front was The Breakfast Club, the usual group of birds that always seem to be hanging out and feeding together consisting of White and Glossy Ibis, Wood Storks, different kinds of Egret, and the sometimes a couple of Tri-Colored Herons. (On lucky days this group will even have Spoonbills hanging with them, no such luck today.)  They all wade together, sifting through the water looking for that lucky catch…

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One lone Ibis seemed to have hit the jackpot.  Biting off more than it could chew didn’t seem to have this bird down and it played with the large frog it had captured trying to figure out a way to eat it without choking.  How does one eat food larger than it’s head anyway?  By the time we continued walking on, it was still trying to figure out how to deal with its super sized meal.

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Now about that enjoyable South Florida weather I spoke of earlier…

While I enjoy seeing all of the usual birds and animals I see at places I always love to see new and different things.  This day there were what had to be hundreds of Robins in the parking lot of Green Cay.  While this area of Florida is technically part of their range we very rarely see a Robin in our parts, they usually stick to more Northern parts of the state.  Luckily for those of us who don’t usually get to see them a cold front had moved through North of us, seemingly pushing flocks of Robins down into warmer weather.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw one fly in front of me at my car!  I though for sure I was seeing things.  I heard other photographers along the boardwalk talking about the robins so I didn’t feel quite as crazy.  I consulted with a fellow Bird Nerd via text messaging and she told me she too had seen one at her bird feeder and she too thought she was seeing things.  We got into the car and drove around to the back side of the parking lot where the Robin I saw was headed.  It was back there that I was in the middle of what I’m sure was a few hundred birds.  They were everywhere – flying back and forth, perched in trees, foraging along the floor… literally everywhere.  They were a very pleasant surprise, they reminded me of my home town of Chicago.  I do hope that next winter they remember how lovely it was here and decide to return.

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Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge

March 11, 2013 at 12:09 am | Posted in The Wild Side | 2 Comments
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So many times I’ve driven up and down 441, so many times I’ve seen Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, so many times I’ve said to myself “I need to make time to spend a day there.”  Finally, just a few weeks ago, I did.  I was taking my son to Bedners Farm to pick strawberries and decided that we should check out the refuge before we did that.  It was a lovely cool day outside, the skies were blue, and there was no legitimate reason not to spend as much time as possible outside, so we popped in.  There are a lot of different areas to explore, so be sure to allow yourself some time!

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After checking out the Visitors Center, we headed to the very back of the park.  Here you can get out of your car and launch your boat, rent a canoe, fish, or hike or bike up and down the levy.  We explored the nearby surroundings and saw tons of wildlife!  There were pairs of ducks and wading birds at the shore.  We walked over by the fishing pier to see what we could see… and boy did we see something!  A monster sized alligator was relaxing in the water, just yards away from someone fishing, seemingly fast asleep.  I’m sure it was waiting for a special delivery on the other end of the fisherman’s line, but the fish didn’t seem to be biting that day, and it appeared someone got a little tired of waiting.  Other animals seemed to have noticed Sleeping Beauty as well, ducks swam just feet from it without flinching and fish were picking bits of gunk off its back.  A little further down the fishing pier were several baby turtles out sunning themselves, safely distancing themselves from the alligator.  Personally, I think they should be more worried about the ducks, they can be a bit shady.

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After checking out the first area we piled into the car and went over to the area you can park to get out and hike.  This foot traffic only area is park of the Great Florida Birding Trail and has miles of dry hiking and an observation tower around marshy areas where you will find plenty of wildlife.  We saw tons of herons of all kinds wading in the water looking for lunch, butterflies fluttering all over, small birds flying between trees, coots and moorhens swimming among fish and turtles, and turkey vulchers circling above who knows what.  The trails are easy to walk and there are areas with bridges to cross over canals making it a very pretty hike.

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Probably my favorite part of the hike (and the day) was the final stretch heading back to the parking lot.  Along this last walk we came across a small alligator sitting atop some sawgrass that was enjoying the sun and warmth far too much to be bothered by anyone or anything.  It sat peacefully as small crowds gathered to look at it.  Also along this area were small ponds with water so still that it looked almost like a mirror.  In this area were turtles also sunning themselves, creating a picture perfect scene that so many people seemed to miss because of much “bigger and cooler” things happening.  A few yards down was another distraction, and certainly my hilight of the day, a very brazen red shouldered hawk who sat atop a small tree with people a mere 10 feet away.  People directly below, he couldn’t seem to care any less as he preened away and surveyed the area.

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As promised to my son, we jumped back into the car and headed off to Bedner’s Farm to pick strawberries.  When you’re leaving the preserve remember to check out the canal along the road, you never know what you’ll see… you may see a Great Blue Heron of large and lazy Alligator like we did or maybe you’ll get super lucky and see some of the resident Otters.

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Of course, if you head into Bedner’s and are out in the fields picking strawberries don’t think you’re out of the wildlife woods.  We came across this little guy on our way in swimming with tomatoes.  He was small and harmless and surely looking for rodents sneaking into the fields to snack on some fresh produce.  So if you see a gator in the fields don’t fear it, thank it.

IF YOU GO:

Check out Loxahatchee Wildlife Preserve here…

http://www.fws.gov/loxahatchee/

Don’t forget to stop in at Bedner’s and either pick some fresh produce for yourself or purchase some from their farm store, they’re really great!

http://www.bedners.com/

Whistling Ducks, Wood Storks, and Wee Ones at Wakodahatchee

February 23, 2013 at 4:01 am | Posted in For the Family, The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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For as close as Wakodahatchee is to me, I don’t visit nearly enough.  Green Cay is my staple for wildlife walks, but after about a dozen text messages from a fellow bird-nerd friend about her wonderful visits to Wakodahatchee in Delray Beach I decided it was time to visit and see all the nesting birds and hatching babies.

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I’m a believer in first impressions.  When I pulled into the parking lot cars were EVERYWHERE, even parked along the road and in places what didn’t look like they could be converted into parking spaces, but creative drivers managed to make it work.  I couldn’t help but think that something had to be going on today.  As soon as I hit the boardwalk, I saw this Black Crowned Night Heron hanging in the tree where he usually sits.  First bird impressions are a good sign, and I knew if I was already seeing something like this shy bird that it was going to be a good day.

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Shortly after heading up the boardwalk I was surprised by the sight of 5 adorable Black Bellied Whistling Ducks.  Every so often I might be lucky enough to see a pair, but not usually 5 together.  This was already the hilight of my day, I love their adorable “quack” that sounds more like peeping or a whistle. (Hence the name.)  After I was done gawking at them I continued up the boardwalk and saw 3 more.  And then more, and more after that.  All together that day I saw at least 25 Whistling Ducks!  For this bird nerd, that was an exciting day!

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In between all of the Whistling Ducks were some of my other favorite birds as well.  There were quite a few Blue Winged Teals, a Purple Gallinule, several Green Herons, and plenty others that I’ll get to in a little bit…

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As usual, it wasn’t just about the birds either.  There was a rather large Alligator on the same tree that I always see one sunning itself on. (And if this was the same one I used to see last year, holy smokes did it get big!)  Turtles were all over as they usually are here.  Even fish were making themselves seen, like this school of Tilapia that was hanging directly next to the boardwalk, undoubtedly waiting for someone to drop something at least partially edible in the water.

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If there’s one thing Wakodahatchee never seems to lack, it’s nesting birds.  There are several islands here that serve as home to nesting birds of all kinds – Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets in their impressive breeding plumage, Wood Storks, Anhingas, and Cormorants and some of the most popular families you’ll see hanging in the branches and tending to their nests.  Nearly everywhere I turned birds were arranging their nests, building nests, warming their eggs, and taking it easy before the arrival of their little ones.

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Not all birds were peacefully relaxing, some of them already had little beaks to feed and were working hard to care for their noisy little offspring.  There were little white fuzzy baby Anhingas all over and some of the Great Blue Herons already had little ones as well.  Now I don’t speak bird, but I’m pretty sure I could hear the bird term for “Feed me!” ringing out across the wetlands.  Noisy as they are, they’re adorable, and I will make sure I’m back sooner than later to see them grow and see who else is hatching.

Everglades Sunset

February 22, 2013 at 8:46 pm | Posted in Breaking Tradition, The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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When it comes to the motions of the sun, Florida has some pretty great views.  With Oceans to both out East and West we are able to see some beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  The Keys were always the best to me, you could catch a sunrise, spend the day playing, and walk across the street for drinks on the beach at sunset.  Living on the East Coast on the main land of Florida, I’ve seen some beautiful sunrises at the beach.  I’ve always been bummed that there wasn’t a way to enjoy a sunset without spending a few hours in the car and hauling across Alligator Alley.  Turns out you don’t need the Ocean to enjoy a sunset.  If you’re on the East Coast and want to enjoy a beautiful, colorful, peaceful sunset look no further than our very own Florida Everglades…

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Just west of the Sawgrass Expressway is endless sights of Everglades, a true beauty of Florida.  If you happen to be in Broward County, take Atlantic Blvd all the way to the Sawgrass, get on going South, and before you actually hit the Expressway is a construction sight on the right.  This is a fairly popular place for people wanting to see a beautiful sunset, so don’t worry about being all alone in the Everglades.  Park along the road, walk on back and up onto the levy, and enjoy the sights.  You can bring a chair and relax or your hiking boots of bike and explore the levy, including a part that heads west into the glades.  It is the Everglades, so expect to see nature. Upon arrival, sparrows were swooping everywhere, hunting insects.  You’ll also see flocks of birds flying around, which makes for some pretty cool picture taking opportunities.  You’ll probably also hear larger animals shuffling around in the saw grass.  Naturally, my dog wanted to explore the noises, but as crazy as she makes me, I wasn’t about to have her become dinner for an alligator.  We didn’t come for trouble, we came to relax, and to see this…

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Return to the Crystal River

January 16, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Posted in Endangered Encounters, For the Family, The Wild Side | 2 Comments
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It had been just over a year since the last time I found myself in Homosassa Springs and I couldn’t wait to get back!  So in December, what started with just my two cousins and I wanting to see manatees from their world, turned into a much larger family trip of 12 of us. I had such a wonderful experience the year before, I wanted to make sure my family had the same great time.  And who do you trust with a dozen of your craziest relatives?  None other than Captain Glenn and River Ventures!  Once again, from the minute I had booked months in advance, the folks at River Ventures were awesome… making reservations was easy as could be, changing the reservations when more people wanted to come was just as easy, changing the reservations once again because we don’t do anything organized the first two times was not a problem either, and finally the day of was a breeze.  I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to coordinate 12 people ages 12 to, well, I won’t say the oldest age because I’ll be in trouble for announcing that on the internet… but they managed with ease.  I’ll tell you from being related to my group, that is no easy task!

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It was a chilly December morning, around 37*.  Steam was coming off the water from it being about 35* warmer and my family was shooting me looks of “Are you kidding me right now?!”  They had no idea what they were in for.  The chill in the air reminded me of how cold I got last time, though I wasn’t about to tell that to my sleepy mob.  Unlike last time, when, having visited just before official “manatee season”, the manatee sanctuary zones were up, a “human-free” area where manatees can hang away from people.

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Manatees and exhausted humans weren’t the only ones out early this morning.  There is a variety of wildlife in the area, including many kinds of birds, otter, even the occasional dolphin.  We were greeted at Three Sisters Springs by the sounds of singing birds, a Great Blue Heron hunting in the mist, and an Osprey that had just come in for a landing.  Of course, we were also greeted by the sound of manatees surfacing for air.

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Shortly after anchoring, the red carpet was rolled out and we had a welcoming committee playing with the ladder.  Everyone carefully entered the water, doing our best not do disturb our playful little manatee friend.  The warmer water was almost welcome… after the shock of water touching everyone anyway.  I waited back as my family slipped into the water one by one, ready to hand out floating noodles to those who decided last minute that they needed one.  Finally, after a little bit of madness and confusion what comes standard in my families DNA, we were all in the water and off to meet some new friends.

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To say that manatees were everywhere isn’t an exaggeration, they really were.  There were points in time where I was getting bumped from different directions by passing manatees… apparently I’m not much of a road block for a 2,000lb animal, which thinking about it as I write this makes me worry less about eating healthy today.  We headed toward the entrance to Three Sisters Springs slowly but steadily, admiring the many manatees as we passed.  Some were resting, some were feeding, some were playing; it was impossible to keep track of them all.  I spent half my time observing the manatees and the other half observing my family, all of whom seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.

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The Springs were quite busy this morning, there were several tour boats, kayakers, and people on their own boats.  Naturally the more people you have in a crowd the more likely someone is not to listen.  I can proudly say I am actually NOT speaking about anyone in my family!  There was a couple on their own boat who, despite Captain Glenn warning them where they were headed and why they shouldn’t go there, managed to startle sleeping manatees.  The ones they startled went into a panic and ran into others, who did the same, and you can imagine the chain of events – a manatee stampede.  The splashing picture above doesn’t do the actual event justice, it was pure madness for a few seconds, and afterward there were manatees covered in sand like the one pictured above from the ground being kicked up.  Lesson of the day – Always listen to Captain Glenn!

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After the manatee rodeo, we headed into Three Sisters Springs to see if anyone was hanging out inside.  The current was quite strong getting inside!  The kayakers that were heading in to check out the beauty of the springs didn’t seem to be having as much trouble as we were.  We had to use the rocks to help us along, almost like a lateral rock wall.  But it was worth the fight of the current, the springs are absolutely beautiful inside.

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Once inside, the waters turned into a clear blue tone.  It wasn’t quite as clear as last time I was there, but last time I visited was during a slower time of the year, so there were more people present and understandably the sand on the bottom was being kicked up more.  Inside the springs there were a few resting manatees hanging out being admired by swimmers and kayakers who could easily see down into the water.  Fish were taking shelter under the resting manatees and keeping warm where the spring releases its warm water.  Even on busy days when the water isn’t crystal clear, it’s still worth the trip into the springs, even if just to observe your surroundings and take in how gorgeous this natural wonder really is.  The manatees being present just adds to the awe.

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Soon enough, we had spent nearly 2 hours in the water and it was time to head back to the boat and into the freezing air.  As one last goodbye, after a good amount of our group had already retreated to the boat, my cousin and I were approached by a friendly youngster.  He swam up to us and was rubbing himself on our legs like he had an itch he couldn’t reach.  As with a few others that day, he began playing with my feet and was even trying to take hold of them with his flipper and also held onto my leg as if he wanted it for himself.  This kiddo was the perfect ending to a wonderful day.  The last few of us holding out, afraid to face the much colder air, finally made it past the manatees blocking the ladder and back onto the boat… and directly to the hot chocolate kept on board to help thaw out human ice cubes.  It was an event that all 12 of us agree was truly wonderful.  If you have a family of 12, you KNOW this is a miracle in itself!

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IF YOU GO:

This really is something to be enjoyed by people of all ages.  An adventure you can take on your own, or with a boat full of friends and family.  For sure, something to add on to your bucket list!  Try to go during cooler months and be sure to book in advance!

As I’ve said before, I can’t possibly say enough nice things about the crew at River Ventures.  They will take excellent care of you and your family.  For more information, visit them here…

http://www.riverventures.com/

This time around, we stayed the night in town.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express that we found on River Ventures web site.  Great accommodations!  They were all of 2 minutes from River Ventures, which is a HUGE deal at 6AM.  They have a continental breakfast, out and served before you go to your swim.  They’re also good about late check out so you can return and shower before you check out.  The rooms are clean and the staff is friendly, I’ll be staying with them again for sure.  Check them out yourself here…

http://www.hiexpress.com/hotels/us/en/crystal-river/crtfl/hoteldetail

You can also read about my previous visit here…

https://wild4creatures.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/the-manatees-of-crystal-river-fl/

A Symbol of America on Thanksgiving

November 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Posted in Creature Feature, The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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On Thanksgiving day, on the way home from Sanibel, I was still kicking myself for missing the opportunity to snap pictures of the Bald Eagles we had seen that day.  Little did I know, my real opportunity was 5 minutes down the road from my inlaws at the Dollar General!  Yes, that’s right, the Dollar General of all places.  We were making the final right turn toward our families neighborhood when I spotted two large birds on top of a large bare tree.  Most of the day, I had been getting my hopes up of seeing these majestic birds only to find out what I though could have been them from a distance was actually an Osprey or a Turkey Vulture.  This time though, with their bright white heads glowing in the sunset, I was sure!  I frightened my husband into popping a u-turn and going back.

With around 1,200 nesting pairs, Florida has the third largest population of breeding eagles, with Alaska having the most and then Minnesota. Bald Eagles usually make their way down to Florida around September for the winter/breeding season, often returning to the same nest they have used in years before.  Because Eagles return to their old nests, organizations have been able to install “Eagle Cams” at the nests while the pair isn’t using it.  This gives anyone with internet access the ability to check in on a nesting pair and watch from the time eggs are laid until the young fledge.

While I didn’t see a nest in sight, I’m certain this pair of Eagles will be nesting nearby.  Three times we drove past the Dollar General, three times at least one of the raptors was there, if not on the old tree than perched upon a cell tower on the other side of the building.  Cape Coral has around 11 pairs of nesting Eagles in or near the town, we were pleasantly surprised to find this pair was practically our neighbors.

Photos taken with my Nikon D3100

To locate a nest in Florida, try FWC’s Nesting Locator…

https://public.myfwc.com/FWRI/EagleNests/nestlocator.aspx

Not near a nest but want to catch the nesting action anyway?  Try one of these Eagle Cams…

http://www.eaglenestcams.com/

Sanibel Snowbirds

November 25, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Posted in For the Family, The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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After an early dinner on Thanksgiving, my family and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather on the West Coast of Florida and head over to Sanibel Island for the afternoon.  I had read that the White Pelicans were in town for the winter and was dying to see them for myself.

Our first stop on the island was to Blind Pass Beach, an old favorite of mine.  We stopped to take pictures of the kids at the beach but we also had quite a show from feeding birds.  Out over the water, Brown Pelicans were diving left and right while Gulls circles frantically and Osprey hovered nearby.  It was a Thanksgiving feast for all the birds!  After watching the birds for a while, we “convinced” the kids to load into the car and head over to Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge to see who was wintering in town.

If there is one thing Ding never lacks, it’s shore birds.  We saw tons of Gulls, Sand Pipers, and Plovers at just about every body of water.  Even with these more common residents, I could see a big increase in population from our last visit back in May.  This was already good news to me, the cooler weather really does bring the birds into the park.

Another sure sighting in Ding Darling is the good ol Osprey.  At my last visit, we were there just after nesting season, when the young were getting ready to fledge.  This time, the posts with platforms that are set up for the Osprey to nest on were all empty, but the Osprey were still out and about.  I had heard that Bald Eagles were in town for the winter and quite often a cruising Osprey managed to psyche me out with my hopes of seeing one here. (We did, for the record, but we were driving outside of the park and it flew overhead. I cursed myself for the rest of the day, until we happened upon a pair when we were 5 minutes from where we were staying… another story to be posted over the course of the next few days.)

Of course, no trip to Ding would be complete without the plethora of Herons and Egrets.  Even the usually shy Little Blue Herons were making appearances today.  What I love about this place is that I always see at least one Reddish Egret, something I rarely see back home on the East Coast of Florida.

Despite the effort to come at the best possible time to Ding Darling (later in the day, at low tide) we didn’t see the massive flocks of Roseate Spoonbills that can be seen here at times.  I was still pleasantly surprised to see the two we did see, I always love seeing them.  We saw one wading out with other birds near a sand bar and another gracefully flying by as we got out of the car to admire something else.

Ah, the White Pelicans.  Winter residents to the refuge.  THIS was who I had come to see!  I had just missed them last spring so I wasn’t about to miss them this season.  They certainly didn’t disappoint.  There were several groupe hanging out together as more flew in for the evening doing everything a snowbird does – sleeping, eating, preening, and driving horribly… oh, wait, that’s the other kind of snowbird.  They were a beautiful sight to see!  I am grateful to have family on the West Coast now, I know I’ll be back to see them before they head back North for the summer.

Who Comes Out To Play On A Cool Day – Green Cay Wetlands, Boynton Beach, FL

November 7, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Posted in Endangered Encounters, The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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It was a chilly week here in South Florida last week!  And by chilly, I mean it was in the 60’s.  But it’s a nice change of pace for those of us here who crave cooler weather.  With the cooler weather comes more activity with wildlife, so it seemed like a good time to head out to Green Cay and see who else was out and about enjoying the beautiful day.

My first thought about the cooler weather was that surely the alligators would be out sunning themselves, keeping their cold blood warm.  Boy was I right!  There was a gator right by the boardwalk right at the first bend and their presence didn’t stop there.  All together, 7 alligators made an appearance that day.  There was one that was easily 7 feet long basking on an island as well, one swimming toward what could have potentially become a meal (we’ll get to that later), and the remaining 4 babies that hatched last year and still stick together close to their nest.

There were also several Raptors out today too.  A Red Shouldered Hawk sat perched upon a barren tree trunk, seemingly uninterested in hunting.  There was also an American Kestrel perched by the sparrow houses as if it was a birdy drive-thru.  I can’t decide if him waiting for a sparrow to come out was just unfair or incredibly genius… it seems it was a bit of both.

Also making a big appearance today were many different types of Herons.  We saw nearly all of the Heron species that call Florida home, the only one missing was the Yellow Crowned Night Heron.  The normally shy Green Herons were all over and quite active.  There were a few Little Blue Herons out as well, which are usually hit or miss here.  The always popular Great Blue Heron and Tri-Colored Herons were everywhere, as usual.  On the way out, much to my excitement, I even spotted a Black Crowned Night Heron!  This was the first time I have seen this bashful Heron, it was just calmly and quietly roosting next to the Nature Center. (Side note, I can update my Heron post now that I have photos of all Florida Heron species! Woohoo!)  To my luck, as I was driving away, I saw my second Black Crowned Night Heron… flying… almost into my windshield, but luckily we avoided a car/bird meet.

Just as numerous as the Herons were the number of Egrets.  Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and Cattle Egrets seemed to be at nearly every waters edge.  While the Great Egrets were loners and doing their own thing, the Snowy and Cattle Egrets joined the flocks of Ibis who were in feeding frenzies.

The White Ibis are always very popular at Green Cay.  They’re always there and they’re usually everywhere.  So it was nice to see the Glossy Ibis thrown into the mix with them.  Of course there were nowhere near as many as the whites, but there were quite a few here.

Amongst every group of Ibis and Egrets was usually a Wood Stork.  This goofy looking bird feeds by opening its mouth in the water and waiting for prey to swim into its beak, sometimes kicking to scare small fish in that direction. (You can see this in the top picture above.)  It’s always nice to see the Wood Stork when it makes its way down for the winter.  Walking through Green Cay and seeing them nearly everywhere, it’s hard to believe this bird is federally protected as an Endangered Species.

Joining one of the flocks of feeding birds on the back side of the wetlands was a small group of Roseate Spoonbills.  All the comotion of whatever was so great to eat must have attracted some of them close to the boardwalk where we were all able to get a great view.  Dare I say it, Spoonbill sightings seem to be becoming reliable at Green Cay.  Usually, I see one flying overhead or napping somewhere far away where it’s almost difficult to recognize them, but their beautiful pink plumage gives them away every time.  This was a lucky day for me that they were so close by as the Spoonbills are probably my favorite birds to see here.  Not because of their pretty pink feathers, though that certainly does make them popular with everyone who sees them, but it’s that odd spoon shaped beak that does it for me, I can’t help but love their faces!

Also becoming an oddly reliable sighting is the family of Black Bellied Whisteling Ducks that has taken up residence here.  I always spot them on the North side of the park, usually at a distance, but every so often you get lucky and one might be literally sitting on the boardwalk waiting for you.  I will never forget the first time I saw them there – I heard their odd whisteling noise coming from one of the islands and there they were, chasing galinules all over the place.

As we were admiring the sleeping Whisteling Ducks, an Anhinga surfaced in the water next to us.  We had seen ripples in the water where it had been swimming quickly below the surface chasing a fish,  When it popped up, it had captured its lunch, and it was stuck to its beak!  After struggling for just a few seconds, the bird flipped the fish off its beak and town its throat.  The photo above with the fish mid air was a lucky catch on my part!

Luck was certainly on my side today.  Toward the back side of the park was an American Bittern out walking around.  This was another first for me, I had never seen one before.  From speaking with someone else there, they’re apparently very shy birds and don’t tend to come out into the open much, particularly around people, and usually feed by standing within the reeds with their heads up and beaks open, ready to catch their next meal.  But here he was, out for a stroll and hunting.

Winning the “Awwww” award for the day was the family of raccoons we encountered on toward the end of the walk.  A mother was out with her 3 babies and they were just as adorable as can be!  We watched them wrestle each other, pick food off of plants, and chase birds while their mother would peek out of the plants and closely watch the approaching allogator who was inching nearer and nearer.  Of course, I wasn’t about to stick around and see just how close the alligator got.  That’s something I would imagine my 2 year old son might find a little horrifying.

And so it was another beautiful day to be outside enjoying nature.  South Florida, we have some more cool weather headed our way!  Get out and enjoy it!

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