Friday, February 27, 2009


The park naturalist in Flamingo joked that the town should have been named "Osprey" instead. There were no Flamingos, but Osprey were nesting, courting, catching fish, and raising young everywhere one looked.

I watched this Osprey hover, looking down for a fish, then plunge at a great rate of speed into the water (the photo is just a streak), and emerge with a fish in its talons (the photo is from the back of the bird as it flew away, so the telling of it is more descriptive).

This is probably the closest I have have ever been to an Osprey in a nest. I had to walk by to go see the crocodiles, and just snapped this photo and kept moving so as not to disturb it too much.

While looking at this pair with binoculars I noticed a little head peek up in the middle. Dad is on the left, and Mom is on the right. The female has a bit of a "necklace" of darker feathers on her chest (not visible from this angle). Junior is peeking up in the middle.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Herons and Egrets

There were many Herons and Egrets in the Everglades. They thrive on the fish in this broad, shallow river flowing across the flat landscape. I began to notice the details that can't be seen well when birds are a great distance, such as eye color and the small feathers on the head of the Great Blue Heron.

The Egrets can be hard to tell apart. Some look similar, and there are white versions of the Little Blue Heron and Great Blue Heron. This next photo is of a Snowy Egret. Though the golden yellow feet are the way most people identify them, the feet can often be under water. I decided to use the yellow on the face as my clue. The Snowy Egret catch fish in many interesting ways. In an earlier post I mentioned how they follow other birds, to catch fish that are fleeing. I also saw this bird stir and probe in the water with its foot to seek out fish. But the most interesting I saw was a tactic of hovering and moving slowly across the surface of the water, just trailing a toe along the water, fishing much like a flyfishing angler carefully places a dry fly on the surface in just the right spot to cause a fish to rise to take the bait.

The Cattle Egret is much like the Snowy, but it feeds on land, often wandering in agricultural fields. Here it has caught a grasshopper to eat.

The Black-crowned Night-Heron can be found in Idaho, but they are so wary in my home state that I have never taken a good photo. They were abundant on the Anhinga Trail in the Everglades, and perhaps the constant flow of people on the boardwalk had made them grow accustomed to the activity.

The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was a bird I had never seen before, so I was thrilled to hear somebody say its name as I walked the Anhinga Trail. I met many birders and shared what I had seen, and learned what they had seen. Even a simple, "I saw a Yellow-breasted Chat in this area yesterday morning." would make me look and listen the next morning ... and sure enough, there it was. So, I first saw the Yell0w-crowned Night-Heron because someone else found it and pointed it out. Later I found this one on another trail, the Shark River Slough, on the north side of the park.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Birding in Everglades National Park

This is Florida Bay, with Mangrove roots at the shoreline. This was the edge of the campground at which I stayed for eight nights.

I think I'll make this the symbol of my clan. It is a nice archetype image. It reminds me of some ink blot quiz. Each time you turn it 90 degrees, it seems to be some other figure or logo.

Here's a Tree Snail. They live in isolated pockets of hardwood forest called hammocks. Each hammock has snails that are unique in color and pattern. Before the park was formed, collectors would collect and trade the various beautiful shells. Some would go in and collect every snail they could locate, then burn the hammock to the ground, thus destroying every last snail of that type and increasing the value of their own collection. I've heard it said that, "Greed is good." I think it would be easy to argue to the contrary.

This soft brown feather pattern is on the back of a Double-crested Cormorant.

I laughed when I saw this behaviour. Think up some funny captions for this one: "Me and my shadow." "There's nobody here but us chickens." The White Ibis with the red curved bill was probing for food, and the Snowy Egret was following it everywhere, watching for a fish to be scared out of a hiding place by the probing, and eating the fish. Is it just me, or does this Ibis have a look on its face that says, "You're beginning to bother me."

This is a Great Crested Flycatcher. I went on two bird walks with the Park Naturalist. The activities are free and are held every morning at 8 AM. We would see about 30 birds during a 2-hour walk. The naturalist also gave me some great tips on places to bird.

Another photo that makes me smile. Perhaps it is the color, or maybe the strange shape and oversized feet made for walking on floating pond plants. It is a Purple Gallinule and while it tromps around it keeps flicking its white butt feathers nervously.

The Green Heron sits motionless waiting for a fish, and when one comes by it slowly extends to two or three times its hunched size and then snatches the fish from the water.

The Barred Owl has a unique call. Some say it sounds like, "Who cooks for you." It makes an almost barking noise. When I first heard it, I thought there was a dog in the distance. I had an interesting encounter with a Barred Owl one night. I was out walking in the evening, enjoying fireflies in February, and I walked out in an open field. From the campground a car headlights swung through the field and I noticed an owl coursing low over the grass. It went past me and turned toward the headlights, which I suspect blinded it for a moment because of what happened next. It continued to turn and was headed directly for me, at eye level. I instinctively threw up my arm to block the impact and ducked. The owl must have seen that movement because it went into a full power brake maneuver with both wings powerfully bringing it to a stop in front of me before it began to climb out. They say owl feathers are made to be silent, but when one is coming to a full stop about two feet from your face, the rush of air is quite audible.

A bird found only in south Florida is the White-crowned Pigeon. They're reclusive and can be seen high in the treetops, usually early in the morning.

This little bird was not uncommon and its song was heard everywhere. It is helping out with identification by showing its namesake. This is the White-eyed Vireo.

On one morning bird walk a beginning birder asked how to distinguish sparrows from warblers. Not a bad question. The naturalist advised that sparrows were more drab in general and had seed-cracking beaks. Warblers often wear yellow and have insect eating bills that are generally smaller and thinner, like this Yellow-throated Warbler.

There are many different habitats in the park: cypress, pinelands, sawgrass, mangroves, subtropical hardwood forest, and this, the coastal prairie.

After some time sitting in front of the computer, I have finally finished the first pass at organizing the many photos I brought home. I deleted a lot during the vacation, and brought home 307 pictures, including approximately 80 or so unique birds of the 111 avian species I saw while I was there. Now they are all named with both common and Latin names and you can see them at Click on the Florida Birds album and select "slide show." They're just in alphabetical order at this time. I'll leave arranging them in taxonomic order for a later date.

To see the birds, plants, flowers, butterflies, scenery and all, go to They are in no particular order. Maybe I'll get to that sometime soon, but I think I'll go outside for a while now. Maybe go look for some birds.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mrazek Pond

I'll begin by quoting from the National Park literature. "Mrazek Pond: Most of the year only a few ducks and wading birds, but for a few days during some winters, large numbers of wading birds, including Roseate Spoonbills and Wood Storks, move in to feast."

I was lucky enough to be there on one such glorious morning just before sunrise sharing the excitement with a Northern Shoveler.

I stood behind some reeds and watched this "standing room only" buffet in progress.

It soon became frenzied, with landing and departure on the same runway. The Wood Storks threw open their wings and raced about scooping up breakfast.

The Roseate Spoonbills are a beautiful bird, and to judge by the conversations I often overheard at the water's edge, confused with the other pink bird, the Flamingo. I did not see a Flamingo. Hungry people in Cuba eat them, and the hurricane really gave the Flamingos a jolt to their population as well. Some Flamingos may occasionally escape captivity, and later be seen in the wild, but mostly they just get lost when flying around Cuba and wind up in Florida. So, these pink birds are Roseate Spoonbills (and at a different pond as well, called Eco Pond, about a 5 minute walk from my campsite).

Notice the wide, spoon-shaped bill that gives this bird its name. It looks like it has a throat full of food as well. There were young Spoonbills still more interested in begging parents for food than making an effort to get their own from the water.

In flight they are a sight to behold, very breathtaking, especially on February 14th, Valentine's Day!

Here is a Spoonbill at Mrazek Pond, after the chaos subsided.


There was certainly a lot to see in the Everglades National Park. This is a very popular boardwalk, called the Anhinga trail.

The alligators were sunning in the daytime and grunting and bellowing in the evening.

I camped in the campground at Flamingo, and there were American Crocodiles in a nearby waterway.

I also enjoyed seeing anoles scurry around, and the snakes enjoy an anole once in a while, too.

This Diamondback Rattlesnake was a beautiful creature, and I gave it the right of way.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Butterflies in February

I just had the pleasure of visiting the Everglades National Park.

I was up before the sunrise every day.

The temperature was between 76 and 86 degrees during the day and fell to a cool 68 at night. I watched the sun set,

and sometimes even wandered in the moonlight.

I'm sure some of you fear the onslaught of bird photos ... and that's why I went there ... to see birds. So, just to be unpredictable (and not so obsessed with avian species), here is a sampling of what I saw.