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.

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