Birding the Everglades: Baby Anhingas

I think my favorite thing about birding is the element of surprise.  You never know what you’re going to experience.  The key is you have to be out there looking.  The other day on the Anhinga Trail I heard what sounded like a hundred birds chattering.  The high pitched chirping was loud and didn’t stop.  As I drew closer to the sound I notice that several of the other people on the trail had stopped to see the cause of the racket.  I joined the crowd and was amazed to see that there wasn’t a hundred birds chirping after all.  It was just two.  Two baby Anhingas.   The two craned their fuzzy white necks up to their mother, pleading with her for a meal.  I snapped a couple of photos and then stopped to enjoy the moment and admit to myself that perhaps humans babies don’t really cry too much after all.

Birding the Everglades: Grim Reapers

A great place to see a wide variety of interesting birds up close is the Anhinga Trail in the Royal Palm section of Everglades National Park.  It is located just a few miles past the main gate on the South side of the park.  I visited the Anhinga Trail the other day and was surprised to see a large number of Black Vultures congregating on the ground at the beginning of the trail.  I have seen them in twos and threes, but normally if you want to see a lot of vultures you need simply to look up and they will be circling high in the sky.  Vultures are scavengers so I naturally suspected that I would find a dead animal up ahead.

It turned out to be a Double-crested Cormorant that was not dead, but lying on the ground and appeared to be injured.  A couple of the vulture took some test pecks, but back away quickly at the cormorant’s angry retort.  The rest of the vultures just waited around like nature’s grim reapers predicting the inevitable.

Black Vulture – Don’t Fear the Reaper

An ominous gathering of birds in black.

“I’m not dead yet!”

“I can dance and I can sing, ‘cos I’m not yet dead!”

This Black Vulture is striking a pose often seen on Anhingas and Cormorants.  He is displaying his distinct white fingers, which help us distinguish him from a Turkey Vulture when he hovers high overhead.

Birding the Everglades: Long Pine Key

The Main Entrance to Everglades National Park is just fifteen minutes west of Florida City, FL.  Just ten minutes inside the gate is Long Pine Key, a camping and hiking area that offers great bird watching opportunities.  I arrived this weekend for an afternoon of hiking and was welcomed by an enormous flock of Tree Swallows swarming in circles above the small pond.  There must have been ten thousand of them, moving in concert, reminiscent of a school of sardines stretching hundreds of feet up into the sky.

Tree Swallows – Can you guess how many?

Tree Swallows – Dipping and Sipping

A juvenile Little Blue Heron doing a little fishing.

A Palm Warbler clinging to the reeds.

A Yellow-throated Warbler peeking out from a Pine Tree.