Cutler Wetland: Coots and Ducks

Last weekend I visited the Cutler Wetland to see what types of waterfowl were congregating there.  We are in the midst of fall migration and have had a lot of rain recently, so I was excited to see the various species of waterfowl and ducks that would be hanging out.  It turned out there wasn’t a wide variety, I was only able to identify American Coots and Blue-winged Teal, but the numbers were abundant.  I counted at least twenty Blue-winged Teal and there were hundreds of American Coots.  The normally quiet waters of the wetland sounded like a rushing brook, which as I listened, I realized was from the sound of hundreds of little paddling feet.

Hundreds of American Coots congregating at Cutler Wetland

American Coots in the reeds

American Coot (Fulica americana) 

American Coot (Fulica americana) 

Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors)

Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors)

Blue-winged Teal coming in for a landing

Blue-winged Teal  swimming to the other side of the marsh


Adventure in the Everglades

“Let’s go birding,” I suggested to my seven-year-old. Her reply, “No way!” I countered with, “How about we go on an adventure?” “Okay, fine.” So we packed up our supplies and headed off for the Everglades. I was excited about sharing more of my passion for nature with my daughter. She was a little bit intrigued, but adamant that it wouldn’t be too long or too far away. I prevaricated, “Its not far at all.” After an hour drive of my constant reassurance that it was just a little farther, we arrived at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center at the southern end of Everglades National Park.  Our first stop inside the Main Gate, was the Pa-Hay-Okee Overlook, a short boardwalk leading to a lookout tower offering a breathtaking view of the expansive River of Grass. Aided by our binoculars, we watched a lone Great Egret that was foraging in the distance.

Great Egret (Ardea alba)
Beautiful curves!
My daughter used the binoculars from her Jr. Birdwatcher’s Kit to study everything, from the distant birds to flowers to insects on the boardwalk.  She got a chance to use one of her bird call whistles to try to attract a little warbler that we saw under some bushes, but then stopped when she realized that she might draw it out to where it could be spotted by a hovering hawk. On the way back to the car we were watched by a trio of Turkey Vultures lurking in a nearby tree.
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
Once back in the car I asked my daughter if she wanted to make the long drive down to Flamingo or if she wanted to head back home. Although she was still worried about it taking too long, I could see the spirit of adventure welling up inside of her. A part of her wanted to check it out. I told her it was her call, and she left it up to Eenie-Meenie-Miney-Moe. Flamingo won, so we turned right and began the forty-mile trek through pinelands and sawgrass. Along the way I reminisced about the last time I had gone that far down fifteen or twenty years ago with one of my brothers and a friend. I told my daughter about canoing and being chased by mosquitoes, and about my brother almost capsizing our canoe trying to get away from a large insect. β€œThe gators in the water will bite harder than any of these insects,” I had said.
We made it to Flamingo and top on my list was the Eco Pond, where I had seen Flamingos and Roseate Spoonbills on my last visit all those years ago. There was a light drizzle so we donned our raincoats and set off on the path around the pond. Two minutes into our walk we were attacked. Our insect repellent was no match for the swarm. According to my daughter there were 4,000 mosquitoes on each of my legs. The Flamingo area was teeming with these flying bloodsuckers so we left.

On the way out of the park we made a quick stop at the Anhinga Trail, which thankfully was mosquito free. Again we put on our raincoats and headed out on the boardwalk. We saw four large alligators. We saw Anhingas, Black Vultures, American Crows, Green Herons, a little Palm Warbler another Great Egret and a beautiful Tricolored Heron.

Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor)
The excursion ended up taking most of the day, and it was a blast.  We drove for hours, dodged raindrops, ran from mosquitoes, told each other jokes, sang silly songs and swapped stories. It certainly was an Everglades adventure.

Indian Peafowl at Bill Sadowski Park

During a recent stop by Bill Sadowski Park in Palmetto Bay, FL I was greeted by a small group of Indian Peafowl, commonly known as Peacocks.  Anyone who lives or spends a good amount of time around Old Cutler Road in the South Western quadrant of Miami-Dade County is very familiar with these colorful birds.  They are quite frequently seen in small groups along the roadside or pecking around parks and homeowners’ front yards.

As their name suggests, these bright blue and green residents are not indigenous to South Florida.  Originally brought over from India as pets, they are one of several invasive species in the area, albeit one that many don’t mind having around.

Indian Peafowl or Blue Peafowl (Pavo cristatus)

I am guessing these to be immature males, as their train feather are somewhat short.