Palm Warbler at Chekika

The Chekika Area of Everglades National Park is only open from December through May, so there is one month left to get out there and enjoy it .  It closes to the public during the wet season.  This Eastern-side access to the Florida Everglades is the quickest to access for most Miami-Dade residents, and there is no admission fee charged.  If you are into birds, reptiles, flowers, butterflies or just nature in general you definitely want to check this one out.  I enjoy it because it is an easy thirty minute drive from my home and I always come back with some great photos and a story or two. Here is a little Palm Warbler I found hopping back and forth through the tall grass alongside the road leading up to the park.

Palm Warbler (Dendroica Palmarum)
Palm Warbler (Dendroica Palmarum)

Pie-billed Grebe at Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Wakodahatchee Wetlands has been on my must-do list since I heard about it a couple of years ago.  I finally made it up there last week and I couldn’t believe all of the wildlife and birds that were thriving there.  Wakodahatchee, Seminole Indian for “created waters,” is about fifty acres of unused industrial lands that have been transformed into into a wetland ecosystem.  One of the residents I found there was a very active little Pie-billed Grebe.  I watched him as he dove under the lily-pad-covered surface to hunt for water bugs and crayfish.  He would dive in and then half a minute later he would pop up somewhere else in the small pond.  Then, after catching a quick breath or two he would dive right back in.  After a few unsuccessful attempts at guessing where he would pop out next, I noticed that if I watched the lily pads closely I could see the wake he was leaving as he swam around under water. I’m sure he would have been shocked to know that I was on to his moves.

Pie-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)
Pie-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)

Red-winged Blackbird in the Haze

Sometimes a hazy, overcast day presents a wonderful environment for shooting wildlife.  This particular day offered a very cool backdrop for this Red-winged Blackbird.  He perched in some bushes not too far away from me.  I squeezed of several shots and surprisingly, he didn’t immediately fly away. In the past Red-winged Blackbirds haven’t been cooperative at all.

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Anhinga Strutting His Stuff

I was able to capture an Anhinga this weekend in an interesting pose.  My seven-year-old loved the photo and thought the Anhinga seemed to be shaking his back side at me.  She made me promise to post the picture along with the caption below.  (Sorry)

Shake shake shake, Shake shake shake, Shake your booty.

Contortionistic Red-bellied Woodpecker

If you live in South Florida take an afternoon sometime to drive out to the Chekika Area of Everglades National Park.  It is located on the East side of the park and is open from December through April.  There is a little park area with a boardwalk and a couple small trails to check out. One winds around a small alligator hole where you will definitely some gators and the other snakes through a hardwood hammock. There is a picnic area and usually a friendly park ranger around. The park is a great place to get away from the city and become one with nature for a while, but I have found that the best place for birds is the narrow road leading up to the park entrance that runs parallel to a small canal.  It was there that I found this active little Red-bellied Woodpecker.

If you thought this was called a Red-headed Woodpecker, then like me you were wrong.  The actual Red-headed variety is much less common than the Red-bellied.  Its head is completely red, not just the crown.

Here you can see the red coloring on the belly, which is where the Red-bellied variety gets its name.

Here he shows of his bright red crown and the distinctive black and white striping on his back. 

Displaying expert contortion skills.

The Red-bellied woodpecker actually spends more time picking at and digging into the bark of a tree than it does drilling into it.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

Angry Grackle!

Last weekend as I peacefully sat watching and photographing the birds at Cutler Wetland, a Boat-tailed Grackle suddenly zoomed in and landed on a nearby “No Trespassing” sign.  He then proceeded to berate me with angry calls, as if he thought I couldn’t read what was written on the sign. I’m not trespassing, I thought, because I haven’t gone beyond that sign.  But the Grackle didn’t care.  He kept screeching and screaming until eventually I got up and found another spot to sit.  Of course the little tantrum gave me ample opportunity to snap some close-ups before I left.

Can you believe this guy?
Who does he thing he is?

Yeah.  That’s right.  I’m talking about you.  Move it along, Pal.

Mourning Dove in the Park

Yesterday my seven-year-old daughter and I went for a nature walk in a nearby park.  I can’t call it birding anymore or she won’t go.  We had a wonderful time watching lizards camouflage themselves, chasing butterflies and trying to get dragonflies to land on our fingers.  We saw one bird that flew over our heads and alighted on a tree branch about ten yards deep into a nearby thicket.  It must have gone just far enough in to feel safe, because it sat there observing us as we watched it for several minutes.  My daughter, the self proclaimed non-birder, immediately and correctly identified it as a Mourning Dove.  She may not be a birder, but she seems to be better at it than I am.

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)