American Coot – Walking on Water

I have always found it both amazing and amusing when American Coots take off and run across the top of a pond.  Apparently it takes awhile for their little wings to provide enough lift to get themselves airborne, so off they go skipping over the surface of the water in a fashion that reminds me a lot of a pontoon plane.

American Coot (Fulica americana)

  
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Red-winged Blackbirds at Wakodahatchee

The Red-winged Blackbirds at Wakodahatchee Wetlands seemed to be very curious about all of the humans milling around.  They flitted around the boardwalks, constantly scolding us with their “o-ka-reeee” calls. I was able to get within a few yards of some of them, which allowed me to get some detailed shots of their facial features.  I found their expressions to be priceless.

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
It looks like he is smiling at me.  (I bet he isn’t smiling on the inside.)
Ready to fly

Mr. Blue Eyes – Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorants have beautiful blue-green eyes.  They also pose nicely for photographs, allowing even the most novice of photographers to get some good images of them.  I saw this one at Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach, Florida earlier this year.

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)
If you look closely you can see the afternoon sky and the wetlands’ horizon reflecting in that eye.
  

Baby Green Herons on the Anhinga Trail

A few weeks ago I had a chance to visit the Anhinga Trail, one of my favorite spots to observe and photograph birds.  The Anhinga Trail is on of the first visitor areas you get to after entering the South side entrance to Everglades National Park in Miami-Dade County, Florida.  The trail features a boardwalk that allows you to get close to some pretty amazing birds, not to mention a bunch of alligators too.  That particular day I happened  to come across these two baby Green Herons, snuggling together on a low hanging tree branch.

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

Wakodahatchee Wood Storks

The Wood Stork is one of my favorite birds.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps I just relate well to bald guys.  During my recent visit to Wakodahatchee Wetlands the Wood Storks, which are listed as an endangered species, were abundant.  Near the back of the park was a rookery of twenty or thirty birds. The shallow and still waters of the wetlands provide a sufficient supply of small fish; just what these birds need to feed themselves and their young.

I love Wood Stork flyovers.
They are beautiful in flight with their white covert feathers and black primaries and secondaries displayed.
Unlike most wading birds they fly with both their neck and legs extended.
An ominous trio.
Wood Stork Rookery

Western Osprey with Fish in Tow

Western Ospreys seem to be big fans of take out. I quite often see them flying off with a recent catch, usually a fish, to be consumed somewhere off site. This one flew overhead with a rather large catch during my recent visit to Wakodahatchee Wetlands.

Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

Great Blue Heron Hatchlings at Wakodahatchee

The Great Blue Heron is the largest wading bird found in the United States, consequently is it isn’t surprising that their nesting activities are pretty impressive.  On a recent visit to Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach, Florida I was able to see this first hand.  The fifty-acre man-made nature preserve was dotted with large, impressive Great Blue Heron nests on top of just about every clutch of bushes throughout the park.

Mother Great Blue Heron looking over her newly hatched baby.

Herons breed in a group called a herony, which is a more specific version of the term rookery.  The nests are built by both the male and female heron.  The male gathers sticks and twigs and offers them to the female who then weaves and arranges them in to a large saucer-like nest. The nests are about four feet in diameter and three feet deep and are lined with softer materials such as leaves and grass.  The female then lays two to six pale blue eggs and one or two of those result in baby herons.

Two young Great Blue Herons poking their heads out of the nest.

Both the male and female participate in the feeding of the young herons, by over-eating and then regurgitating the extra into their babies’ mouths.  As a parent who had to feed a baby of my own in the not too distant past, I am grateful that humans do not feed their young using that same method.

If you are interested in watching the nesting behavior of Great Blue Herons from the comfort of your home or office then check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s live Great Blue Heron Nest Cam.  At the time this article was written the first two eggs had just been laid.