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.
  

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: Anhinga Trail

I invited my dad to join me on my latest birding expedition. My dad is a great appreciator of nature, and is probably the biggest reason why I have grown to have such a love for birds and nature. During my childhood my dad would always stop to notice the little treasures that exist in nature. That sensibility somehow made through my thick-headed and distracted adolescence and now it is instilled in this adult version of me. The two of us had a wonderful time enjoying what nature had to offer.

We decided to venture down to the southern end of Everglades National Park.  We found ourselves tackling the Anhinga Trail and the Gumbo Limbo Trail, which are both just a couple miles inside the main park entrance in the Royal Palm State Park section. Every time I make out to the Everglades I find it incomprehensible that the sprawling suburbs of a major city are no more than a fifteen minute drive away. Once you get out there you are immersed into a completely different world. The “river of grass” dotted with hammocks and pinewoods extends farther than the eye can see. Birds and other wildlife that rarely or never venture into to the nearby neighborhoods thrive, although their continued existence is threatened by South Florida’s increasing growth.

Thanks to the recent generosity of a very good friend my ability to capture digital images of my birding experiences has been greatly upgraded. Here are a few of the many wonderful birds we saw. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Eastern Wood Pewee

Anhinga (Breeding Plumage)

Double-crested Cormorant

Red-shouldered Hawk

Purple Gallinule

Green Heron

Birding the Florida Keys – John Pennekamp Coral Reef Sate Park

Recently a business trip landed me in the Florida Keys. There are many great bird watching spots in The Keys, but I only had time for one. I decided to check out John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. I had been there several times in the past; as a swimmer, a snorkeler and as a canoeist, but never a birder.  This time I spent a couple of hours walking along the various trails and took some time to watch shore birds from a bench on one the beaches.  It was amazing to discover how much more there was to this familiar spot.  I realized that each time I visited the park in the past I was on a mission.  I would normally rush straight to the canoe rental stand or the beach, but this time I had no special agenda other than to wait for what nature wanted to give.  I think I need to do that more in all areas of life.  How much am I missing because I am in to much of a hurry?

As I emerged from my car I looked up to see this Red-bellied Woodpecker.  He stayed put long enough for me to snap a decent picture with my point and shoot camera.
There were boardwalks that winded through the mangroves.  I had to share this one with a large reptile.
This Laughing Gull didn’t seemed to be amused at the moment.
I ran into this White Ibis a couple of times.  He seemed to be very used to humans and let me get very close.
Here he is again.
Snails are much better than birds at posing for pictures.
Look closely and you will see a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
These Oceanblue Morning-glory flowers dotted the huge vines that draped the wooded areas of the park.
A Herring Gull and a Double-crested Cormorant resting on some rocks.
Cannon Beach