Snowy Egret

This morning as I stumbled around the kitchen getting breakfast ready I glanced out the window at the pond behind our backyard.  This glance has become part of my morning routine – absentmindedly checking to see if there are any interesting birds around.  In recent days it has been the usual cast of Grackles, Mourning Doves and a family of Black-necked Stilts.  But today was different.  A beautiful Snowy Egret was tiptoeing his way around the edge of the pond.  In South Florida there are plenty of Cattle Egrets and Great Egrets around, but I rarely see a Snowy.  In fact it was a first for this year.

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)
The Snowy Egret can be identified by its mostly black bill and yellow lores in front of its eyes.  Cattle Egrets and Great Egrets are also white-bodied, but have mostly yellow bills.

Trespassing and Birding at Black Point Marina

I made a quick trip to Black Point Marina in Southern Miami-Dade County this weekend. I have been to this marina many times in the past to go boating with friends or to eat at the little restaurant there, but I have never been there to bird. I was armed with a DSLR camera and an assortment of lenses that a good friend had kindly let me borrow. He advised that I try going to the back side of Black Point where the shrimp boats dock, so that is where I headed first.
To get there I had to ignore the sign that read “No Trespassing – Only Commercial Fisherman Beyond This Point.” I certainly did not look like a fisherman in my Toyota Camry, but I decided to press forward anyway and use the I know what I am doing strategy, with an I’m sorry I didn’t notice the sign excuse as a back up. I drove down the narrow road to the docks and made it there, with only one dirty look to potentially block my way.
I pulled up to the cul-de-sac at the end of the road to find a Snowy Egret watching me from a nearby rock. The Snowy Egret is very similar to the Great Egret, which I see everywhere in South Florida.  The Snowy Egret, however, has a dark-gray or black bill, while the Great Egret has a bright yellow bill.  I parked the car and began to fumble with the sophisticated camera equipment. By the time I got the lens on and was ready to pop off a few photos, I discovered the bird had flown, probably laughing to himself thinking, that guy’s got to do better if he’s going to get a shot of me. I stayed for a little while hoping he would return. Then a couple of the fishermen seemed to be getting annoyed with my presence there so I decided to pack up and try my luck on the other side of the marina, where I have often noticed people fishing along the channel the pleasure boaters use to go out to the bay.
As I drove I noticed that there were many White Ibises overhead. They were traveling in flocks of ten to twenty, and some of them in “V” patterns, At first I thought they were geese or ducks, but their distinctive curved beaks gave them away. I found a clump of bushes that had about fifty of them resting in the branches, so I decided to pull over and enjoy them for a few minutes.
White Ibises resting in some bushes.

I arrived at the other side of the marina and parked next to a wooden walkway that cut through some mangroves. I grabbed my borrowed camera, chose the medium sized lens and followed the little walkway through the mangroves and was deposited on to the north side of the channel. I walked along the bank, passing clumps of people fishing and the occasional bicyclist or dog-walker. After progressing a little ways I happened upon a couple of ladies and a gentleman with binoculars hanging from their necks. They were squinting and pointing into the mangroves. As I approached the man was calling out names of butterfly types, telling the ladies what they were seeing. When he noticed that I had stopped to listen he was quick to begin explaining the butterflies to me.
I asked them if they were butterfly watching and they explained that they were appreciating all types of nature but they were mainly birding. I was thrilled to find other birders out on the trail. I excitedly told them that I was birding too, and found out that they were finishing up a day-long bird trek that had started in Florida City. They were from the Tropical Audubon Society and I was happy to find out that they have nature walks and birding field trips almost every weekend, and they are free.
I decided to tag along with them for a few minutes and they didn’t seem to mind. Bob, the gentleman who was leading the expedition was extremely knowledgeable about the local birds and he quickly filled me in on all the birds they had seen so far that day. As we were walking he also pointed out different spots at out present location and the different species that I might see there. Spotted Sandpipers might be on the rocks in the morning or Red-bellied Woodpeckers could sometime be seen in the tall trees across the channel.
We heard a bird begin to chirp from somewhere deep in the mangroves to our left and everyone but me quickly identified it as a Grey Catbird. We listened to it for a moment and then another one began to call from some trees behind us. Bob began to mimic the sound, trying to draw them out, but we never did see either one.
I thoroughly enjoyed the short time I was able to spend with Bob and the gang, and plan to join up with them again in the very near future. As I left the marina I noticed some Turkey Vultures circling high overhead. They are a very common sight in South Florida, but since I had such a nice camera with me I decided to take some pictures.
Turkey Vulture hovering overhead.

Like last week, this short birding outing showed me how much I still need to learn, but I also got a taste of how willing experienced birders are to show newbies like me the ropes. I was happy to learn that I have picked the perfect time of year to take up birding. According to my new friends Fall is when many migrating birds arrive in South Florida.
Until Next Time,
The Trespassing Birder

Here are some links to more information about:

Tropical Audubon Society
Black Point Marina