Ibises Have Ended Segregation

Yesterday I went fishing with my seven-year-old daughter and one of my brothers.  We got a few nibbles that served to emphasize the fact that the fish are much better at this than we are, but weren’t able pull up anything other than empty hooks.  On the way home I “accidentally” drove by Cutler Wetland, a favorite birding spot of mine.  I hadn’t been by there since breaking my heel three months before.  As I pointed things out for the others in the car I noticed a flock of both White Ibises and Glossy Ibises foraging together in an area of tall grass.  We pulled over and got out to take a closer look.  I personally have never before seen Glossys and Whites in a combined group, and it was something to watch.  I wasn’t able to get very close and the grass was pretty thick, so I wasn’t able to capture the photos I would have like to.  But my brother commented that he was glad to see the Ibises had ended segregation, and I thought that was worthy of a blog post even if the photos were not.

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) and White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) and White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)

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Memorial Day at Cutler Wetlands

I spent an overcast Memorial Day morning at the Cutler Wetlands.  A light breeze was enjoyed by me and the birds alike.  I watched the usual cast of Ibises, Sandpipers and Moorhens feeding in and along the shallow waters and of course I snapped a few photographs.

Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri)

Western Sandpipers feeding along the water’s edge.

A group of White Ibises took to the sky in unison.

Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor)

This Tricolor faces into the wind and displays its beautiful plumage.

Nice Catch!

Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

A pair of Common Moorhens cautiously picking through the puddles.

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

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

The Broken Foot Birder

I have been fascinated by birds for most of my life, and during the last few years I have flirted with the idea of taking up birding (bird watching) as a hobby. But, like most of my bright ideas, this one remained an idea that stuck in my head but never turned into any real action. Then one day as I was rescuing a small child from the jaws of a rabid alligator, I broke the fifth metatarsal in my left foot. Actually that is a bit of an exaggeration; alligators don’t get rabies. Now back to the story. I broke my foot. Okay. Fine. I was moving a bed downstairs and I missed the last step. The way that my foot was broken isn’t really the point of this post, but it was very painful and I was heroic as I bravely fought back the tears and asked my wife to drive me to the emergency room.

So why am I talking about my broken foot on the first post of my bird blog? The reason is my broken foot was the catalyst that moved the idea of birding from the back of my mind into action. The broken foot kept me still and grounded and forced me out of the fast-paced, “what’s next?” tempo that my life had become. For several weekends all I could do is watch the little slice of the world that was available to be viewed through the sliding glass door in my living room.

My back yard runs into a man-made pond that was carved in between two rows of town houses, but, as I was to find out, just a little bit of water will attract all kinds of life. When you have nothing else to do but sit and watch you really begin to notice things that you wouldn’t otherwise. During those few weeks of watching that pond I saw several species of birds. A King Rail perched on the concrete rim of a drainage pipe scanning the water for fish. Small groups of juvenile White Ibises combed the grassy slopes in search of insects. Muscovy Ducks patrolled yards surrounding the pond, some with ducklings in tow, and some leaving little dropping on my back porch. A Great Egret waded in the shallow waters and then stretched is large white wings and glided away. Chimney Swifts buzzed all around one evening feeding on flying ants, but unfortunately not getting all of them. I also discovered that a lonely American Coot has burrowed a home base in to a grassy hill just yards from my back yard. Altogether I counted nine different species of birds, viewable just outside my window.

The last few weeks have been refreshing and eye-opening and have inspired me to get off the couch and out into nature. If I can see nine different types of birds from my living room just imagine what I will find when I go out looking for more. I have a couple more weeks of until I can walk again, but I already have plans to begin exploring all of the wonderful venues for observing nature that South Florida has to offer. I plan to take pictures and to write about my adventures here. I also hope to get my soon-to-be-six-year-old daughter interested in birding too, but that might be pushing it.

Until Next Time,

The Broken Foot Birder