Saturday, January 24, 2009

Winter Sun Day 1 - the rest of the day

We took to the road heading further into the park, at one point spotting this Loggerhead Shrike:


















Were I a better photographer I’d have caught it mid-air flying over a bush, prey in mouth, but I had to settle for it landed and having consumed whatever it had caught. Our second stop was at Paurotis Pond, to view the Roseate Spoonbills settled in the trees at the back, along with White Ibis and Wood Stork, though all too far away to photograph for anything other than record shots. A group of smaller birds was feeding in the bushes alongside the pond. The nearest I can find in my guide, based on the pictures I took and what we observed (a light-brown bird, with a yellow rump, warbler size and feeding on the ground and in bushes) leads me to suspect Palm Warbler, though I’ll be checking this one:














The next bird appeared almost exclusively in pairs, moving through the bushes calling to each other in a gravelly voice. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers:

















One of the Warblers took a bite out of a Gnatcatcher as it moved past, which surprised us, I guess the Warbler was seeing off a food competitor. We also saw our first Black Vulture here (the locals call them buzzards), but only high up and gliding.

Our third stop, a little beyond Flamingo, was at Eco Pond. Wading close to shore we watched a juvenile Little Blue Heron searching for food:














Eco pond was another great spot. On short walk around the perimeter we spotted first a Wood Stork, albeit distant, and then were delighted to watch a Roseate Spoonbill feeding within five metres of us:














I tried a couple of different exposures:














I’ve never been this close to a Spoonbill before, weird looking birds. It was approaching lunchtime so we stopped at Flamingo and the under-stocked shop to buy lunch (it’s the only store around and is virtually out of stock of food – surely a missed opportunity). Nearby was the deserted, hurricane damaged accommodation – it’s hard to tell if they intend to repair it or leave it derelict. All around Flamingo, Ospreys were displaying, calling, and nest building:













This one had caught a fish, which was still flopping about:

















He called and called and called, whilst picking at the fish, before he started to eat it in earnest:
















Walking along the edge of the harbour we spotted a pair of Brown Pelicans, first I photographed the male bird:
















The female started a display, which I managed to catch in progress:
























































These are now unfortunately quite rare, one of the very many threatened species endemic to this part of North America, again under real pressure from the relentless and unchecked expansion of our species.

In the trees by the harbour we watched another new species, the Prairie Warbler:

















Just out of Flamingo, heading back to the park entrance, is the trail to Bear Lake, which is only 3.2 miles out and back, so we decided to try that and see what we could see. We did spot a White Ibis feeding alongside the trial:
















The walk was disappointing as it ends in a small island overlooking the lake, but this had been taken over by a large group of people who were (illegally) fishing, and who made it apparent they didn’t welcome other folk, so we turned around and walked back again.

We headed back towards the exit of the park, stopping off at Mrazek Pond to watch the various birds arrayed around the edge of the water, including Wood Stork, Belted Kingfisher, White Ibis, Great White Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tri-coloured Heron:















Green Heron:
















Anhinga and Double-breasted Cormorant. On the water itself we watched a Pied-billed Grebe, Shoveller, Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal, including this drake:












A Great Blue Heron sunned itself in the fading afternoon sunlight:














Our penultimate stop in the park was the pullout for Nine-mile Pond, where a number of Black Vultures were on the ground, feeding and fighting. I got the impression this one had bathed and was drying out its wings:














The Turkey Vultures were preening too:














From the road another Red-shouldered Hawk, they must be quite common around here:

















We walked the Pine Land loop as the afternoon sun faded towards the horizon but it was getting late and there wasn’t much about, so time to head out of the park and a slap-up feed at the restaurant opposite our hotel (and a beer!).

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