Saturday, January 24, 2009

Winter Sun Day 2 - Main Park Entrance

A much cloudier, hotter and more humid day in prospect, we organised a late check-out with Ramada so we could get showered up before our respective flights. First stop was again the Anhinga Trail, although this time we’d decided to head out before dawn to experience the park as it woke-up, we find this is the very best time to go birding:

The gators were out to catch the first rays of sun:

Herons everywhere again, such as this Tri-coloured Heron:

These Great Blue Herons:

A female Anhinga wanted to keep sleeping but kept peeking out to see what was around:

She started preening:

A pair of Anhingas bonded whilst the female sat on a nest, first the male approaches:

Before he sat alongside her. The early morning light was weak yet accentuated the plumage of the birds, for example a Green Heron perched watching for food:

Another adult Little Blue Heron:

Then a new bird for this trip, a Common Yellowthroat:

A Purple Gallinule showed prominently:

We’d seen one yesterday but it was mostly obscured by reeds, this one was very bold. I'd recommend the Anhinga Trail to anyone visiting the area, it's a magical experience (though do check on advice based on the time of year of your visit). We’d already decided that from the Anhinga Trail we’d walk the Snake Bight trail, although in the end we stopped off en route having spotted some Blue Jays on the roadside.

These Northern Mockingbirds sit sentinel like, then fly out, grab a passing insect and return to their perch, flycatcher like, though their starting point is much bolder:

The walk out to Snake Bight is recommended for high tide. It turns out to have the highest concentration of mosquitoes of all the places we visited, I have seven itchy bites as I write this, even though I’m sat in Minneapolis airport and it’s below freezing outside :)

On the path we saw Hermit Thrush and Gray Catbirds:

Though they didn’t hang around for long. At one point I thought I heard a Grey Catbird by the side of the path and started ‘fishing’ it, when this snake slithered into view:

It gave me quite a start! We got to the end with great expectations but it was a low high tide so there was very little about except the mosquitoes and a few other slightly bemused birders and tourists, so we turned around and marched back to the car. We decided to head to the shop at Flamingo again so Helen could try the Key Lime Pie (she declared it tasty, but homemade would be better). Hunting across the open fields before Flamingo we spotted this Northern Harrier, the only Harrier of the trip. Outside the shop we sat down for a food and drink top-up and watched this basking Crocodile, one of the very few left in the park:

Once refreshed we decided to walk to the front, a short walk, but one that would get us closer to a large flock of birds we’d seen settling on a small island offshore. On one of the jetties an immature Laughing Gull was loafing:

Out in the bay it was apparent that high tide at least had some impact here. A large number of birds had been pushed up to a small island, hosting American White Pelican, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Laughing Gull, two unidentified species of wader (too far with bins and camera and scope at home) and a large flock of these very black birds:

It was only apparent when they moved about that they were in fact Black Skimmers:

As the water rose, the American White Pelicans took flight and headed inland, this one flew within twenty metres of us:

In the trees by the bay a variety of small birds were flitting about, including this well named Black-and-white Warbler:

We stopped off again at Mrazek pond, this time the Wood Stork was a little closer:

A new species for this trip was this juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron, sleeping:

An intermediate phase White Ibis, moulting from juvenile to adult plumage:

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