Friday, January 18, 2013

Winter Wading Birds of Florida; White Ibis
White Ibis, Oasis Visitors Center, Big Cypress National Preserve, FL; 12/30/2012.
While on my five-day-long visit to Southern Florida, the week between Christmas and New Year's, I was fortunate to see 15 of the 18 Floridian wading birds featured in Sibley's Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America. The three birds I did not observe were: Reddish Egret and both Bitterns (Least and American). Other wading birds found in the Field Guide, but are not found in Florida are White-faced Ibis, Flamingo, Scarlet Ibis, and the Little Egret (it is not surprising that I did not see any of these as well). The latter three are rare visitors from outside the country.
Of all the wading birds present in Florida, the White Ibis (Above and Below) seemed to be the most common and visible. I saw them in every spot I visited.

More White Ibis, Ding Darling National Wildlife Preserve, Sanibel island,FL; 12/30/2012.

My Florida Wading Bird sighting List:
Lovers Key State Park: White Ibis, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Roseate Spoonbills (Flyover)
Big Cypress Oasis Visitors Center: Cattle Egret, Glossy Ibis, Wood Stork, Tri-colored Heron, Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, White Ibis
Corkscrew National Wildlife Refuge: Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, White Ibis
Key West: White Ibis, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Great Blue Heron (white phase)
Everglades National Park: Black-crowned Night Heron, Cattle Egret, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Great Blue Heron (white phase), Great Egret, Green Heron, Little Blue Heron,  Roseate Spoonbills (flyovers), Snowy Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, White Ibis, Wood Stork
Big Cypress Oasis Visitors Center: Cattle Egret, Wood Stork, Tri-colored Heron, Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibis
Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge & Sanibel Island: Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Roseate Spoonbills, Tri-colored Herons, White Ibis,  Yellow-crowned Night Herons
White Ibis, Everglades NP, FL; 12/28/2012.
 White Ibis are common in muddy pools, mudflats, and marshes. I also saw them on lawns and fields of all variety - short grass, long grass, and in plowed fields. They are almost completely white save for their black wing tips and bright orange bills and legs. The orange in the adults are closer to a red-orange hue, while juveniles sport a paler orange color.

A juvenile White Ibis, Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, FL; 12/30/2012.

When I first spotted a juvenile White Ibis (Above), I thought it was a a different species. Young White Ibis are mostly brown with white rumps and undersides. They start getting their white feathers in December - first on their back, until they molt into white adulthood by spring.
White Ibis resting on a dead branch, Everglades NP, FL; 12/29/2012.
While on a boat trip out onto Whitewater Bay in the Everglades, I saw several couples of White Ibis roosting in trees (Above and below).
A juvenile White Ibis, Everglades NP, FL; 12/29/2012.
White Ibis can be found along the coasts of all the Gulf States and Mexico, as well as up the southern Atlantic Seaboard, reaching as far north as North Carolina.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Wood Stork; Everglades National Park


A Wood Stork dwarfs over a Snowy Egret, Big Cypress National Preserve, FLA; 12/26/2012.
I spent a week in Florida (my first time in the State), between Christmas and New Years. One of my goals was to see a Wood Stork, so I particularly made a trip to Corkscrew Swamp Natural Wildlife Refuge which is known for being a regular habitat for these birds. Unfortunately no Wood Storks were to be found at Corkscrew. We also visited Lovers Key State park, which promised to have a large variety of birds - Their promise of birds was good, but no Wood Storks were included in that promise. We continued our travels toward the Keys for our next stay. While travelling, we were in the Big Cypress National Preserve (a part of the larger Everglades). We were driving on Hwy 41 which was following a long narrow canal and we stopped at what I thought was a typical rest stop, but it turns out it was the Oasis Visitor Center.  As we turned into the parking lot crossing over the canal immediately I saw several wading birds in the water. After parking, I grabbed my camera and walked over to the edge of the canal. There were several types of Egrets, Herons, and Ibises all concentrated into one area. The canal must have been teeming with fish for so many birds to be in one spot. And within seconds a Wood Stork (Above) appeared. I got my Wood Stork, but never imagined, that I would find it in a roadside canal.
In one small section of a roadside canal, within a few steps from the parking lot, there were Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, Tri-colored Herons, and a Wood Stork (bottom right); Oasis Visitor Center, Big Cypress Preserve, FLA; 12/26/2012.
I was the only person taking photos on this side of the entrance driveway to the parking lot, but I noticed that there were many people congregated on a boardwalk on the other side of the parking lot. Val was already there, so I decided to check out what was so interesting.

Alligators lounging on the banks of the canal, Oasis Visitor Center, Big Cypress Preserve, FLA; 12/26/2012.
It didn't take long to see what was "so interesting." There were literally dozens of alligators in the water and on the banks (Above).  It was fun watching them try to swim towards a fish in the water and give it a chomp. It was hard to tell if any succeeded as there was much splashing and the gator would disappear under the water for a few seconds. I didn't actually see any of the gators chewing or swallowing, but there were plenty of fat alligators lying on the banks, so the fishing must have been good.

A Wood Stork looking very prehistoric coming for a landing, Oasis Visitor Center, Big Cypress Preserve, FLA; 12/26/2012.
As I was watching the alligators in one side of the canal, I knew why all the wading birds were on the other side. They wanted to be the hunters, not the prey. Soon I noticed another Wood Stork appear in the sky (Above), and come in for a landing near where the other wading birds were feeding. Its bony head and gangly body reminded me of a bird that one would see in a prehistoric setting.

As we were ready to depart, a small group of  Roseate Spoonbills flew over. This area was a fantastic spot for Florida birding - at least a dozen different species of birds in less than a half hour without walking more than a few yards.

Another Wood Stork approaching a pond in the Everglades National Park; 12/28/2012.
A couple of days later while searching for Roseate Spoonbills at Eco Pond, near the Flamingo Visitors Center in  Everglades National Park, I saw another Wood Stork (Above and Below).

The same Wood Stork, Eco Pond,   Everglades National Park; 12/28/2012.
Wood Storks are more likely to be found in southern and central Florida all year round, but during migration they extend their territory to all of the Gulf Coast States and up the Atlantic Coast into South Carolina.  They can grow up to 40" and have wing span of more than 5 feet. This species was a lifer for me.