Thursday, January 19, 2012

January 16: Roosting ibises

Our first full day of birding in Florida was rich. We tallied over 60 species at three sites: Green Cay Wetlands, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, and Loxahatchee NWR (for "wetlands" read "beautifully constructed wastewater treatment ponds with boardwalk access.") Highlights for us included unanticipated sightings of several painted buntings, three soras--normally shy little bird--two sets of mating herons (surrounded by birder paparazzi shamelessly clicking away at each moment of copulation), one roseate spoonbill described as "the rock star of the place" by a non-birding visitor, some gators, gaudy purple gallinules, nesting anhingas, and very close looks at almost every wading bird we'd hoped to see.

We visited Loxahatchee at day's end, enjoying the cypress swamp boardwalk, and then walking out into the Marsh Trails, where you get a true sense of this place as a remnant of the northern Everglades. The "river of grass" stretched as far as we could see, but we focused on a wet marshy area right at the trailhead. There, snipes fed amid herons, ducks, and ibises, and one alligator lurked just beneath the water's surface, only its eyes visible. As the sun sank lower, the numbers of white ibises began to increase. Birds kept flying in to join the expanding huddle. Dozens of ibises were lined up along a path bordering the marsh area, eventually flying in to join the crowd as even more came from parts unknown, their wings afire in the late light.

Roosting ibises
with red faces, red curved bills--
unlikely angels.

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