Nature Walks: Early Spring Wetlands

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Green Heron – Wakodahatchee Wetlands Preserve

Nature Walks –  Early Spring Walk in Wakodahatchee Wetlands, April 1, 2019

It was a bright spring morning in Wakodahatchee Wetlands today when I arrived.  I got there while there was still plenty of parking left — which is sometimes an issue.  First thing I noticed, there seemed to be fewer birds nesting close to the boardwalk.  The wading birds and other species favor the pond apple trees in the wetlands for their rookeries.  The first spring I was here, the place was full of birds and quite noisy (and a little smelly) with babies demanding their breakfasts.  Now, the birds have spread out to trees located further away from where the people are.  There was still quite a bit of activity, with birds flying around and diving for their meals.

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Great Blue Heron

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Black-bottomed Whistling Duck

There are several kinds of herons who nest in these wetlands, including the Great Blue Heron, Tri-colored Heron, and the Green Heron (some birders call this American Bittern; I’ve heard both names).  A bit rarer are the Little Blue Heron and the Night Heron, both of which I have seen either in Wakodahatchee or the nearby Green Cay Wetlands.  There are also several Egrets, including the Great Egret, Snowy Egret, and Cattle Egret.  Diving bird species include the Double-Crested Cormorant and the Anhinga.  You can find all of these species nesting together in the pond apple trees, along with the large Wood Storks and their noisy broods.  To add to the show, large Green Iguanas (exotic species) drape themselves on branches and bask in the sunlight.

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Green Iguana – an invasive non-native species

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Wood Stork

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Sleepy adult Heron incubating eggs – Tri-colored Heron, I think

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Roseate Spoonbill, probably a female

Today, I was rewarded with seeing one Roseate Spoonbill, a bird species known for its exquisite pink and white coloring.  There were also quite a few Black-bottomed Whistling Ducks who tend to fly and collect in large groups.  Speckled ducks and Teals make up some of the other duck or duck-like species in the wetlands.

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Female Teal

Understandably, the wetlands draw quite a bit of interest from nature/wildlife photographers.  The types of photographers range from I Phones to folks with some huge close-up lens and expensive cameras.  I carry a relatively light-weight camera which seems to quite sufficient except for action shots and zooming over 100x.  It’s sometimes as interesting to see the photographers and tourists as it is to view the wildlife.  There were no sighting of alligators or snakes today.

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Tri-colored Heron.

We’ve had some rainy, cloudy, and windy days here in SE Florida, but today promised to be a bit warmer up to 80 degrees, on the first day of April.  That sounds wonderful to some northerners, but it does get very humid later in the season.  Humidity wasn’t an issue today.

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Purple Gallinule, which looked rather like an active Easter Egg today

I didn’t happen to see any White Ibis today but did see several Glossy Ibis.  They tend to feed in amongst the reeds which makes them difficult to photograph.  Occasionally, raptors will be seen, but there were none spotted today on my wanderings.

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Dozing Heron

Well, there you have it…my nature walk for today.  I hope you enjoyed the photos.  This particular wetland is man-made and the birds are free to come and go, so it is a marvelous place to see relatively close-up birds native to Florida, some very rare, all together in one area.

Be well,

“Sunny”

© All Rights Reserved, Elizabeth Ayres Escher, http://www.bluedragonjournal.com

 

Nature Walks – Winter in Green Cay, Palm Beach County, Florida

 

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Nature Walks – Winter in Green Cay Wetlands Preserve

A northerner would be hard-pressed to recognize the season as being “winter” today — but, hey, that’s Florida, especially SE Florida where the temperatures are crawling back up into the low 80’s during the day, again.  And the humidity seems to be increasing as well if my light dewy sweat was any indication… It is “walk slow” and drink lots of fluids time.

There were lots of birds today, mostly egrets, ibis, cormorants, and Anhingas… and other little flitting varieties which I never seem to be able to catch in a photograph.  And, oh yes, the Painted Buntings have made their wintertime appearance.  The males are sure colorful little birds!

And here are some photos… yes, there was an alligator sighting today…

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Painted Bunting pair.

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Female Anhinga

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Snowy Egret

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Snoozing Female Alligator

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Teals

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Wood Stork

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Glossy Ibis

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A quartet of Turtles

That’s it for today.  Have a pleasant week, everyone!

Be well.

“Sunny” VaCoupe

© All Rights Reserved, Eliza Ayres, http://www.bluedragonjournal.com

 

Nature Walks: Winter Wako Walk

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Wood Stork Adult

Nature Walks: Winter Wako Walk

It is winter here in Florida or what passes for winter hereabouts… the days are in the ’70s and nights are in the high ’50s to low ’60s, in other words, perfect for walking.

I made it to two of my favorite nearby wetlands, Wakodahatchee and Green Cay, saw lots of birds and two alligators — a good day.  The skies were blue, the air crisp, and I was comfortable in my short sleeves, while other people were all bundled up.  Guess my blood hasn’t thinned out enough yet.  I feel much better in this cooler weather.

The mating/nesting season is getting underway.  It was amusing to see Wood Storks quarreling with Anginas or Herons to see who would get the perfect nest site.  The pond apple tree condos are very popular this year!

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Female alligator cruising.

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Great Blue Heron

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Great Blue Heron feeding young.

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Juvenile Gold Crowned Night Heron

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Female Angina

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Beauty Berry

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American Bittern

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Marsh Hen

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Great Egret showing breeding feathers.

Well, hope you liked the quick tour of a couple of SE Florida wetlands.  There is lots to see and most of the walking is done on boardwalks.

Remember, there is a lunar eclipse this weekend with a Super Moon.  And enjoy your weekend!

“Sunny” VaCoupe

© All Rights Reserved, Eliza Ayres, http://www.bluedragonjournal.com

Nature Walk – Green Cay Summer Quiet

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Nature Walk – Green Cay Summer Quiet

It’s August, it’s hot, but I still managed to get out.  The humidity has gone down a tad, so I wasn’t dripping too much after walking the two miles or so of this loop.  There wasn’t a huge variety of birds now, just the typical herons, egrets, ibis, anginas, and other wading birds.  As I was walking into a hammock, I saw a flash of blue from a Blue Jay, but it was moving too fast to get a photo.  The nesting season is long over and the heat keeps the birds from getting too overactive.  Here are some photos:

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Green Heron

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Purple Gallinule

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Glossy Ibis

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Tri-colored Heron

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Black-bottom Whistling Ducks

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Double-crested Cormorant

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Lounging Turtle

Well, that’s it for now, folks.  As you can see, my health has improved.  I’ve been walking and swimming… especially enjoying the swimming as I can keep outside AND keep cool.

Enjoy the rest of your summer season (or winter for the Southern latitudes!).

Hugs,

“Sunny” VaCoupe (aka Eliza Ayres)

© All Rights Reserved, Eliza Ayres, http://www.bluedragonjournal.com

Nature Walks – Gone to the Birds…

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Nature Walks – Gone to the Birds:  A Walk at Green Cay Wetlands

I’ll let the photos do the talking:

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Double-crested Cormorant

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Fuzzy Marsh Hen chick.

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Firecracker Bush. Butterflies love this flower!

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The Marsh Hibiscus. The showiest flower in the marsh!

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Female Yellow-crowned Night Heron. The male was hiding in the cypress branches. These are shy birds.

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Sunning turtle.

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Happy Solstice to everyone!

This “summer” is going to be a hot one.  Already the temperatures are in the 90’s F.  The highest temperature last summer was typically 88F.  I was dripping by the time I got back to the car!

Happy weekend!

Eliza Ayres

© All Rights Reserved, Eliza Ayres, http://www.bluedragonjournal.com

 

 

 

Nature Walks – A Walk in Wako

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Cattle Egret in breeding plumage

Nature Walks – A Walk in Wakodahatchee

It’s been a difficult year with the incoming energies exacerbating any physical difficulties or conditions.  And the rainy season has been truly living up to its name, with sometimes nearly daily multiple thunderstorms and cells moving through the area.  As a consequence, I haven’t been out as much this spring.   Today, however, I managed to get out on a nice walk to one of my favorite nearby wetlands to catch a little of the tail-end of nesting season at Wakodahatchee.  The sun was beating down, the humidity high, but I managed to get a couple of laps around the boardwalk, taking in the remaining bird families, the huge new growth in the marsh plants, as well as a sky devoid of any looming dark gray storm clouds.  Here are some photos from the walk:

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Tri-colored Heron, a common inhabitant of the marshlands.

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Fledging Cattle Egret by Eliza Ayres

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Grazing

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Contemplation by Eliza Ayres

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Great Blue Heron cooling off by Eliza Ayres

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Basilisk Lizard – this species can run on its hind legs!

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Black-bottomed Whistling Duck

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Marsh Bunny

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Long-legged Tri-colored Heron

Here are some photos from another walk I took last week, this time to Green Cay:

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Turtle and Palm

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Marsh Hibiscus

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Fledging Marsh Hen

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Great Egret

That’s it for now, folks.  Now that I’m feeling better I hope to get out more.

Happy Solstice wherever you are located on the planet!

Namaste,

Eliza Ayres

© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, Eliza Ayres, http://www.bluedragonjournal.com

Nature Walk – Wakodahatchee Revisited

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Nature Walk – Wakodahatchee Revisited

by Eliza Ayres

Oh, my gosh… going through my older blog posts, it looks like I haven’t done one of these Nature walks for over a month!  And most of that time I’ve been dealing with yet another bout of “illness” or ascension upgrades or whatever.  Each time it seems to take longer for me to recover and gain some strength.  The little mile-long walk today had me wobbling a bit, but I managed it by walking slow and taking lots of photos.  It was kind of funny but almost all the birds I photographed were actively grooming themselves, basically ignoring my presence.  And I did manage to see one alligator during the walk.  I will report that the number of visitors has dropped considerably.  There were plenty of parking spaces, but then again, today was the first day for 2.5 weeks that we had a hint of blue skies.  Florida has been dealing with a lot of rain and gray skies.  All of the local ponds are flush with water and I would imagine the various bushfires have been put out by the long series of thunderstorms.  And we’re due for some more from a small system that seems to be forming off the coast of Belize.  I hope it isn’t a tropical storm or worst…

Here are some photos from my walk…

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Tri-colored Heron

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Female Anhinga

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Large Green Iguana

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Great Egret

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Purple Gallinule

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The nesting cycle continues although the Great Blue Heron, Cormorants, and other birds seemed to have completed.  There were still young Cattle egrets, Tri-colored herons, young Egrets, and well-grown Wood Storks to be found.

Hopefully, I will be able to get out on some more of these outings.  It depends on the weather and my strength.  Meanwhile, for my readers in the United States, enjoy the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, the “official” beginning of summer here.

Kisses and hugs,

“Sunny” VaCoupe

© All Rights Reserved, Eliza Ayres, http://www.bluedragonjournal.com

Nature Walk – Spring Lights, 04.20.18

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Marsh Hen – mother and chick

Nature Walk – Spring Lights

I went for a little jaunt around Green Cay late this morning.  The spring sunshine is already intense here, although it gets more humid when the rainy season arrives.

Here are some photos:

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Green Heron and turtles

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Little Blue Heron

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Great Egret

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Saucy Tri-colored Heron

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Leaping Lizards!

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Immature White Ibis

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Berry crop

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Cruising

The photo above shows an alligator that I heard first before seeing it glide quietly across the pond.  I was about to enter one of the hammock islands when I heard the roar of an alligator.  I have heard it before so knew that one was nearby.  When I left the other side of the hammock, I scanned the lagoon and spotted the gator.  It glided under the overhanging branches of another hammock island across the way.

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Northern Cardinal

It was later in the day so there were more sunshine and heat.  A lot of the birds were sheltering in the tall grasses.  The water level of the ponds had risen quite a bit since my last visit a couple of weeks ago, due to some heavy rain that we received over the weekend.  We’re going to be getting some more rain according to the weather forecast.  The area is in need of the moisture as it has been dry for several months now.

That’s it for now.  Enjoy the upcoming weekend!

Namaste,

“Sunny” VaCoupe (aka Eliza Ayres)

© All Rights Reserved, Eliza Ayres, http://www.bluedragonjournal.com

Nature Walks – The Secret Lives of Birds

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Great Egret – photo by Eliza Ayres

Nature Walks – The Secret Lives of Birds, April 12, 2018

I managed to get out on another bird walk today.  It’s been about a year since I first discovered the local wetland preserves.  I have found them to be small oases of peace in an overpopulated area (IMHO).  And in the process of visiting these sanctuaries, I have learned quite a bit about the secret lives of birds, from nesting, fledging, finding food, and migrating.  I’ve always had a curious nature, pushing the boundaries of my knowledge, not for the sake of making money or such, but to increase my understanding of the world around me.  So, if I happen to see a new species, when I go home, I get out my Florida bird book or search the Internet for information, to verify what I’ve seen, where I can find these species and their various attributes.  In that way, I’ve gradually increased my awareness of bird calls, movements, habits, likely environments, flight patterns and so on.  This all takes a willingness to look beyond and embrace the life that surrounds us on this beautiful planet.  And a willingness to put down your cell phone for a few minutes.  I never use mine — it stays in the purse until absolutely needed.

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Boat-tailed Grackle. Photo by Eliza Ayres

In the past, I’ve approached learning about wildflowers and their ecosystems in the same manner — noting what plants grow together, their flowering seasons, fruits if any, and the environments in which you may find similar plants.  It’s all about observation.  The life that is around us in its many diverse forms is the creation of Source energy, with whatever name you wish to ascribe to it.  These lifeforms are a reflection of the endless ability of Nature to create and celebrate loving diversity, something humans can learn from by observing wild things and even their pets.

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Fledging Wood Storks. Photo by Eliza Ayres.

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Fluffy Cattle Egret in breeding colors. Photo by Eliza Ayres.

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Healthy pond apple tree with developing fruit. The fruit matures to the size of a small mango and is eaten by many animals. The small trees provide shelter for many species.

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Only alligator sighting from today’s walk. Appears to be a mature female.

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All kinds of creatures thrive in the marshes. This is a little marsh rabbit intent on nibbling the grass and other plants.

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Glossy Ibis. Photo by Eliza Ayres.

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A glimpse at a Tri-colored Heron tucked away in a pond apple tree, well out of the way of humans and predators.

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Two Double-Crested Cormorants perched on a pond apple tree.

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Tri-colored Heron in full mating display. Just a boy trying to attract a mate. Photo by Eliza Ayres.

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Great Egret guarding fledging.

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Dozing female Anhinga.

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Large green iguana perched on a tree sunning. These are a non-native or introduced species.

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Mated Great Blue Heron duo monitoring their nesting site.

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Balancing act by a Purple Gallinule. These birds are avid foragers for seeds and fresh sprouts.

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Mother duck scurrying along with her ducklings.

That’s enough for today.  I did manage to take about 90 photos today, so the assortment above is just a taste.  Wakodahatchee is a bonanza for nature photographers, as I have found, packing in a ton of different animal species in a small area.  It is also a pleasant place to walk, despite the fact that it draws many tourists, especially during “the season”, which extends from late November to April 30th.

As you can see from these photos, the marshes, even these man-made versions, are filled with life.  It is a pleasure and a privilege to be able to see all these extraordinary creatures living in natural surroundings outside of a zoo.  All the birds and probably most of the creatures except the alligators are free to come and go.  You can see by the bustling life, that the birds are quite happy to take up residence here and some endangered species, like the Wood Storks, are actually thriving.

May your own forays into Nature be as rewarding as I have found mine.  I send my blessings to all.

Namasté,

“Sunny” VaCoupe (aka Eliza Ayres)

© All Rights Reserved, Eliza Ayres, http://www.bluedragonjournal.com

Photo credits:  All taken today in Wakodahatchee Wetlands Preserve, Palm Beach County, Florida

 

Nature Walks – Whacked out at Wako

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Cattle Egret

Nature Walks – Whacked out at Wako

Ah, another day, another wetlands preserve.  This time I headed to Wakodahatchee for the first time in about a month!  The last time I was there the parking situation was very tight; today, it wasn’t a problem.  Apparently, a lot of our temporary visitors have returned to northern climes once again, after the recent Passover and Easter holiday weekend.

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Fuzzy baby Wood Storks

This time of the year, Wakodahatchee is a baby nursery for birds, lots of noisy, smelly baby birds.  The local Wood Stork nurseries were filled with half-grown fuzzy youngsters, sometimes all joining in on a chorus as their patient parents arrive to the feed the next generation.

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Grooming Great Egret

Half-grown Anhingas were preening themselves in the sunshine, perched on the pond apple trees.  The trees have recently burst into their full greenery, with some displaying their characteristic yellow blossoms and tiny green fruit.  The fruit eventually mature to the size of small mangos.  When they drop into the ponds, sometimes you will see turtles pushing them around through the dark water, while attempting to nibble at the sweet fruit.  In the past, humans have also enjoyed pond apples.

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When waiting to be fed, sometimes these young Wood Storks bob in a noisy chorus until one of the parents feeds them. It can be quite deafening at times but is a positive sign for the future of this singular stork.

There were no alligator sightings today, although I looked carefully at all the places I have noticed them in the past.  Most of the activity was from birds, with birds flying overhead, diving into the water, swimming or wading.  It is a busy time for the adults keeping their young fed.

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Great Blue Heron couple

I noticed one Tri-colored Heron preening himself intently while sitting in a huge leather fern.  With his turquoise breeding color around his beak and lovely fluffy plumage, he was obviously looking for a partner.

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Then I noticed some young Cormorants swimming and diving, carrying up twigs and bits of weed to the surface and then hopping up into an old pond apple trunk.  I suppose they were practicing their hunting skills or do birds play?

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Double-crested Cormorant. Notice the hooked beak which differentiates it from the needle-nosed Anhinga.

The male iguanas have all reverted back to their normal green coloring from the breeding orange.  There were some very large iguanas draped high in trees and dozing in the sunshine.

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Before I left the sun was dimmed a bit by growing clouds.  Soon the spring thunderstorms will begin once more and the official “dry” season will be over.  Just as well; the water levels of the local ponds are down quite a bit.  And I saw a lot of crispy looking vegetation over at Green Cay yesterday.  It is not unusual to have wildfires out in the Everglades at this time of the year.

Here are more photos:

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Young Anhingas

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A handsome Great Blue Heron.

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A Black-necked Stilt. Look at those legs!

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Anhinga and a Double-crested Cormorant. Two very different birds, but both are excellent swimmers.

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Some of the native plants used to purify the waters.

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A portion of a Wood Stork rookery. Other birds, including Anhingas, Cormorants, Herons, and Egrets also raise their young within these pond apple rookeries (if that is the proper name!).

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The heart of the wetland preserve. The taller trees are growing on a levee that separates the ponds. It doesn’t stop the alligators from traveling over the embankment to reach the other side. The entire wetlands are surrounded by high wire fencing to keep the alligators in. Alligators are still capable of climbing over chain-link fencing.

That’s it for today, folks.  I hope you enjoy the upcoming weekend.  And thank you for visiting Blue Dragon Journal!

Namaste,

“Sunny” VaCoupe

© All Rights Reserved, Eliza Ayres, http://www.bluedragonjournal.com