Nature Walks – A little Lox and Wako

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Nature Walks – A little Lox and Wakodahatchee

Being retired has both pros and cons.  One thing, you need to be self-motivated to get out and do anything.  Another pro… is that you can set your schedule.  Still, living in a heavily populated area, I tend to plan around commute times as I dislike traffic and noise.  BTW, the drivers here in SE Florida, at least 10% of them are seriously whacko driving and winding through traffic at about 65 MPH, way over the speed limit.  Anyway, despite the traffic, this week I made it out to Loxahatchee and today to Wakodahatchee.

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The birds were thin on the ground in Loxahatchee, at least for any attempts at photography.  I could hear them okay, but the tall grasses and reeds were effective camouflage for the now nesting birds.  I didn’t see any alligators and just a couple of turtles, but they’re around, hiding.  The weather has been quite a bit cooler, so the reptiles are probably a little slower.  With the exception of a heavy rain shower on Tuesday, the weather has been quite dry, with low humidity, a true blessing for humans, but dangerous for the wildlands as wildfires can easily start up in the grasslands and dry forest plots.  The wildfire season here is almost the exact opposite of what I’m more accustomed to in the West, where fires were mostly limited from mid-summer to mid-autumn, depending on the winter snow/rain.  There was plenty of rain here last summer and into autumn, but that just encourages the growth of grasses which later dry out in the dry winter winds.  Such is the paradox of Nature’s cycles.  Add careless humans into the mix and you have trouble.

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Two Wood Stork Mates greeting each other. They sometimes clack their beaks and waggle their heads…

In Wakodahatchee, the nesting season is going strong.  I saw some fledglings popping their fuzzy heads above the nest material today, as well as some young Anhingas enjoying the cool sunshine on one of the many pond apple trees.  Again, the alligators were not evident, probably hiding out in the warm shelter of grasses and reeds.  They will venture out later in the season.  It was quite cool this morning…for Florida… with the thermometer hitting the low 50’s and upper 40’s, with light breezes.  I added a sweater for a little extra warmth and needed it until the clouds parted and the sun decided to make an appearance.

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Sleeping Anhingas

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Up a tree…

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Glossy Ibis

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Portrait of a Black-bellied Whistling Duck

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Wild Elderberry, a common marsh plant

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Cattle Egret

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Young Anhingas

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Seeking balance…

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Pensive Tri-colored Heron

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Bright-eyed Grackle

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Green Heron

The Wood Storks are doing very well in this relatively new nesting grounds (for them).  They have taken over several more pond apple trees that are spotted throughout the preserve.  The pond apples are short but sturdy trees that can thrive in water or on land.  Their “apples” or fruit are edible.  Late last summer I witnessed several turtles chasing “apples” around the dark waters, as they nibbled at the sweet fruit.  I haven’t tried it myself yet.

That’s all for now, folks.  Enjoy your weekend.

Namaste,

Eliza/Sunny

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

Nature Walks – Wakodahatchee Nesting Season

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Great Egret in breeding colors (green @ eyes)

Nature Walks – Wakodahatchee Nesting Season

One learns about Nature through observations made over the long-term, following seasons and cycles, drought and heat, wet and humid, wind and rain.  Since arriving in South Florida nearly a year ago, I’ve spent a little time in the local wetland preserves each week.  Lately, I’ve observed the changes in coloring in some of the birds.  The changes can be subtle or quite marked.  Some birds, like the tall stoic Wood Storks, don’t seem to change coloring but do change their behaviors, becoming more affectionate and attentive to their chosen mates.  The herons seem to take on a change of color around the eyes and upper beaks.  This morning, I noticed some Tri-colored Herons in breeding colors, having a beautiful blue color around the eyes.  The Great Egret takes on a green color around the eyes and so on.

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Painted Bunting male – a winter visitor

Babies are still being made, while some babies have already hatched.  I saw a couple of  Great Blue Heron fledglings just holding their fuzzy heads above the branches of their nest.  Most birds have gone into the breeding cycle, with Anhingas, Wood Storks, Egrets and Herons often sharing the same pond apple trees.

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This Purple Gallinule was busy picking and eating the tender shoots on the bottom of these reeds.

The people who visit the wetlands can also be a source of amusement.  I overheard one woman pointing out a nesting Cattle Egret while telling her friend that it was a baby Wood Stork.  No… a breeding Cattle Egret has a golden head and back like this one.  In a month or so… certainly by April, it will be quite evident that the young Wood Storks are considerably larger and noisier than the small Cattle Egrets.  I don’t even consider myself an expert on birds, but I have managed to learn a few things in the space of ten months.

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Great Blue Heron family

Here are some more photos from today’s walk:

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Wood Stork in search of soft nesting materials. These birds stand 40″ tall.

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A lively marsh resident — the Red-winged Blackbird

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Tri-colored Heron in breeding colors (blue on beak)

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Busy Glossy Ibis

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Another Tri-colored Heron in breeding colors

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The only North American stork species, the Wood Stork.

That’s all for now, folks.  Enjoy your weekend.  And all those who are having some really cold weather and storms this weekend in the NE and Europe, keep warm and safe!

Namaste,

Eliza/Sundeelia

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

Nature Walks – Winter Boardwalks

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Nature Walks – Winter Boardwalks

Winter walks on the boardwalks of our local wetland preserves presents a new obstacle course, winding around the tourists and snowbirds who are down for “the season”.  Parking is at a premium especially at the smaller Wakodahatchee and one is perhaps in more close proximity to complete strangers than is totally comfortable.  Well, in life here you just have to roll with the punches and take things as they come.  Fortunately, most of the people are in a good mood watching all the activity, hustle and bustle as the mating and nesting seasons commence for the various bird and animal species who make the wetlands their adopted homes.  Adopted… as the wetlands were built and the birds arrived.  I’m not sure what arrangements were made for the alligators… That would be interesting to find out.

Here are some photos from my latest forays:

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Female Anhinga

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Tri-colored Heron

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Blue Winged Teals

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Somnolent Alligator

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Cattle Egret in mating plumage

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Wood Stork Rookery

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Male Anhinga.

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Great White Egret in mating plumage.

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Cruising…

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Double-crested Cormorant. Note the subtle pattern on the wings.

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A patient Great Blue Heron guarding his nest. He’s surrounded by the larger Wood Storks.

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Mature Male Iguana

That’s it for now, folks.  Enjoy the upcoming weekend.

Namaste,

Sunny VaCoupe

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

Nature Walks – Love is in the Air

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Nature Walks, 14 Feb 2018 – Love is in the Air

The last two walks I went out, there wasn’t much to photograph, whether it was the weather or the animals were just making themselves scarce.  Today was different.  I’ve been slowly recuperating from the flu so am careful not to overextend, but for some reason, I decided to add a mile to my little walk.  And was rewarded for my efforts by seeing one of the largest alligators at Wakodahatchee crawl across one of the berms.  He was majestic, huge, powerful…and moving pretty fast but several of us got photos and a thrill to see such an ancient-looking beast in action.

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Alligator taking a stroll across one of the berms, Wakodahatchee Wetlands Preserve.

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All attention focused on…

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No, the alligators weren’t “in love”, but the Wood Storks… well, let’s say there was plenty of feather fluffing, jumping up and down, bill-clacking and posturing as stork mates were prepping for the season.  The Wood Storks at Wakodahatchee are a success story in the making.  They’re the only stork in North America and have been on the endangered list.  This season, there are even more nest sites and storks than there was last year — they’ve taken up residence in several pond apple trees sited around the wetlands.  The stoic white and black-feathered birds are making and raising lots of babies.

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Another species that is doing well is the non-native Green Iguana.  On one pond apple tree alone I spied out at least ten grayish-colored iguanas and one large male.

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Glossy Ibis

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Great White Egret

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A little blurry shot of a rare Black-Crowned Night Heron out fishing.

I saw a photographer intently staring into the marsh plants and casually glanced over his shoulder.  There was a Black-crowned Night Heron fishing.  The above photograph is a bit blurry as my camera focused on the plants, not the bird.  These birds are very shy and usually come out at dusk; it’s rare to see them out in broad daylight.  Another lucky find!

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Great Blue Heron nesting.

Due to the influx of Wood Storks, many of the other birds seemed to have been pushed aside, but when you look carefully, there are still plenty of herons, egrets, cormorants, anhingas, ducks and tiny songbirds whose flitting movements through the branches defeat the attempts of most photographers to capture their images on “film”.

So much for my outing on Valentine’s Day, with plenty of love in the air, on the water, in the water, on the branches and all around.

Happy Love Day to all my readers!

“Sunny” VaCoupe (aka Eliza Ayres)

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

Nature Walk – Cabin Fever Reprieve

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Nature Walk – Cabin Fever Reprieve

People who live in cold, dark climes in the winter know all about cabin fever, yet I live in sometimes sunny Florida.  However, I’m recovering from a lengthy bout of the latest flu.  Symptoms were light, but the fatigue long-lasting.  And the flu this year has been a killer, so I’m one of the fortunate ones.  Being retired, too, allows me to gradually heal as needed.

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Well, beyond the personal bits, I managed to get out to Wakodohatchee today and was greeted with a feast of feathers (perhaps that’s a better title for this piece!).   The Wood Storks are back in full force and I even spotted a few heads of babies peeking up above the branch piles that pass for their nests.  The great storks are stoic birds, elegant in their own way and very patient parents.

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I was also blessed with three sightings of alligators, some iguanas who were literally hanging around, as well as an assortment of turtles and other birds.  My, the Great White Egrets are stately birds.  I’m glad their feathers are no longer used in women’s fashion.  They look better on the birds.

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Naptime.

The weather was in the mid-seventies and at 88% humidity, slightly sticky but pleasant.  There were many of crowds, but most people were in a good mood, intent on taking in all the sights and activities.  The parking lot was crowded when I arrived around 9 a.m. and overflowing when I left.

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Great Blue Heron

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Egret busy watching a nearby alligator.

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Subtle patterning on a Florida Water Snake (non-venomous)

And here’s a rainbow for luck!

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It’s a Double!

Have a great week, everyone!

Sunny

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

Photo Credits: Delray Beach Municipal Beach, Wakodahatchee Nature Preserve

Nature Walks – Wakodahatchee, 01.12.18

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Great Egret with lunch.

Nature Walks – Wakodahatchee, 01.12.18

Wakodahatchee is the another one of the nearby wetlands that I periodically visit.  The crowds were here today for the show and such a show.  There were five alligators to see and probably a bunch more that we couldn’t see.  I saw the biggest alligator that I have ever seen in Florida, sprawled out on a muddy bank with his lady love.  I overheard that it’s mating season for the alligators so they’re more active than usual.

Look at the size difference between the mature male and the female gator!  Oh, my.

There was also a sprinkling of large iguanas to be found mostly lurking in the trees or lying on the grass.

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Male iguana. Non-native species.

The Great Blue Herons, Anhingas and Double-crested Cormorants are actively nesting, while the great Wood Storks are still gathering in great numbers hunting for food and scouting out nesting sites.  There were also a lot of Egrets of all varieties, including the Great Egret, Snowy Egret, and Cattle Egrets.

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Here’s a couple more of the alligators…

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Napping in the Lilies.

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Here are some of the denizens of the marsh:

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Double-crested Cormorant. Great perch!

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Male iguana. I think I saw this guy on my last visit.

Well, there you have it, some photos of my visit to Wakodahatchee.  This is a very popular place for tourists and is open most of the year, from sunrise to sunset.  The boardwalks are sturdy and as you can see, there is plenty of activity right now as the mating and nesting seasons approach.

Enjoy your weekend!

Namasté,

“Sunny” VaCoupe (aka Eliza Ayres)

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

Nature Walks – Back to the Cay

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Morning Marsh Hen

Nature Walks – Back to the Cay

It’s been about two weeks since my last visit to the Green Cay Wetlands.  When I looked out the window today, a bright blue sky and sunlight greeted me, in sharp contrast with some of the rather gloomy weather we have experienced in South Florida of late.  And last week, brrr.  I did get out to take walks in Delray Beach but took few photos.  So, today, it was back to the colorful environs of the wetlands and its inhabitants.

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The water levels in the marsh were up considerably, which tends to affect which birds are present.  There were mostly Glossy Ibis, marsh hens, and coots, with some sprinklings of ducks, smaller herons, and some Egrets.  I noticed an Osprey flying overhead, but no other hawks were present.  There was one very fat alligator resting on a muddy shoreline near the Cypress Hammock and one large orange iguana perched in a tree that I saw.

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This little fellow was singing his heart out. Male Red-winged Blackbird
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I seem to be having some difficulty loading images right now, so will add some later.  My internet has been going on and off all day.  I hope everyone is coping well with the incoming energies.  I was hit quite hard the last couple of days with the need to sleep, even while my sleep patterns were rather disturbed.  Getting out into the fresh air today really helped.

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Painted Buntings.
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Glossy Ibis
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Great Egret
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Merlin Falcon. Sorry for the dirty windows. They’re being replaced with impact windows soon.
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Weird sky. The next day had a very heavy rain.

Enjoy your upcoming weekend, everyone!

Namaste,

Sunny

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

Nature Walks – It’s a Lizard’s Tail (Tale)

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Nature Walks – It’s a Lizard’s Tail (Tale)

OMG, if I didn’t realize it was the holidays, I do now.  The snowbirds and vacationers are here in full force.  I’ve never seen the parking lot at Wakodahatchee as full as it was when I first arrived.  Then, when I was about to leave, there were seven cars waiting for parking places.  I know, it’s hardly as exciting as a Monday Football game, but my life here is rather quiet these days.

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Anyway, room on the boardwalk was hard to find at times, as I jostled past family groups and lurking camera people waiting for just the right shot of this or that.  Well, the crowds were worth it (I guess — I’m not fond of crowds) as I saw tons of huge iguanas and four (4) alligators, plus a colorful assortment of marsh birds.  Between the bored teenagers and lagging youngsters, I wove in and out and around to find breathing spaces along the boardwalk, with assorted sights and creatures to discern.

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The Wood Storks are beginning their nesting cycle.

There were pond apple trees strewn with huge iguanas, alligators lolling on islands and at the edge of islands, wood storks competing with Great Blue Herons for nests, marsh hens warning of alligators prowling nearby and assorted other mini-dramas in marsh life.  I saw a couple of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks chirruping to another duck in some kind of bird ritual, a huge orange iguana puffing out his chin pouch in a masculine display and great birds standing together in quiet contemplation as they fished a backwater.

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Such is the drama and excitement that can be found in a simple visit to a local wetland as the nesting season begin to unfold although in other regions the weather is still locked down in frigid temperatures.  It was cool this morning, in the mid-60’s, but I fully relished the cool breezes on my bare arms and legs.  No coat for me!

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Five iguanas perched in a Pond Apple tree.
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Tri-colored Heron
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Yes, that is an Alligator.
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Male Iguana in breeding colors.
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Reflections while fishing. Great Egret.
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Double-crested Cormorant
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Bird Talk among Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.
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Male (black) and female (beige neck) Anhinga pair.

That’s all for now from Wakodahatchee.  Now for a few sights from the local area, taken on Christmas weekend…

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Wild Asters at Loxahatchee
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Fun on the water, off Delray Beach
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Merlin or Pigeon Hawk
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Hibiscus Flower, Delray Beach
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Before the crowds arrive, early morning, Municipal Beach, Delray Beach.

On weekends, I frequently visit nearby Delray Beach and do some early morning walks there.  You never know what you will come across, but it won’t be snow!

A very Happy New Year’s greeting to all my readers!  May the new year bring you all many blessings and opportunities.

Namaste,

“Sunny” VaCoupe (aka Eliza Ayres)

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

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Nature Walks, December 28, 2017 – Green Cay

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Nature Walks, December 28, 2017 – Green Cay

Christmas is behind us, New Year’s just ahead as the year begins its transition.  You wouldn’t be able to tell it’s winter in Florida, however, as the 80 F degrees, days still continue, at least here in the SE Coast.  There were some rain clouds looming to the south, but as the morning progressed, they dissipated.  Consequently, I was able to join the snowbird crowds on a walk around the boardwalk, passing by clumps of families grouped here and there, as the distinctive “lilt” of a Jersey or New York accent would crash through the quiet.

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There were no alligators to be seen today, but plenty of birds and some turtles.  I’ll let them do the talking for me through photos.  After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

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Look at those feet!

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Great Blue Heron

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Red-shouldered Hawk, a common Hawk seen in Florida.

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Belted Kingfisher

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Wood Stork

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Grebe

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Turtle Town

There were a great many more people than were present during the hot and humid months of the Florida summer.  Still, the open-air views of the marsh and hammocks tend to lift my soul a bit even with the extra crowds.

Happy New Year to every one of my readers.  Thanks for making this little blog a success.

Namasté,

Sunny

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

Nature Walks, December 19, 2017 – Whacked Out on Birds

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Green Heron

Nature Walks, December 19, 2017 – Whacked Out on Birds

The above title could be:  “whacked out on birds, alligators, and iguanas”, but I prefer short, catchy titles.

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Young gator resting on lily pads

I was delighted to take my sister to one of my favorite local wetlands on Tuesday afternoon.  The place was a little more quiet, as the crowds tend to come during the day, but there was plenty of activity and sightings of the local fauna crowd.

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Looking into the pond apple tree, we were expecting to see birds and saw this instead, a huge iguana!

We saw birds of various shapes and sizes, young gators, huge iguanas and even a very large brown water snake that was wrapped tightly around a tiny tree.  I’ll let the photos do the talking for me:

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Nesting Great Blue Heron

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Fishing Great Blue Heron

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Colorful Gallinule

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Wood Stork

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King of the Island

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Tri-colored Heron

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Double-crested Cormorant

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Male Anhinga

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Young gator

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Great Egret

I couldn’t get a photo of the brown water snake, but it was a big one.  A man said it was at least four feet long and it had a thick body.

Wakodahatchee has a mile-long boardwalk that can be taken at a leisurely stroll or a fast walk, depending on your reasons for being there.  Plenty of benches can be found if you need to take a break.  The weather while we were there, was probably in the low 80’s, but pleasantly warm with the lower rays of the sun.  We enjoyed our stroll.

Happy Holidays to everyone from sunny Florida, one of the few spots in the United States not receiving rain or snow… or burning up.

Namaste,

Eliza Ayres

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

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