Yellow-crowned Night Heron

In Tampa, Florida last week, I saw three Yellow-crowned Night Herons (one at a time) beside the channel behind my son and daughter-in-law’s house. Most of the times I saw them the lighting was very dim (early morning), so I never got a good look at their red eyes, hence the uniform black with no markings for eyes on my sketch. Neither could I see the yellow on their crowns, so I didn’t paint it, even though I knew it must be there. I was just sketching what I saw.

The first day I saw a juvenile, with brownish coloring and streaky breast, but didn’t have my sketchbook handy, so no sketch of it. Over the next few days I saw two different adults, one with typical markings and one which had less black– no or almost no black beneath the white cheek. I don’t know if that is also typical, but I haven’t seen any photos of birds like this.

One morning I was watching the bird with less black while he (she?) was feeding. It stalked slowly on the grass beside the mangroves that border the channel, occasionally jabbing into the grass to grab and eat something. When it got to a puddle, the bird danced in place, repeatedly jabbing into the puddle and grabbing its breakfast.

I loved having several days to observe these birds’ behavior as well as to note differences between the two adults. If I were there for longer, I’m sure I would become familiar with the behavior of each bird, each an individual with its own characteristics. It would have been fascinating to watch the young bird grow up, too, and try to determine what behaviors are innate and what are learned.

Click on the image to see it larger


Everglades 2013

After my visit to the Florida Everglades two years ago, my friend Shirley and I began dreaming about going there together someday, since she lives only a few hours from the Everglades and we both love nature, birds, and wildlife. This week “someday” came, and we drove to the delightful little town of Everglades City to spend two days exploring and birding and enjoying the awesome sights and sounds of marshes, swamps, and islands. On the way down to the Everglades we saw a Crested Caracara eating carrion beside the road– a first for both of us and a great start to our adventure!

The first evening we went to a small boardwalk and watched Anhingas settling in the treetops for the night. This was the first time I noticed the light purple feathers that are longer and fluffier on the back of the males’ head and neck. (click on photos to see them larger)

After watching the Anhingas, we drove along a rather bumpy 17 mile road (the same road on which I had seen a panther two years ago). We didn’t see a panther, but we did see an owl in stark silhouette against the setting sun. As we sat in the car and watched, the owl moved closer and closer, always perching in the crooks of dead trees. At one point on the drive we turned off the car, opened the windows, and sat in silence, listening to the night sounds and watching fireflies, with not a light in sight and no sounds of traffic or people. The night was brimming with life, and we sat in silence allowing it to quiet and fill our souls .

The next morning we took the Thousand Islands National Park Boat Tour- a wonderful time of fresh air, birds, and mangrove islands.


Anhinga with a big fish
After our boat tour, we had lunch at the Havanna Cafe on Chokoloskee Island.

The view from our table
Painting the bougainvillea and palms

After lunch we cooled off in the air-conditioning of our rooms for a while, since Rowan and we were all getting overheated. Poor Rowan wears a thick fur coat wherever he goes, and right now is dressed for winter in New York, not mid-80’s in Florida.

When the sun was a bit lower we headed back out to the Big Cyprus Bend Boardwalk, which wends its way over half a mile through swampland.

Straight up a taaalll tree trunk
Barred Owl beside the boardwalk
Strangler Fig- starts life as an epiphyte, then grows downward and grows roots
Royal Palm

Mama or Papa Bald Eagle flapping on their HUGE nest
Great White Egret at the end of the boardwalk

 One of the birds we really wanted to see was the Roseate Spoonbill, and we’d heard that some had been seen at the Marsh Trail, so we headed there after our swamp walk. The Marsh Trail is open during daylight hours, and by stretching the definition of “daylight,” we got to see and hear the marsh in the fading light at the close of the day. We didn’t see any Roseate Spoonbills, but we saw and heard quite a few Black-crowned Night Herons. We also saw hundreds of White Ibis perched in a row of mangroves, but there wasn’t enough light to get a photo of them.

The next morning we headed back to the Marsh Trail before turning homeward, and we both saw our first Mottled Duck! We also saw several Roseate Spoonbills flying over and one posing nicely near the pathway.

 Blue-winged Teal and Mottled Duck

Roseate Spoonbill

On our way back to the car, we heard a White-eyed Vireo– another first for both of us! He was very hard to find in the shrubbery, but I finally saw him and got a photo.

White-eyed Vireo

Two wonderful days of birding, exploring, and shared wonder at a beautiful piece of God’s creation.