We had to go to the Post Office one morning this past week, so it gave us the excuse to get out early and visit a couple of birding spots along the way. It rained very hard, but only briefly just after sunrise, and a double rainbow appeared as the skies cleared.
Our first stop was Chapel Trail Nature Preserve in Pembroke Pines, the next city north of us. As we pulled into the parking area we saw some birds gathered around a rainwater puddle.
Several Common Grackles were enjoying their baths.
A White Ibis foraged among them. Since this is just a temporary body of water, I assume their prey to be insects and other invertebrates that were flooded out from the grass and underground.
Killdeers probed the perimeter of the puddle.
A lone male Mottled Duck dabbled in the puddle.
We set out on the boardwalk, which traverses a small wooded area, a couple of creeks or sloughs (some call them "slews") and a wet prairie containing several small lakes.
A soft-shell Turtle surfaced beneath the boardwalk, only its nose and eyes above the water.
Three Wood Storks seemed to ignore our presence.
A Northern Mockingbird perched nicely in great light.
I was surprised to hear the call of an American Robin. It was rather far away on the top of a tall Melaleuca, which was in bloom. We see relatively few robins. Some years they never appear in our neighborhood, and when they do they are usually in large flocks. This one was alone, the first seen this winter.
As usual, Mary Lou got ahead of me on the boardwalk. She called my cell to say she had spotted a hawk perched on the boardwalk ahead of her. I hurried to get a look. At first I thought it was an immature Red-shouldered Hawk, which is a relatively common resident. Upon closer examination, I noted that its legs were shorter than those of a Red-shouldered, and its tail, instead of showing many narrow bands, had only a few wide ones. I thought it was a Broad-winged Hawk. But wait-- its body is long and cylindrical, and tail too long for a Buteo. It's an accipiter, an immature Cooper's Hawk.
Later, an adult Cooper's Hawk flew overhead. Its big head, larger overall size, and rounded tail distinguish it from theSharp-shinned Hawk.
Several exotic and invasive Purple Swamphens were much in evidence. These birds were introduced near this location in the late 1990s, and have proliferated and extended their range northward despite a vigorous but futile program to exterminate them. In addition to a staple diet of roots and stems of water plants, they prey on the eggs and young of marsh birds. Since we arrived in 2004 we have seen fewer native gallinules at Chapel Trail -- in fact, not a single Purple Gallinule in more than three years.
We had visited a few days earlier, just after arriving home from Illinois. Our target bird that day was a Florida specialty, one of our favorites, the Limpkin. We were not disappointed.
As we reached the far end of the boardwalk, a Limpkin flew in front of us and settled in the wet prairie.
It was nearly hidden by the grass and sedges.
We thought that would be about our best view of the Limpkin, but it surprised us by flying up again and settling in a small tree.
After posing for a moment, it flew towards us and right over my head. The nearest photos did not turn out well, as I had trouble keeping the bird in the camera viewfinder, so I stitched the ones I salvaged into this time-lapse sequence. (Click on the image to view it larger on black.)
Before going on the the post office, we stopped a couple of blocks away to check on the welfare of the local Bald Eagles. Their eggs were laid near the end of November and should hatch around New Years Day. We found one adult on the nest, fluffing its feathers, but it immediately settled down to incubate and was almost out of sight. Only the top of its head and tail were visible. Follow the ground observations and photos submitted by eagle watchers on my Pembroke Pines Bald Eagle nest monitoring FORUM.
Its mate (which, from her bulky look and high forehead, appears to be the female) was roosting in a tree adjacent to the nest tree. She was fluffing and preening, leading me to believe that the pair may have just finished exchanging incubation duties.