Thursday, September 17, 2020

An overdose of warblers at Chapel Trail

I must admit to sometimes overdoing it when I see a beautiful bird in good light. Only the capacity of my camera's memory card will hold me in check. This was the case during a recent visit to Chapel Trail Nature Preserve in nearby Pembroke Pines, Florida. The park has a boardwalk which traverses a reclaimed Everglades wet prairie. As was the case with most public attractions, it closed down back in March because of the pandemic. During the cooler months we usually lead a South Florida Audubon Society monthly nature walk at this location and I was hoping it might open in time for the November event.  

In late August, anxious to escape the confinement of COVID quarantine, after checking the Bald Eagle nest near Chapel Trail, I drove by the entrance to the preserve and was surprised to find that the gates were open. There were no signs restricting entry, the parking lot was empty and the boardwalk was not barricaded, so I parked and walked in. Rain threatened and I was not able to spend much time there. 

Near the boardwalk's entrance, a pair of Gray-headed Swamphens were tending to four half-grown youngsters. While three of them were actively foraging, one appeared to be dependent upon its parent and constantly begged to be fed. This species has a specialized technique for obtaining its favorite food, the fresh roots and shoots of the abundant Spike Rush. Using their huge prehensile feet, they pull up the roots to display the new growth, then carefully strip open the stalks to expose the white nutrient-rich pulp. 

The adult swamphen patiently harvested the tender morsels, which were immediately seized by the hungry chick:

 Gray-headed Swamphens 05-20200828      

Gray-headed Swamphens 06-20200828

The other adult was accompanied by two of the other chicks:

 Gray-headed Swamphens 02-20200828

Six months ago, before the preserve closed down, an adult swamphen high-stepped:

 Gray-headed Swamphen 01-20200322

A call to my contacts reassured me that the preserve had just officially opened and that signs were to be placed advising that the boardwalk is too narrow to permit social distancing and masks must be brought and worn when there is unavoidable contact with other visitors.

Views of the boardwalk during my next visit:

Chapel Trail boardwalk 05-20200904

Chapel Trail boardwalk 03-20200904

That day I encountered several migratory species. Among them were a Red-eyed Vireo...

Red-eyed Vireo 02-20200904

...and a flock of Eastern Kingbirds:

Eastern Kingbird 01-20200904

Eastern Kingbird IN FLIGHT  03-20200904

This kingbird perched atop a Swamp (Red) Maple which typically puts out new leaves in mid-summer:

Eastern Kingbird in Red Maple 05-20200904

Warblers were a main attraction. Prairie Warblers had returned from their nesting locations among the coastal mangroves:

Prairie Warbler 02-20200904

Prairie Warbler 07-20200904

Some Black-and-White Warblers breed locally. Their ranks were probably swelled by new arrivals heading south:

Black-and-White Warbler 03-20200904  

Yellow-throated Warblers also nest along coastal and northern Florida and are welcome invaders inland for most of the year. They can be elusive as they search for insects in the foliage, so it is rewarding when I can catch one out in the open on a bare branch. During a visit which lasted only a few seconds, I was able to capture bursts of over 50 photos. A sampling of my "overdose": 

Yellow-throated Warbler 01-20200904

Yellow-throated Warbler 04-20200904

Yellow-throated Warbler 05-20200904

Yellow-throated Warbler 08-20200904

Their bills are longer than those of most other warbler species:

Yellow-throated Warble portrait 091-20200904

Next to the parking lot, I saw a creature which could be a body-double for one in Jurassic Park. It is a Brown Basilisk, an exotic species introduced in the pet trade, but now well-established in south Florida:

Brown Basilisk 02-20200828

As is common in sub-tropical climates, the skies over our back yard were clear at dawn and the wind was calm with no hint that afternoon thunderstorms may visit:

Thanks to COVID quarantine, we had prime seating to watch a backyard Great Egret catch a snack. The sequence of events:

Great Egret 01-20200814

Great Egret 03-20200814

Great Egret flipping fish 01-20200814

Great Egret flipping fish 20200814

This September has two full Moons. Saharan dust attenuated the rays of the early one:

Corn Moon 04-20200902 

When there is only one it is called the Harvest Moon, but if it appears twice, the first is known as the Corn Moon, here reflecting on the lake in the wetlands:

Corn Moon 06-20200902

In mid-August, the Moon and Planet Venus had a close encounter above our home. The constellation Orion is visible in the sky to the right in my iPhone photo. Click to enlarge:

Moon Venus Orion 20200815

The occupants of that section of sky are identified here:

Moon Venus SKY 0600 AM 20200815

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to:

Fences Around the World

Skywatch Friday

Weekend Reflections

Saturday's Critters


Camera Critters

All Seasons

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Natasha Musing

Our World Tuesday


Please visit the links to all these posts to see some excellent photos on display


  1. Good morning Ken: Sometimes you get lucky as you did in having this wonderful place all to yourself. I doubt that will happen often. The images of the Grey-headed Swamphen reinforce the extent to which fauna of South Florida has been affected by alien species, many of which are becoming well established it seems. It is difficult to know where to start with your pictures. They are all superb, and you have some excellent closeups of the warblers passing through. The sequence with the egret swallowing the fish is superb.

  2. Love the series of the egret swallowing the fish. Can’t have too many of your pictures! Thanks

  3. What great photos, tack sharp of the birds especially. Glad that area has opened up again.

  4. What an interesting way to feed, and the feet are huge! Gorgeous shot of the Corn Moon.

  5. What wonderful photos of birds and lizard. One can never have too many photos of birds :)

  6. It's so exciting to read and watch your photos again. It's not different for me either, that I take too many photos, but when I'm so fascinated, there is no other way.
    You were so lucky that the gate was open.
    Oh, your world is breathtaking, whether looking at the sky or the animal world for me it is a strange world and to get such an impressive insight from you is great. I thank you!
    Have it good and take care of yourself, Elke

  7. Hello Ken, I am glad the gate was open and you could take your walk on the boardwalk. It looks like a great place for birding. I love the cute Swamphen chicks. They are adorable. Your Warblers photos are just stunning, they are just quick moving birds for me to capture. Great timing on the Egret with the fish meal. beautiful sky captures, The 3rd moon photo from the bottom is just gorgeous. Great post! Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, enjoy your day! Have a happy weekend! PS, thank you for leaving me a comment.

  8. Hello. Thank you for sharing these photos. I like all these wonderful photos.

  9. I love the map of the fascinating! And I love the place you were able to visit! I love Warblers and the Yellow throated is beautiful and fun to see. I saw a Warbler yesterday with no striping...but it's probably a Pine Warbler. I showed that big track on my post today...still not sure what it is. Happy weekend!

  10. What an incredible collection of photos. Your photography is fantastic!

  11. Stunning pictures; good things indeed come in bunches!

  12. How could you NOT continue snapping away with such beautiful birds and scenics to capture. The nice thing about digital is that you can do that and thanks for showing us these beautiful warbles, The one with wings outstretched was wonderful.

  13. Oh, I think I'd have taken too many photos of that little bird as well. Very pretty! That lizard does look straight out of Jurassic Park (oddly, we just recently re-watched those movies), a bit scary. Hope you are enjoying your weekend!

  14. Have never seen a swamphen - it has such distinct features. I know your link for All Seasons this week is still coming, but I had to react on your comment - I really hope this house is more temporary than a month (not only because the purchase took a month!), but also, because hubby decided we can't live with white kitchen counters, an extremely filthy shower, and a kitchen that really needs some shutters, otherwise I won't cook any meals, so hot, and so on, which would take more than a month to accomplish:) So, I really take your positive well wishing to heart, and pray it will also materialize!:) Jesh

  15. Those are big feet, so adapted to their way of life. - Margy

  16. I very much understand why they are named swamphens my friend Kenneth, they do look like younger chickens that we have here in the Philippines. Thank you for sharing all these views to us, especially the Great Egret, such majesty!

    Thank you so much for joining Timeless Thursdays my friend Kenneth :) happy new week!

  17. Hello kenneth
    the landscape in which you live is very beautiful, of course the heron at the snack bar is my favorite, first class photographed
    Greetings Frank

  18. The feet of the swamphen amaze me!
    All of your photos, though, amaze me. Great shots as always.
    thank you for joining us this week at

  19. If I ever get back to Florida I will have to visit! Love the claws on the Swamp hen. And the Basilisk!

  20. It's always fun to see your photos and hear your narrative. Thanks for sharing these wonderful images with us.

    I am glad you joined us at 'My Corner of the World' this week!!

  21. Thought of how the covid-time must have been challenging in not being able to explore the trails and places to capture the birds and other animals. Smiling, I'm thinking of an overdose as 10 pics more. Now I found "someone" who is 5x worse, haha! Yet, I am grateful for the varied posts ou send All Seasons each week! Have a great one, Jesh


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