Saturday, November 8, 2014

Birding the West Miramar Water Conservation Area

As I mentioned in last week's post, we were very anxious to get back out into our local south Florida wetlands after spending six weeks at our second home in the Chicago area. Mary Lou particularly values the fresh air and exercise, while I adopt a more leisurely pace, often covering more ground but over about 2 hours instead of 30 minutes. 

This photo was taken about an hour after sunrise on November 5 after a cold front moved in and pushed the overnight temperature down to a chilly 57° F (14° C):

Sunrise CROP 20141105

When I go afield I am not looking for the rare and unusual birds, although they are welcomed when they appear. Over almost ten years of birding this local patch, I have identified 142 species no more than a mile from my home within the confines of the West Miramar Water Conservation Area, photographing nearly all of them. 

Only a few were new to my life list (such as Black-whiskered Vireo, Short-tailed Hawk and Bell's Vireo) and two or three are considered "non-countable" by the American Birding Association (feral Muscovy Duck, captive-reared freely-released Whooping Crane and Greater Flamingo-- the latter I maintain represented a wild flock driven by hurricane winds from their usual haunts 100 miles to the south in Everglades National Park). Yet, because I did not get my first DSLR camera until a few years ago, many provided my first photo opportunities-- events that enliven the spirit of discovery.

The waning full moon had not yet set. Mary Lou was already out in head of me.

Moon over Miramar Parkway extension 20141107

Moon over Miramar Parkway extension 2-20141107

We got out just before sunrise the first morning. As we entered the gravel path, the sun was just high enough to catch the undersides of a Wood Stork as it flew over us.

Wood Stork at dawn 20141028

The morning glow added beauty and defintion to the white plumage of this Great Egret as it responded to my presence by moving away a bit:

Great Egret 02-20141027

Great Egret 20141027

Nearby, an Anhinga protested as I drew near:

Anhinga 2-20141028

At dawn the sunlight cast long shadows on the ground but fully illuminated the clouds above the lake:

Harbor Lake at dawn 2-20141027

All was not beauty and splendor. Water levels decreased somewhat after the end of the wet season in mid-October, so the off-road ("wreckreational") vehicles had free access to the "protected" wet meadows. This is their playground where they can spin their wheels and cover each other in mud:

ORV Tracks 20141028

Unknowingly benefiting from their intrusion, wading birds were afforded new waterways in the ruts and potholes created by the ORVs. A pair of White Ibises probed the mud puddles:

White Ibises in mud puddle 20141028

It was a joy to hear the familiar sound of an Osprey calling overhead:

 Osprey 20141030

A Little Blue Heron and a Great Egret moved towards a disturbance in the water.

Little Blue Heron and Great Egret 20141028

The Little Blue flew offshore to an exposed rock:

Little Blue Heron 3-20141028

I checked out the shrubby area on higher ground next to the levee. Gray Catbirds had already migrated out of Illinois before we left. Here they were the most common land birds. Despite their numbers and constant mewing calls, catbirds are shy and do not sit still for a photo. When one lands out in the open it is almost guaranteed to disappear into the foliage within seconds.

The catbirds outnumbered the abundant Northern Mockingbirds such as this one:

Northern Mockingbird 20141027

This catbird ducked away, but not before I caught sight of its conspicuous rufous under-tail coverts:

Gray Catbird 2-20141102

Gray Catbird 20141031

Another member of the Mimic Thrush (Mimidae) family that includes mockingbirds and catbirds put in a brief appearance-- a Brown Thrasher:

Brown Thrasher 20141031

All in all, I recorded 45 bird species during the first three mornings out in the local wetlands, but non-avian wildlife, such as this Monarch butterfly did not escape notice:

Monarch butterfly 20141031

Long-tailed Skipper:

Long-tailed Skipper 20141028


  1. awesome shots! that opening one is truly spectacular! and loved the light in the first couple of egret shots! haven't seen a brown thrasher since i left wisconsin. we get plenty of mockers here, but i've never seen a catbird in person.

  2. Wonderful photos as usual. I love the morning light on the egret.

  3. Gorgeous views and so beautiful pictures !

  4. Oh my goodness...where do I begin? What glorious images and scenes. That first photo at the beginning just awed me to almost becoming speechless. Wow!!!!!
    Your birds of course are always superior in image and kind. Now....I wanna move and become your neighbor with this in my 'back yard'. They're all very good, but I'm drawn to the Little Blue on the rock...such a fantastic reflection.

    Thanks for sharing the link with us bird enthusiasts this weekend! Much appreciated.

  5. Fantastic shots that take my breath away!

  6. Thanks for your comment about pumpkin seeds! The way to find out about possible anti-inflammatory properties of the acorn seeds you threw out, is to give them to someone who has arthritis or look it up on google...
    Beautiful pics! Love the moon! I want to learn how to take pics of it, now we live in the mountains, and I see the moon regularly. Are these pics HDR?

  7. Don't know if my comment got through...Lovely pics! Love the moon:) Are these taken with HDR? Maybe look up the properties of the acorn squash you threw out on google?

  8. Wow ! Fantastic array of nature photography!

    Happy Day to you,
    artmusedog and carol (A Creative Harbor)

  9. Wow - what amazing and beautiful photos!

  10. @Jeannette--

    Hi Jeannette,

    I use Canon Digital Professional Processor (DPP) which includes an HDR emulation. This is what I used in this blog post.

    When I wish to create an HDR image from an original RAW FILE I make three identical crops, leaving the original as it is out of the camera, then underexposing one and overexposing the other (i.e., increasing or decreasing brightness by an equal number of stops). I then layer the three exposures in DPP and select one of the pre-sets and tweak the chosen one. Purists do not call this true HDR because only a single original is involved.

    I think HDR effects work best in landscapes and also large birds and mammals. It accentuates feather and fur detail but also can look artificial or "cartoon-ish."

    I also use one-step noise reduction in Corel PaintShop Pro if the image is too grainy.



  11. What a pleasure to view your bird photos. I must say the Wood Stork always catches my eye because they are so different looking. Also that sunrise was so glorious. A very nice post.

  12. HI Kenneth All your shots are so go that I really do not know where to start to comment. Well the first shot is amazingly beautiful. I love the shots of the Little Blue Heron with its reflection. Great shot of the Mockingbird and the Monarch is like stain glass. I also like the Long tailed Skipper.

  13. Stunning photos and fascinating birds.

  14. Wow! What an amazing collection of birds. Love that Stork and the Osprey.

  15. Another fabulous selection Ken from your local patch. I'm with you on the leisurely approach ... no point in rushing when there is so much on offer.

  16. What an adventure! Fantastic shots!

  17. Such wonderful beauty in each of the image shares~


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