Open To The Public

Not too long ago, a friend asked about a visit to a local area where I reported observing American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts and over 3,000 American White Pelicans. I confirmed those species and proudly talked about other unique birds I had seen during the same outing. He was quite excited as there were three species he had been striving to find in Florida and had been unsuccessful. I felt like a cad. Now I had to break it to him that this was a trip on land not open to the public. At the time, I felt  privileged to be asked to assist in a survey of bird life within this newly developed wetland. Little did I realize how bad I would later feel telling people they couldn’t visit the area.


About a month after the above trip, I noted a report of several Burrowing Owls not too far away. My inquiry was met with, “Sorry, they were all on private land.”

Gini and I have been very fortunate to have traveled a modest amount during our time together. The nice thing about having a partner who is happy and positive all the time (yes, she wakes up smiling), is you just know something good is close by almost all the time. When we moved to a new area, we learned to explore close to home first and gradually expand our adventures. What a happy surprise to discover there are usually wonderful things within a stone’s throw of your front door.

Birding has been like that. It’s really exciting to visit a well-known “hotspot” and it’s not hard to figure out why these places are so popular. Plenty of birds! Also, plenty of birders! So we have tried to remember our early experiences and we seek out local parks to see what they have to offer. What we have found is that there are many birding “warmspots” that are all too easy to drive by as one speeds to the well-advertised “hotspots”! These local parks have something else that is missing from the more popular venues. A slower pace. I’m not worried about rushing to the “third tree on the left under the boat dock crouched under a lily pad” bird and getting in a line of sort-of birders who are more akin to contact sport athletes. Instead, I can leisurely walk around on a nicely constructed pathway, say “Good Morning” to a Mom pushing a stroller, admire the fortitude of runners perspiring profusely, take in the aroma of a grilled picnic lunch and still compile a respectable list of birds and perhaps even take a photograph or two.

Two days last month were spent visiting three such public parks. Relaxing, exciting and fun. What more could a very casual bird-watcher want?


Athletic fields have very tall poles atop which are mounted lights atop which are often found raptors searching for a meal. This American Kestrel has a great view from up there!

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area


A large oak tree branch displayed the remains of what I think was a White Ibis. The lunch buffet was very fresh and a look around revealed a Bald Eagle skulking within the framework of tall utility line support structure. I’m not saying he was guilty, but he WAS near the scene of the dine……..

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area


Anhingas are common in our area and they use any available perch that’s open to the sun and wind to dry their feathers. Unlike other waterfowl, they secrete no oils to help them remain water-proof and could drown if unable to keep their feathers dry.

Patterson Park


A Double-crested Cormorant and Peninsula Cooter appear to be exchanging opinions as they share a convenient log.

Patterson Park


An important pollinator in our ecosystem, the Sweat Bee is so named for its attraction to the salt in human perspiration. Only the females sting and it hurts less than a Honeybee. There are over 49 species of Sweat Bee, including the one below, a Green Sweat Bee.

Patterson Park


For some reason, city planners feel the need to “enhance” local park lakes with exotic waterfowl, often with unfortunate results for native species. Some common city critters encountered are swans of all types. I guess, to a bureaucrat, bigger is better. This is a Black Swan, a native of Australia. The male Black Swan’s red eyes turn white during breeding season.

Lake Morton


Mute Swans originated in Europe and Asia and are the most common captive swans in North America.

Lake Morton


The Black-necked Swan is from South America and cannot survive very cold weather. They are more likely than other swan species to carry young on their backs.

Lake Morton


Widely held to be the ancestor of all domestic geese in North America, the Graylag Goose (Anser anser) is a large bulky bird and it is common to encounter a variety of plumages from all white to mostly gray. Hybrids are frequent. In many areas of the United States it is simply referred to as a “Barnyard Goose”.

Lake Morton


Ruddy Ducks visit our area only during migration but can sometimes be seen in fair numbers on larger bodies of water. Occasionally, we’ll see the male still in his breeding plumage of chestnut, white face and blue bill. (Below is a female.)

Lake Morton


Larger than the small Ruddy Duck, Ring-necked Ducks also appear in the fall and many remain through the winter. In good light, the male’s head and neck appear iridescent.

Lake Morton


For sheer gaudiness, nothing compares to our native Wood Duck! Looks like an artist’s palette gone wild. Okay, gaudy but beautiful.

Lake Morton


At the other extreme of the color spectrum is the plain brown Limpkin. Plenty of apple snails in most public lakes attract these ancient-looking waders into the city.

Lake Morton


Good looking in its own right, the Common Gallinule is still confused as to why the “experts” changed his name (again) from Moorhen. Me, too.

Lake Morton


If you get a chance to look for rare birds on private land, go for it! Visit a popular birding “hotspot” whenever you can. For a relaxing day walking among familiar birds in a comfortable setting, check out the city park. You might be surprised at what you can find.


Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!


(Hah! You thought you were rid of me, didn’t you? Not yet.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “Open To The Public

  1. You make me feel good about being a casual birder. I only wish I could take pictures as beautiful as yours. Thanks for sharing and for the positive reinforcement.

  2. I hope you and yours had a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and are having a very HAPPY NEW YEAR. May we display your header on our new site directory? As it is now, the site title (linked back to its home page) is listed, and we think displaying the header will attract more attention. In any event, we hope you will come by and see what is going on at

    • Thank you for the nice wishes and we hope you and yours are likewise doing great so far in the new year.
      At this time, would prefer the header not be displayed. Thank you very much for asking, though! Look forward to exploring your website!

  3. Good Morning Wally. I hope that you and yuour beloved enjoyed the Christmas and New Year holidays. They are over now so you can get back to normal as I am itching to do.

    Like you, I avoid any hot spots or go only when I am sure one might be having a cold spell. There’s nothing worse than being surrounded by birders chatting and generally not birding. I too tend to keep things under my hat to preserve the sanctity of a few spots and preserve my sanity.

    Very nice photos today from the local park, even if some of the birds are a little tame (or overfed?). We have the same problem here with large and colourful birds introduced so as to entertain the masses. Still, if it makes them think about the environment as a whole, maybe it’s to the good?

    I really like that picture of the Cormorant and the Cooter, two old boys deep in conversation.

    Take care my friend. Happy New Year.

    • I’ll choose to adopt your optimism about the public at least thinking of the environment when they see an obese Greylag Goose waddling up for a handout.
      In the meantime, I spent Monday in the opposite setting from a public park. Deep in a section of swamp not open to the public. They allowed us in to see if it may be worth including the area in the national Audubon annual Christmas Bird Count. Wonderful day! Lots of birds and none of those pesky humans about.
      See you (virtually) soon!

  4. How nice to have another post from you. Please don’t stop..
    The photos are all delightful but I especially liked the kestrel on top of the light and the anhinga drying its feathers and the light shining through them.
    If I had had to join other birders at “hot spots” I would never have become interested in the birds. Because I could be out on the kayak by myself and just spend time observing for as long as I wished I really learnt to love the birds.
    Happy New Year to you and Gini and I look forward to reading more about your favorite places.

    • Hi Mick! Hope your summer is going well and we look forward to catching up on your posts and following your adventures in 2017.
      Happy New Year to you and your family!
      Thanks so much for being patient with my spotty blogging. I’ll try to do better!

  5. Beth

    What a nice breather on a hectic morning — and an excellent reminder by example to slow down and go take a walk in the woods. I love the idea of public, easily accessible natural places. You’ve written before about hanging out at marinas and boat launch sites where you and Gini enjoy a picnic and critter watch all at the same time. My favorite photos from this post (if I absolutely had to choose) are the conversation between the Cooter and the Cormorant, the beautiful Anhinga, and the Green Sweat Bee (not a very pretty name for a very pretty bee).

    It was precious spending a little time with you guys recently. We love you and wish you and all the family a Merry Christmas with lots of nature walks in 2017 and beyond!

    • How special it was to spend (all-too-short) some time with you and Frank! (And Lou!) I’ll talk to you soon and catch you up on current events.
      At the moment, the New Year’s roast is almost done, the greens and peas and rice are about ready and I believe my help is needed in “taste testing”.
      We love you!

  6. Hi Wally,
    nice to see back blogging 🙂
    Your photos are delight and explanations very interesting and mostly true for me too.
    The Limpking photo is fantastic (not to mention the Wood duck!), a bird we don’t have here but I would love to see our curlews that close!
    And I am delighted to discover the Black-necked Swan, I think it is the first time I see one!
    Keep both well and enjoy Xmas 🙂

    • Merci, Noushka! Bonne année, bonne sante! We are both well and happy and are looking forward to exploring new places in 2017!

  7. Richard Pegler

    Hi Wally. Amazingly, I’d got it on my list of tasks for today to e-mail you to enquire after your well-being as it had been so long since we heard anything from you – and then you pop up with this delightful post which is in true Wally style – superbly written and beautifully illustrated, and informative too! Thank you.

    I take this opportunity to wish you and Gini a very happy Christmas, and all the very best for 2017. Will probably save that e-mail for the New Year. In the meantime, I’ll be thinking of you both – – – – Richard

    • Happy New Year (already??) to you and Lindsay, Sir Richard! We are both very well, indeed. Looking forward to exploring more in 2017 and perhaps even jotting down a word or two about it. Who knows, we might even include a photograph once in awhile.
      Remember, don’t make any resolutions, just enjoy life!

  8. Thank you so much.
    I loved wandering with you, and seeing feathered enchantment I may never see.
    And sigh on the habit of importing exotics – often at huge cost to both the import and native species of the area.

    • Thank you for the very nice comments, EC! We hope to get back to exploring and maybe even blogging about it this year. Hope you are off to a wonderful start in 2017!

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