(This is a follow-up report on a “new” wetlands being developed. See the report of our initial visit in the post, “I, The Beholder“.)
Hello. My name is Wally and I’m a curmudgeon and it’s been eight days since I last curmudged. At least, I feel that way at times. When a salesman arrives at the door ready to deliver his polished presentation, I normally cut them off with a curt “not interested” followed by a quick shutting of the door. Same with phone calls. The poor souls never get a chance to read more than a sentence of their “surefire sale” script. The dictionary defines curmudgeon as: “a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man”. Yep. That’s me once in awhile. Especially the “usually old” part. I’m trying to improve. That’s why Gini usually handles our public relations department.
Of course, one does not dare NOT answer the door. It might be opportunity! Thus it was recently. Well, to be honest, opportunity didn’t actually knock at the door. It emailed. I was invited to participate in a second survey of bird life at a wetlands being developed to see if there was much change from our first endeavor in September. (Maybe I’m not a lost cause yet – these folks KNOW me and actually invited me back!) I jumped at the chance. The area is not yet open to the public and this would be a rare opportunity to observe a relatively undisturbed environment. There are three man-made “cells” which have been planted with natural-filtering vegetation. The cells are dug to varying depths allowing for shallow water waders as well as deeper water diving birds. Water is pumped from an adjacent large lake, held for a time in one cell while natural filtration occurs, pumped to a second and then third cell where the process is repeated. The cleaned water is then pumped into a creek which flows into a river which flows to the Gulf of Mexico. Man imitating nature trying to reverse the pollution man caused. A noble effort.
We met at dawn and by mid-afternoon had circumnavigated the area and ended with a very impressive tally of birds enjoying this wonderful “new” wetlands. The total species count was 96. Included in the count: 45 Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, over 400 Blue-winged Teal, 50 Northern Shoveler, 25 Wood Stork, 100 American White Pelican, 110 Great Egret, over 160 Snowy Egret, 350 Glossy Ibis, 11 Sora (a conservative count, mostly heard), over 200 American Coot, over two dozen Black-Necked Stilt, over 20 American Avocet, 20 Lesser Yellowlegs, 40 Long-billed Dowitcher, an uncommon inland Dunlin, 120 Least Sandpiper, 70 Cattle Egret. Among Passerines were: Black and White Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Palm Warbler, Pine Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow and Swamp Sparrow. Representing the Raptors: Osprey, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Kestrel and a Barred Owl.
Whew! No wonder I went home tired!
Once complete, this will be an outstanding venue for the public to enjoy a day in nature and, hopefully, realize how important it is to preserve such places.
Please enjoy a few images of our day.
American Avocets and Long-billed Dowitchers busily probed the shallow water for breakfast.
Least Sandpipers seem to fly as a single unit, responding to some unseen signal as they wheel, glide and land together.
A few Blue-winged Teal look for a spot of open water among the grass to settle down.
There was a nice variety of winged creatures other than birds, too, such as this Four-Spotted Pennant.
Throughout the day, Osprey let us know the fish population in the newly created ponds was quite robust.
A flock of White Ibis in the bright blue sky circled for awhile trying to find a “vacant” parking spot in which to forage.
Scarlet Skimmers brightened up the landscape as these large dragonflies hunted for smaller prey.
The air seemed to be filled with birds all morning. A small group of American Avocets move to a less crowded shallow sand bar.
This young Red-shouldered Hawk seemed to be still a bit sleepy as the rising sun reminded him it was time to get busy.
A Long-tailed Skipper probes the pretty flower of an invasive nuisance plant, Ceaser’s Weed (Urena lobata).
The bright male Roseate Skimmer seems like a neon advertisement for Dragonfly makeup. The female is not nearly as gaudy looking.
A pair of Long-billed Dowitchers show their beautiful plumage, including the characteristic white wedge on their backs. (The Short-billed Dowitcher also has this wedge.)
We were fortunate to spot an American Bittern. This one shows why they’re easily overlooked. When sensing a threat, they point their bills skyward and “freeze”. This position, along with their striped plumage, allows them to blend in nicely with the surrounding grass. They’ve even been known to sway if it’s windy in synchronization with the grass to lessen their chances of being seen.
The female Eastern Pondhawk is really bright green and the male is a more subdued powder blue.
I believe this is a member of the Baskettail species, possibly Epitheca? Any help in a correct identification would be very much appreciated.
The Barred Owl is a denizen of the swampy woods and it’s not unusual to see them in the daytime. This one was very alert to our presence but didn’t flush. He appeared to keep his right eye partially closed, due, I think, to the strong sunlight coming from that direction.
Although I may continue to have my curmudgeonly moments, I hope I’ll still at least answer the door just in case another opportunity comes to call.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!
See more birds at: Paying Ready Attention (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)