Today’s plan was to bird the Everglades, then move north to Vinny and Deanna’s home in Lake Suzy on the Central Gulf coast. The exhausting driving/birding from the day before had tired us all out and after getting off to a somewhat late start, we arrived at the visitor’s center well-rested for a day of birding.
The visitor’s center was filled with exhibits, a book store and rangers happy to answer any questions. We had to get moving though and after a few minutes, moved on to our first stop, the Anhinga Trail. The trail is a .5 mile boardwalk leading through wet habitat. It is known for the birds and other animals that are very tame and let you get extremely close.
When we arrived, we started seeing birds immediately. The trail’s namesake let us get especially close as did numerous herons, egrets and storks.
We continued down the trail, a few Glossy Ibis flew over, an alligator swan past as a female Anhinga watched all the action from her nest.
On our way out, I was surprised to see a beautiful Swallow-tailed Kite swoop very low. The kite continued swooping around a tree full of moss, diving down, up and diving again. This continued on for 5 minutes. As he dove I admired his beautiful pattern and graceful flight. Finally, satisfied he left and as he flew out I spied a piece of moss hanging from his talons. Must be nesting material. The Swallow-tailed is a common species throughout the Everglades and we would see a good amount before the day was up.
We continued on, making a few stops where we located a few common Everglades birds including a few Great Crested Flycatchers.
With time running low, we arrived at Flamingo, the southernmost “outpost” in the Everglades. It includes campgrounds, a visitor’s center, a marina, and an old motel, restaurant and gas station that are no longer in use. A mega-rare Bar-tailed Godwit had been reported here, as was a Shiny Cowbird. I was really looking forward to this stop the whole trip, hoping to see both birds.
I arrived at the godwit spot and immediately located a flock of shorbs. I set up my scope and scanned with other birders but after 20 minutes of not finding a Bar-tailed in the large group of Marbleds, Willets, and Dowitcher’s, I decided to try for the cowbird and then go back and give it another go.
At first, the flock of Brown-headed Cowbirds were moving around a lot, flying into trees, making it rather difficult to spot a Shiny. But soon they settled down and I was able to pick out a beautiful, male Shiny Cowbird, foraging with the flock. The birds let me get very close and I was able to get great looks and some decent photos. The birds then flew into the tree above them and I spotted the Shiny sitting in the sun showing off his beautiful, irridecent blue back. What a bird!
I spent the last half hour of the trip looking for the godwit, unfortunately to no avail. We still had 5 hour left to drive to reach Lake Suzy. I was really upset at missing the bird and moped in the backseat on the way home. However, when we got there found the bird had not been seen that day!!! I was exuberant, not just because because I hadn’t missed it but also because I hadn’t wasted the time waiting for it.
The Everglades day was a real boost from the day before. Because of the treatment schedule, I wasn’t able to spend an extra day there, something I would’ve liked to do. Oh well, there’s always next year.