As I approached the pond I immediately scared up several small waterfowl. I took a few quick shots before they flew off to the other shore, then sat down with my bird book. (When sitting down on a trail in Florida it is wise to check first for ant hills.) I have no doubt that I've seen these birds before, but I didn't pay them much attention. As a matter of fact, I found some pretty decent photos I took of some last year when I was in Florida. These little birds are American coots.
I walked along the far shore from where the birds had flown, snapping pictures, then realized there was a different bird out there with the coots. Out came the binoculars and the bird book. Ah! The red-billed bird is a common moorhen. I had actually seen a female moorhen not far from my house last summer, making its way to the little creek that runs along side our road. I hadn't gotten a very good look at it as it was in some tall grass, but after checking the bird guide I was pretty sure that's what it was. It was nice to get a better look at one.
Here is a closer, but fuzzier, shot of a moorhen.
A better shot of some coots.
I was so captivated by the coots and moorhens (which, by the way, are both in the Gruiformes genus, the same as sandhill cranes) that I nearly overlooked this little fellow, which turned out to be a pied-billed grebe. So within 30 minutes or so I'd identified three birds that I had never (knowingly) seen before. I was so excited!
This bird however was quite familiar--the anhinga, sunning itself in a tree on the little island in the middle of the pond.
As I made my way around the pond I saw movement up ahead, as a small songbird flew down out of a shrub and onto the path. I stopped and immediately took some photos, even though I was quite a ways away. Any attempt to get closer only causes the bird to take flight. Turns out that this is a palm warbler, a bird that summers in southern Canada. Note the black eye stripe and yellow under the tail. I am surprised I have not seen one here as we are on their migration route. Another bird checked off my list!
As I stated in a previous post, I had hoped to see an alligator. The couple I met at the trail head mentioned that they had nearly walked up on one sunning itself on the bank of the pond on a previous hike. So I had been most careful as I made my way around the shore, stopping frequently and checking the banks--one can't be too careful when hiking alone, even in a place that seems pretty tame. Finally, at the eastern end of the pond but thankfully out on the island, I spotted this gator, tucked in behind the dead tree.
Magnificent creatures, unchanged for eons, so highly evolved and perfectly adapted to their habitat that they have seemingly stopped evolving. I have great respect for these animals.
Next: a great egret fly-by and pelican lunch