After the thrilling sighting of Painted Buntings at the Merritt Island NWR Visitor's Center, we drove out to the Black Point Wildlife Drive. As I mentioned before, the whole point of going to Florida in February was to be there before the marsh was drained so we could see scads of waterfowl, like I had several years ago when I made a solo trip down south. Several lakes and ponds along the main road were chock full of ducks, but there is no where to stop, so we continued on to Black Point.
Right inside the gates a gorgeous Tri-colored Heron was fishing in the shallows near the road. It was still quite windy, and his plumage was blowing in the wind.
Not too far into the drive we came upon ten or so cars pulled off to the side and a large group of folks with glasses and cameras pointed toward a pond on the right side of the road. We pulled over and joined the group. I didn't see many birds here, some teals and shovelers and a handful of herons, and this cluster of birds which, at first glance, I honestly thought were seagulls, proof that I am an amateur birder. In my defense I did think it odd that the gulls were there--I'd never seen gulls in the refuge before, but for whatever reason I am not all that interested in gulls and so did not look very closely or for very long.
|Notice how the wind, blowing from left to right,|
has flattened the backs of their heads.
I took the above picture, then watched some of the other birds for a while. I was still perplexed, however--what the hell were these people looking at?
Then I saw one of the "gulls" walking near a small group of snoozing sandpipers. I noticed right away its long legs and slender, upturned bill, and realized my error.
These were American Avocets!
I have always wanted to see an avocet. The long, up-curved bill, white body and buffy head, powder blue legs.... Just a well-put together bird I guess. I was so excited to add this bird to my life list. I won't bore you with a bunch of photos, as they weren't really doing much, but oh what a treat!
|The late afternoon light, filtered through the smoke of|
wildfires in Brevard County, was perfect.
We eventually began making our way along the drive. We had a ways to go and it was already getting late. I caught this American coot walking across the mud in front of an immature Tri-colored Heron--I've never seen a coots legs before!
I had to include a shot of this Great White Egret. How absurd they look with their necks extended.
We came across a few more avocets, but the bird in the back with the big white breast and brown head caught my attention--a Northern Pintail tucked amongst the teals. I have a hard time with Latin names, but I think Anus acuta will stick with me.
We found this pair of Blue-winged Teals off by themselves. The female snoozed while her mate showed of his name-sake blue wing.
We saw a lot of wading birds but not much in the way of waterfowl. I was very disappointed. I wonder if the mild winter kept them from having to come so far south, or if they had left already. At any rate I was happy to have seen the avocets, and it was a beautiful evening to be out enjoying the birds, regardless of their heritage.
As you come close to the end of the drive you enter alligator alley. I think perhaps the water is deeper here in the channels next to the road, and there are always sizable gators. This day was no exception as I saw one of the biggest gators I've ever seen at the park, a stout ten footer resting in the evening light.
As I shot the alligator I noticed a few coots swimming directly towards it. I thought we might see some drama but the coots noticed the gator in time to give it a wide berth!
Next (and last Florida) post: Roseatte Spoonbill up close!