The weather was supposed to be nice today so we planned a day trip up to Myaaka State Park up in the Sarasota area about 60 miles north of us here in Fort Myers. We had an 0500 alarm set and got up, had coffee, had some toasted leftover cranberry-walnut bread (we picked this up from the Elks Lodge for a buck a loaf…it gets donated by the local Publix grocery and is normally like 4.50 a loaf or something…quite tasty) and hit the road shortly before 0700. We had some coffee on the road and had to deal with the usual number of buttheads who wanted to drive 90 miles an hour…but Neil refuses to get out of their way if he’s already doing the speed limit or better…and arrived at the park about 0820 shortly after they opened. We paid our 6 bucks entry fee and after a quick stop at the Used Coffee Recycling Facility or UCRF, you only rent the stuff ya know…we headed down towards our planned hike.
Myaaka has a 2 mile loop trail with a raised canopy walk through some of the tree tops for a couple hundred yards about 40 feet up…we went on that last time but the bird sightings are few and far between on that hike. So we headed for our favorite hike there…it’s a 2 mile out and back hike right along side a small tributary of the Myaaka River. This is the same place that we saw quite a number of birds on our last trip…so we were really looking forward to some great sightings today. Our expectations were rewarded…this is one of the most bang for the buck (birds for the buck maybe?) birding locations we know of. When we parked there were zero cars alongside the bridge but by the time we got back from our hike about 3 hours later there were easily 30 cars parked in the parking lot, alongside the road, and pretty much everywhere you could fit a car. We had a blast, talked to a few fellow birdwatchers, took lots of great pics and generally and a great time.
We also got an email from our friends Lynn and Ed earlier in the week…they’ve ordered their new New Horizons Majestic for delivery next year. It’s pretty similar to our floor plan…but they did get a slightly longer bedroom section to allow a king size bed with nightstands and for a slightly larger toilet room as Ed is taller than either Neil or Connie and wanted a little more knee room. They’re looking forward to getting on the road and I’m sure that we’ll meet them along the road for a meet up one of these days.
With that…let’s get to the meat of this post…Birds!!! Our first finds, right from the bridge near the parking lot were a Wood Stork, a Pea Hen (female Peacock) and a couple of American White Pelicans. From far away the Wood Stork is really a beautiful bird while it’s flying…but up close it’s got a face that only a mother could love:-)
Next up we headed up the trail by the river and spotted a pair of young Red Shouldered Hawks (along with an action shot from one of them) and then an Osprey and a couple of Turkey Vultures across the other side of the river.
We thought it was strange that there were all of these Vultures (there were about a dozen in a small stand of trees around these two) were perched in the same place as an Osprey…strange bedfellows we thought.
Shortly after this the Osprey took flight and was clearly hunting over the river although it never caught anything…but we did get a couple of closer shots of it in flight.
Continuing on upriver, we spotted a Limpkin, Least Bittern, and Little Blue Heron with some breakfast in quick succession.
Next up were two different Black Crowned Night Herons…although we are completely in the dark about why these two have such different coloring. It’s not a male/female difference and the second one is the more common color pattern…we have no idea what the other one is although we are sure it’s not just an immature specimen as that coloration is completely different. The orange eye and black crown are conclusive identifiers but the first shot is the first specimen we’ve ever seen with that darker coloration.
We continue to be amazed by the recovery of both Night Heron species in numbers…when we were in Miami in college in the 70s we spent many a day out in the Everglades and I think we could count the number of Night Herons we saw in 4 years on one hand…we saw more than that just today.
Next up, Great Blue Heron, another Red Shouldered Hawk, another Least Bittern, Black Crowned Night Heron, and another Limpkin.
We spotted a Yellow Rumped Palm Warbler in the middle of the trail (there were literally hundreds of these but they’re really hard to get a decent picture of) and then a strange specimen of the Black Vulture species…we’ve never seen one with white feet like this before. Vultures do tend to poop on their feet and the very caustic contents tends to sterilize the feet and kill bacteria…we couldn’t decide if this was a normal coloration or just an extremely heavy poop coating.
We spotted this lizard (it is Florida after all)
And our friend Sparky’s favorite bird the Roseate Spoonbill (along with some Cormorants and a Wood Stork at the far right of the frame).
And our friend Cynthia’s favorite the Great White Heron.
By this time we had completed the out portion of our hike and were on the way back…shortly after the shots above we got back to the parking area near the bridge where we spotted another Night Heron under the trees
We then spotted another Great White Heron still with his breeding plumage…but noticed that there was also a Cormorant in the shot with a fish; the second shot is a closer crop so you can see the size of it’s lunch and in the next one you can see how swollen the neck is as that huge fish slides down into it’s gullet.
And finally one last Limpkin and another pair of Red Shouldered Hawks…these were in the same tree as the pair in the first photo but we couldn’t decide if they were the same pair or another one.
What a great day…it only got up the mid 70s by the time we were done so it was not hot, the park was not crowded at all once you got away from the parking lot…and what a day for spotting birds. Connie’s the chief spotter around here and she outdone herself today.
With that we hopped in the car and came home. Had some lunch, a short nap then Connie worked a bit on her students scheduled to go out on rotation in a couple of weeks. Dinner was a pitcher of beer and Taco Bowls down at the Elks…yummy. Connie went down to bingo at the park but didn’t win while Neil stayed home and worked on blog posts and watched TV.