I have arrived in South Florida. I’ve actually been here for several days, but have been too busy trying to see everything there is to see here to work on my photos and blog posts. I’m here in the Sunshine State to see some special subtropical birds which reach the northern (or western) edge of their range here, and also to catch a bit more of spring migration as birds stream through Florida on their way north. Also, at the end of my trip I’ll be catching a boat out to the Dry Tortugas, a set of islands in the Gulf of Mexico about 65 miles west of Key West. (More on that later!)
Instead of taking you through my travels here so far chronologically or geographically, I’m just going to post a bunch of pictures and tell you a little about each one (or at least about most of them).
There is a lot of water in Florida. The ocean and the gulf, ponds, canals, wetlands, mudflats, and the Everglades (which is basically like one giant sheet of extremely shallow water).
All of this water is a bonanza for water birds of all types: herons, egrets, sandpipers, cormorants, etc. Here is one of my favorite, the Least Bittern:
That is an adult, hunting for minnows in the shallow water. A juvenile Least Bittern peeks out of a nest not far away:
Cattle Egrets are everywhere. They often forage in the same fields with livestock, eating the insects and other small animals kicked up by the large mammals. It’s also nesting time for the Cattle Egrets, and here are two making a nest together:
I think this Double-crested Cormorant is too hot, based on its “panting” behavior:
The riotous pink of Roseate Spoonbills are everywhere. My daughter loves these the best. This picture is for you, Piper! I’ll try to get a better photo later this week.
Black-necked Stilts are making a terrible racket. Some people call them “pool poodles” due to their incessant high-pitched yapping:
Sandpipers, like this Solitary Sandpiper, are stopping off for a just a quick refueling on their way up to the Arctic.
There are some cool plants here as well, like palm trees
and many species of epiphytes (which grow on other plants):
The Strangler Fig is a special kind of Ficus tree that starts life as an epiphyte. Its seed lands in the top of a tree (thanks to a bird, who ate a fig fruit shortly beforehand, and excreted the inedible part). The seed sprouts and lives as an epiphyte for several years. Meanwhile, it sends runners down the trunk of its host tree, which eventually reach the forest floor and grow into roots. The Ficus grows larger and larger, and eventually “strangles” the host tree, usually killing it. It’s an ingenious evolutionary adaptation to living in dense tropical forests where little light usually reaches the forest floor. Here’s a strangler fig near the Anhinga Trail at Everglades National Park:
I have a lot more cool pictures and stories to share, but it’s late (and I have a very early appointment tomorrow with a very annoying sparrow), so I will leave you with this turtles. They have it pretty good, I think: soaking up sun by the pool, eating some flowers, and watching the gators float by.