Last week I happened to be in Cape Canaveral, watching behemoth cruise ships lumber in and out of port. I find birds to be more fun than boats, though, so I was soon watching the much smaller residents of the East Coast at Lori Wilson Park instead. Not all birds are as obliging as these small Sanderlings, though – some are much more secretive. Do you ever feel like you’re being watched? Despite being a non-native species, the Ring-necked Dove blends perfectly with this palm. Best of the day was a pass that this Black Skimmer made down the beach, running from a flock of Laughing Gulls with his catch snugly tucked in his underbite.
A short turn off of Jones Ave in Apopka, a road more known for its pungent fertilizer fields than birds, there’s a small swampy oasis for ducks and herons. I hadn’t been there since this summer, when it was mostly Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and their chicks, but I stopped by last night and wasn’t disappointed.
When I arrived just before sundown, the aforementioned ducks were flocking noisely overhead, wheeling in large circles before finally landing for the night. Blue Herons, a Great Egret, Anhingas, a pair of Belted Kingfisher, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker watched the water from bare snags by the road. A juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron watched me with a red eye, and an adult surprised me just across the lake.
A small flock of White and Glossy Ibis perched just around the first turn, and I surprised a few Wilson’s Snipe and Least Sandpiper from the brush. A couple of Palm Warblers chipped from the flowering trees, while Snowy Egrets hid with Little Blue Herons in the reedy swamp. There were some Red-winged Blackbirds here earlier in the year, but I didn’t find any last night.
There were three Wood Storks hunting in the muck with another Great Blue Heron in the back-most pond, while a Florida staple – a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk – watched from the old telephone pole near the access road. As I was walking back to the car, I spotted a Long-billed Dowicher, and an Eastern Phoebe twittering from the telephone line.
Back at the car, an Osprey had taken over the snag from the Anhinga, and the female Kingfisher chirruped in the dying light.
Birding in Florida in the late summer is hard; It’s oppressively hot, migration is over, and most birds are finished raising young, so you end up looking at raggity molting residents. Just look at almost any eBird hotspot in Florida – Most show a significant drop-off in birding activity around July-August.
That being said, there are a few ways to keep things interesting – My favorite is kayaking. Even on the hottest day there will be Egrets and Herons feeding on the bank, and almost always Osprey and Eagles circling over head. And there’s something about slipping into that zen-like state of paddling that always clears my head.
Kayaking is also a great way to get pictures of some of even the shyer birds – if you feel like risking your DSLR in an open boat. I keep mine tucked in a dry bag with a towel and a prayer, and haven’t had any problems yet (knock on wood).
Here’s a couple from a recent trip upstream (and down again) on the Silver River. Where there are Monkeys. Because Florida.