January 29, 2019
I don’t usually take a camera with me when we walk to the coffee shop in the morning, but I did today because I was hoping to find the odd ducks we had seen yesterday on our walk– actual ducks that is, not peculiar people behaving oddly. I had never seen these particular feathered friends before and they were just wandering around in people’s yards! Mostly black with a little bit of white, and a touch of bumpy red warts, they weren’t particularly attractive birds–but definitely interesting. What could they be, I wondered? As it turns out, they were Muscovy Ducks! That’s what Merlin said– Merlin, the app, not Melvin, the husband!
Here’s what The Cornell Lab of Ornithology had to say about the Muscovy Duck:
“The strange, warty-faced Muscovy Duck causes confusion for some bird watchers, as it’s very distinctive and quite commonly seen, yet does not appear in some field guides. Truly wild individuals are restricted to south Texas and points south, but domesticated versions occur in parks and farms across much of North America. Wild Muscovy Ducks are glossy black with bold white wing patches and are forest dwellers that nest in tree cavities. Their range expanded into Texas in the 1980s; feral populations also exist in Florida.” https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Muscovy_Duck/overview
Not far from the Muscovy Ducks was a small, man-made pond where we were surprised to find a few common gallinules and one very lovely hooded merganser –who were both nice enough to stay close to shore so that I could take a few pictures!
Following our neighborhood bird encounters and our stint at the coffee shop, we headed over to the nearby Sawgrass Lake Park for more bird watching—and the requisite picture taking.
“Sawgrass Lake Park, 400 acres in size, allows people to walk through one of the largest maple swamps on the Gulf Coast of Florida. The park’s mile-long boardwalk and half-mile dirt trail provide opportunities to see birds, butterflies, plants and animals in their natural settings within the most densely populated county in Florida”. http://www.pinellascounty.org/park/16_Sawgrass.htm
And, if you’re not familiar with the term ‘sawgrass’, as I wasn’t before visiting Florida, here’s a good description…
“Sawgrass is a large sedge plant that thrives on water and can be found on riverbanks in the southern United States, especially in Florida. Scientists consider sawgrass to be one of the oldest plant species, and the plant has tough, edged leaves that can weather year-round flooded conditions of the harsher swamps.”
What a beautiful, beautiful park! As soon as we walked down to the water, we saw gallinules, ducks, ibises, turtles, grebes, coots, great blue herons, and a limpkin. Later in the day, we saw a tricolored heron, a cormorant, two armadillos, and a handful of alligators! The pictures of the armadillos and the alligators didn’t make the cut, however.
My favorite part was watching the great blue heron catch a fish! My second favorite part came later along the boardwalk when I managed to catch sight of a few birds I’d never seen before– a blue headed vireo and a blue gray gnatcatcher– but they were both flitting around so quickly and erratically, that I only caught a good picture of the vireo. Maybe the gnatcatcher will be more patient next time!
I am so incredibly impressed with all the lovely preserves and nature trails that we have found in Florida over the years –especially the ones with boardwalks weaving through marshes and swamps where the landscape would be otherwise inaccessible for all of us – with or without mobility issues. Everybody wins!