March 11, 2019
We tried to find someplace new to visit today that wasn’t too far away and so we ended up at a small pond about 10 miles from where we are staying called the Carillon Conservation Pond Trail. The pond is nestled in among office buildings and has a paved trail all the way around. It seems to be a popular place among workers to go for a walk or a run or take a snack break. Mel and I just enjoyed a leisurely stroll with our cameras trying to capture all the beautiful colors of birds, dragonflies and flowers.
The first thing that caught my attention was an anhinga resting on a bush out on a small island in the middle of the pond. The black and white feathers on these birds are stunning!
The anhinga, sometimes called snakebird, darter, American darter, or water turkey, is a water bird of the warmer parts of the Americas. The word anhinga comes from the Brazilian Tupi language and means devil bird or snake bird.
Another beautiful bird out near the pond today was the Boat-tailed Grackle. If you just see these birds flying around, you don’t realize how iridescent the feathers of the male boat tail grackle are. It isn’t until you see them in the sunlight that you notice the lovely deep shades of blue and purple.
Boat-tailed Grackles are large, lanky songbirds with rounded crowns, long legs, and fairly long, pointed bills. Males have very long tails that make up almost half their body length and that they typically hold folded in a V-shape, like the keel of a boat. Males are glossy black all over. Females are dark brown above and russet below. Eye color ranges from dull brown along the western Gulf Coast to bright yellow along the Atlantic Coast.
We also saw a tri-colored heron, another stunning shore bird with colorful feathers.
The Tri-colored Heron is a mix of blue-gray, lavender, and white. Unlike other dark herons, it has a white belly. Breeding birds have small white plumes extending from the back of the head, a bright blue patch of skin around the bill, and pink legs.
Another bird we spotted, but almost missed because its feathers provide such good camouflage, was a Wilson’s Snipe.
Wilson’s Snipes are medium-sized, pudgy shorebirds with short, stocky legs. The bill is straight and very long (several times the length of the head). They forage by methodically probing in muddy ground for earthworms and other invertebrates. Their heads move up and down somewhat like a sewing machine running at slow speed.
It was also lovely to hear and see the Red-winged Blackbirds today. They are a sign of spring in our home state of Michigan and we wouldn’t normally be hearing them at this time of year!
This next bird, the pied billed grebe, is a favorite of ours and I often take a picture– even though I have dozens already. Today, though, I was captivated by the pattern on the water that made it look like the grebe was swimming through Venetian blinds!
But the birds weren’t the only beautiful things today! There were dragonflies, damselflies and flowers to amaze us as well–Scarlet Skimmers, Orange Bluets, Pickerel Weed and Duck Potato! (By the way, I use the Merlin app and the iNaturalist app to identify many of the birds, insects and other critters that I am not familiar with. There are so many I don’t know, but I’m learning as I go!
It really is amazing how much beauty you can find even in a very small space!