Tricolored Heron at Chincoteague

We didn’t see as many herons at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (see previous post here) as we have in years past. Maybe they were hunkered down in the rain or way from the wind. It was not ideal weather while we were there. The one we did see was not as common as some of the others: a tricolored heron.

It is distinguished from the Little Blue Heron by its white underparts and white on its neck. And it’s smaller than the Great Blue Heron.

This bird was feeding in a waterway with high banks…somewhat protected from the wind. I was pleased with the way the feathers were ruffled and smoothed as I watched the bird move about – oblivious to us in our car (used as a blind).

Water Birds of Central Florida

Continuing the third day of the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival…today’s post is still based in the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area…observing birds around the lakes rather than woodpeckers.

On bird that was new-to-me was the Limpkin. It’s a crane relative and lives in the Americas. Their diet is mollusks – dominated by apple snails.

Here’s a sequence of one walking.

Another bird that I had not seen before and that also eats apple snails is the Snail Kite. I was hunting on the same lake as the limpkin and it found a snail – took the snail to a post in the water to eat.

There were empty snail shells in the water so both birds were probably getting enough to eat. Most of the shells were the larger apple snail which is invasive to Florida but both birds can apparently eat them as easily as they do the native species.

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There were three kinds of white birds around: the juvenile Little Blue Herons,

(which grow up to have gray-blue adult plumage with some red on their neck and heads),

The Snowy Egret with its black legs and yellow feet,

And a Great Egret which was the largest of the three.

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There was a Great Egret in a tree near where we had a picnic lunch. Evidently he gets fed nearby and is named Pete.

There were two other herons beside the Little Blue: Tricolored Heron and

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A Great Blue Heron in the tall grass.

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Nearby there was a Sandhill Crane barely visible in the grass and its mate standing nearby. I took a picture of the one that was standing. Evidently sandhill cranes seen as pairs in Florida are resident;  they don’t migrate. There are cranes that come for the winter but don’t breed in Florida and they generally stay in larger groups.

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There were Anhinga around sunning themselves or preening. They are easier to photograph out of the water.

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The Common Gallinule has very large feet. To make it easier for them to walk on vegetation in the water.

There were a lot of insects that the bird was finding on the grasses near the water.

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A near relative – the Purple Gallinule – was doing the same thing.

There was a juvenile nearby. I liked the way the light changes the colors of the bird. It was like the color of peacocks and morpho butterflies…changing color with every slight variation in light. They too have big feet.

I saw a Pied-billed Grebe just as it turned away…got one picture.

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A Glossy Ibis was also enjoying the lakeshore…finding food.

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It was a good day for water birds. There were even more (white pelicans, some ducks) but they were too far out on the lakes to get reasonable pictures. I was pleased to see three new-to-me birds: snail kite, limpkin, and purple gallinule.

South Padre Island and Bay Cruise – Part 2

Our second stop was the South Padre Island Convention Center. There are boardwalks on one side of the building for birds (and other wildlife) viewing. My best pictures there were: black-necked stilt,

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An alligator that was still at first but then headed toward the shore…stalking

A Common Gallinule that was making its way close to the shore (fortunately it wandered further upslope…no drama),

We walked to an area where there was a small area of planted vegetation. The small birds there were too hard to photography in the vegetation, but there were quite a few monarchs roosting…a little rest before continuing their migration.

We continued around the convention center buildings. There was a Little Blue Heron on an abutment,

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A pelican almost too far out in the water (I didn’t notice the grebe until I looked at the image on the larger screen of my computer),

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A Great Egret (not the black legs and feet),

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At the front of the convention center, I took some pictures of the facades. These must hold up to coastal storms.

There were mud flats on the other side of the convention center….mostly drying since the tide was out. There were White Pelicans,

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Black Skimmers (in the foreground), and

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A strutting Tricolor Heron.

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As we walked back to the bus, there were some White Ibis walking across the parking lot with us. The underside of the bill was different than I expected!

Closer to the bus were some laughing gulls in the parking lot. One seemed to yawn….a good ‘last’ picture for this segment of the field trip.

Estero Llano Grande State Park

We stopped at Estero Llano Grande State Park after our walk around Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. The day was still relatively cold and getting damper…but there were still birds active. A Snowy Egret was actively searching for lunch.

We also saw Blue Winged Teal. The males are easier to identify than the females!

A Scarlet Tanager posed on a lamp post across the water. It was far enough way that I had to maximize the zoom on my camera – not the best picture but clearly a scarlet tanager.

A Tricolored Heron was fishing the pond

As were the White-Faced Ibis.

And American Coots have become familiar to me.

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The Least Grebes were a little too far away for a good picture in the dim light of the cloudy day…but their silhouette is distinctive.

We were a little damp, cold and hungry by the time we made a short hike. We decided to find someplace for a late lunch and discovered The Smoking Oak in Mercedes, Texas. Great barbeque!