All systems were go as we took off from our designated meeting site. Our new good friend Mike joined us for a day of birding Lake Ackerman, Palmer Lake and the Celery Fields pavilions. Andy White was the leader and planner for this Venice Area Birding Association trip.
We pulled into the Lake Ackerman parking lot. Right away, a great egret greeted us as we drove in — but that was the only bird in sight. At first it looked pretty bleak; however, when we scanned with binocs, we soon were picking up a bunch of nice bird sightings.
Across the field among the cows were quite a few cattle egrets. Several black-bellied whistling ducks poked out of the reeds then disappeared back in the tall grass. Ospreys were decorating the light poles along the road. As we were searching the shoreline, a belted kingfisher flew by. On the opposite shore, we picked up a limpkin and a great blue heron.
Several pied-billed grebes were dipping and diving out on the lake. A prehistoric-looking anhinga flew overhead and landed near the tall grasses where several white ibis were feeding in the muck. Noisy laughing gulls and even noisier boat-tailed grackles announced their presence. We also had a mockingbird serenading us the entire time we spent there.
Andy, our leader, then announced our caravan was to proceed to Palmer Lake. Off we went with great anticipation, as we all were reading eBird the past week and had seen the great posts regarding bird sightings.
Our group was straggled along the sidewalk with binoculars and scopes pointing in all directions. Deb was calling everyone to see the avocet at one end of the lake. Patty was excited for us to see the four crested caracaras on a rooftop across the street. Don was telling me there were several eagles on a rooftop across the lake. What a conundrum — where to look first?
We watched as the avocet took off and flew right over our heads. Several American coots were swimming along with a group of moorhens close to the shore. We also sighted a Forster’s tern, more grebes and several blue-winged teal. Another exciting find was a lone American widgeon.
At the opposite end of Palmer Lake, we spotted a secretive green heron. A tri-colored heron was by the shore directly in front of our group. One of my favorite ducks — a northern shoveler — graced us with its presence. I just love that huge beak. We spent a great deal of time scanning every inch of the area.
Soon, Andy announced we were off to the Celery Fields. We inspected the Sarasota Audubon’s lovely butterfly garden first. We picked up a brown-headed cowbird, several ground doves and a Eurasian collared dove. Also heard and sighted: A Carolina wren and a northern cardinal.
We finally reached the Celery fields Pavilion and along the way sighted common yellowthroats, yellow-throated warblers, blue-gray gnatcatchers and had a fly over by sandhill cranes. Everyone is always thrilled to see purple gallinules no matter how many times they are sighted. It must be that brilliant hue that the ladies love.
Patty spotted a hawk extremely high up. After some discussion and a lot of binocs on it, we came to the conclusion it was a broad-winged hawk. We also picked up a Cooper’s hawk, double-crested cormorants, red-shouldered hawks, yellowlegs and a downy woodpecker. And of course, no day of birding could be complete without sighting a group of black vultures circling overhead trying to find carrion.
It was a fabulous birdwatching trip with a wonderful group of VABA friends, but our little group was losing steam. Andy announced it was definitely time for sustenance. Off we went to one of our favorite eating spots apres birding, Eggs-traordinary Cafe in Nokomis. Eating and laughing was the item on the agenda, and there was plenty of that happening. What a fun day — thank you, Andy White.
Abbie Banks is a member of the Venice Area Birding Association, a group of folks who want to enjoy the environment and nature without the cumbersome politics of an organized group. For more info on VABA or to be notified of upcoming birding trips, visit AbbiesWorld.org/references.html or email her at Amberina@aol.com.