It did not matter if there was a threat of a hurricane — Venice Area Birding Association’s trip to Celery Fields in Sarasota was a go, with Andy White as our trip leader. Celery Fields is Sarasota County’s primary stormwater collection site. We are very lucky it also serves as a refuge for wildlife in addition to a water collection site.
Our first stop was Lake Ackerman. It was not a disappointing stop. We first sighted a limpkin and a great egret. Sandwich terns were spotted flying over. Several anhingas were drying their wings along the shoreline. A small flock of tree swallows flew overhead. A lovely pink roseate spoonbill majestically flew by. The longer we stood there, the more birds were sighted.
A red-shouldered hawk lighted on a pole right over the police car that had been parked there. I am sure they were observing our little group with our binoculars. Kausie called out the red-wing blackbirds that flew into a stand of reeds across the lake. Their red epaulets flashed as they flew by.
We were raring to go and so we were off to the boardwalk. Christine and I were the first ones there as the others made a needed pit stop. It was quiet as we walked down the isolated walkway. We noticed a small flock of ducks almost hidden by the reeds across the water. There was one mottled duck with a half-dozen blue-wing teal. A common yellow throat was heard calling nearby.
We all spotted an osprey circling and looking for its morning meal and a red-shouldered hawk also hunting for breakfast. I could hear the uh-uhs of fish crows in the distance. Boat-tailed grackles noisily flew into the reeds. A stunning great blue heron landed on the railing just feet away from us all, quite determined to let us know that this was his railing. We surely were not looking for an altercation with Mr. Spear Beak, so we quietly slipped away.
We decided to check out the pond by the visitor center. It was still dark with heavy clouds overhead. I was glad that it was overcast, as it was not quite as hot and humid. The prediction for the day was a mere 98 degrees with humidity. When the sun came out for a minute, we wanted the cloud cover to return. As we hiked through the grass, we sighted a loggerhead shrike and several blue-gray gnatcatchers, and picked up a small raft of moorhens. Unfortunately, one of our group stepped into an ant mound. I felt so bad for her. It is usually me stepping into those nasty fire ants.
We went for a short drive to see what we could find down the road. The only new birds we sighted for our list were sandhill cranes and several killdeer. We drove back to the Celery Fields to try the other boardwalk. By this time, it was getting quite hot out. We searched and searched, spotting up a little blue heron, another limpkin and a purple gallinule — which quickly disappeared in the tall reeds, never to be seen again. Several blue jays were screeching above us. Another good sighting of a roseate spoonbill was a highlight. We watched a mixed flock of white and glossy ibis in a low flyover.
We were getting hungry and it was getting very hot. It was time to think about our traditional brunch site. As we left, we picked up our last bird of the trip: In the very far distance, a belted kingfisher was perched on a wire, ready to strike if a fish swam by.
Off we went to a new restaurant in Sarasota called the Madfish Grill. I don’t know why the fish was mad; my omelet made me quite happy. Thank you to Andy White for leading a great fun trip. Reading about birdwatching is good, but seeing them in person is much better. Next time, why don’t you come along with us?
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.