night heron

VABA photo

This black-crowned night heron was willing to pose on a day when there were few birds around.

The warmth of the covers were so comforting and toasty that I did not want to come out of them into the cold air. However, today was the day of Margaret and Bill Dunson’s trip to Myakka State Park for the Venice Area Birding Association.

Since this was a favorite trip with old friends, I hauled myself out of bed and started gathering my items together. Don was already getting ready. His job was to take our two dogs out, mine was to get their food prepared.

After dressing in several warm layers, we were ready to meet up with the group at St. Margaret’s Church. St. Margaret’s Church is several miles before one gets to Myakka. We were spotting quite a few birds when the pastor came out to greet us.

She asked what we were doing and we told her this parking area was a regular stop for the Myakka birding trip. She sighed and told us we may not have the beautiful back field to bird next year as a developer had bought it and will be developing it with many houses.

On this beautiful morning, we sighted eastern bluebirds, palm warblers, meadowlarks, a greater yellowlegs, mockingbirds, red-bellied woodpeckers and a small group of killdeer. Were these birds still going to be around next year with all of the development coming? Suddenly I became quite sad.

It was time to move on to Myakka State Park. Myakka has 58 square miles of wetlands, prairies, hammocks and pineland. We were just staying on the popular 7-mile drive. Developed in 1934, Myakka is one of the state’s oldest parks. We had a caravan of cars because there were 17 people on this popular trip. On the way, I spotted several sandhill cranes on the roadside and a short-tailed hawk on the wire.

We finally reached our first stop by the bridge. We usually see a lot of waders and some huge alligators. However, on this day we sighted only a lone anhinga in the distance. After many rains that week, the water level was quite high, so the waders were not around. In addition, the temperature was quite chilly and the gators were on the bottom where it was warmer.

We decided to go to our next stop. We refer to it as the power line road.

Everyone piled out. Bill began explaining some botanical information to the group. Others started sauntering down the road. I was in search for the red-shouldered hawk that always seemed to be on one of the power line poles. It wasn’t there, but everyone was entranced by an anhinga in breeding plumage showing off its wingspan on a low limb in the gully.

Across the road, a little blue heron was feeding along with a great egret, and way in the back we sighted a great blue heron. Then a red-shouldered hawk flew in to make my day on the power line road. I always sight a red-shouldered hawk there. In a short flash, a red-tailed hawk flew by and disappeared into the trees.

We started hiking down to the river on the opposite side of the power line road. Immediately we came upon a black-crowned night heron. There surely were photo ops for those with cameras. Palm warblers and blue-gray gnatcatchers flitted through the bushes.

We got to the river and all was quiet. As we headed back, we took a little detour into what looked like a little patch of green land from a fairy tale book. I was waiting for leprechauns to come hopping out of one of the old trees. It was a beautiful glade, but the only thing we sighted there was a great blue heron.

When we got back to the main road, several people thought it a great idea to eat lunch before the restaurant became crowded. The gift shop has a little restaurant with a good menu. You can even get alligator bites.

After lunch, we hiked to the weir. Frankly I was a bit disappointed. Usually there are quite a few birds there, and many limpkins in particular. This day, there was a lone snowy egret having the job to entertain the 17 people in our group.

Back to the cars, we were on the way out and stopped along the marsh road. We had to stop because there were about a half-dozen black-necked stilts feeding in the wetlands. We also had greater and lesser yellowlegs.

It certainly wasn’t the birdiest trip we’ve ever had. But birding is a lot like fishing — even when it’s not so good, it’s still pretty darn good. Thank you to Margaret Dunson for organizing this trip, and to Bill for adding his biology expertise.

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.

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.

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