It was a beautiful cool and sunny morning — what every Floridian celebrates about spring, hopeful that it will last for months and months. We were on our way to Wildflower Preserve for our monthly birding survey. We met Tom and Gayle Duch, with whom we have done this Lemon Bay Conservancy survey for six years.
LBC board member Eva Furner takes our information and consolidates it. She is creating a Wildflower bird list and brochure. It will show which birds are here in the four different seasons. In addition, the surveys reveal new birds and birds that are becoming rare. Wildflower is closed to the public right now because of construction. However, we are anticipating seeing it finalized in the coming years.
As we arrived, we saw that wildflowers were blooming everywhere — so fitting to see at Wildflower Preserve. Once upon a time, this was a golf course; however, Lemon Bay Conservancy purchased the property a while back and is turning it into a wonderful nature preserve. LBC decide to improve the preserve and closed it for renovations.
The property is still in rough condition from having a lot of work done to create the final plan, and wild hogs have made hiking in some of the areas quite difficult. Nevertheless, we were sighting a lot of birds and enjoying huge fields of wildflowers.
Several mourning doves and a mockingbird greeted us in the parking lot. We heard quite a bit of bird song from the cardinals. As we hiked the main trail, we sighted a red-shouldered hawk on the snag of a dead tree. A boat-tailed grackle came along and there was a bit of a confrontation before they both flew away.
Tom got his eye on a bird quite far away. When we looked in the binoculars, we saw it was an American kestral. A red-bellied woodpecker was working its way up the side of a pine tree right along the trail. Moonflowers were blooming everywhere and vines were growing up into the palms and pines, with huge clumps of the beautiful white flowers in bloom. As we turned the corner, the sun highlighted a male cardinal. His bright red feathers were aglow in the morning light.
A huge flock of white ibis flew overhead along with a single great egret. Red-winged blackbirds were flitting along the shore of one of the ponds. However, we didn’t see much here because were struggling through muck and terrain that the pigs had rooted up. With such rough hiking, it was not a good idea to look up for birds, and we kept our eyes on where we were walking.
We finally reached firm ground where a happy cottontail rabbit sat nibbling on some leaves. Several common gallinules were scooting across the water as we approached one of the ponds. We could here a pileated woodpecker off in the distance. The huge mulberry tree was covered with berries — a real treat for the birds when they ripen in a few weeks.
Gayle’s sharp eye spotted a prairie warbler high in the trees. The bright yellow stood out against the green of the treetops. We also heard common yellowthroats singing in a stand of trees. As we hiked on, we had a little flurry of palm warblers flying back and forth in the shrubs. Further along the trail, we sighted a lone pine warbler.
Another red-shouldered hawk was sitting on the limb of a dead tree about a quarter of a mile away. Looking through the binoculars it appeared to be the light color phase. Suddenly several blue jays started harassing the hawk, driving it from one tree to another to another. Finally it just gave up and flew away. There was no mid-morning nap for this hawk.
As we were exiting, Tom was beckoning to us to hurry up because he had sighted a blue-headed vireo. Fortunately, it hung around for a few minutes and we got to see it.
Shortly afterward, we saw several black vultures circling overhead. That seemed like a message that it was time to leave. We had a wonderful morning at Wildflower Preserve, but we were all hungry and it was time for some coffee and breakfast. We’ll be back next month to see what has changed.
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.