Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tri-colored Ditch-Diver

Some of the best birding I did in Florida, or maybe rather some of the most productive, was along the many innocuous canals and watercourses that seemed to form as intertwined a network as the roads themselves. There is so much water, running in channels through neighborhoods, along streets and highways, through developments projects, and around any designated birding destinations, it's impossible to avoid. 
We have canals in Arizona of course, and they support a fair amount of bird life as well, but these winding water features don't have near the visibility or lushness of the Florida canals, and within these ubiquitous road-side canals I saw my first Wood Storks and Roseate Spoonbills of the trip. They also produced many White Ibis, Egrets, and Anhingas. 

There often wasn't enough room or time to pull over and photograph the feathery roadside attractions, as the canals take the place of shoulders on many of the roads where I was driving, but at one canal behind a Holiday Inn (yes, have no shame as a birder, especially in a new and distant land!) I found a Tri-colored Heron terrorizing near the tules.

This was another stunning bird that, although seen in Arizona briefly, definitely benefitted the birder with its home-feild advantage in Florida. They were more common, more visible, and more comfortable around people. As such, I got to sit and watch this elegant eater hunt along its canal with only the occasional honking-car disturbing the ambiance.

It was always just a bit too fast for me.

As in any state, especially one with many good birding attractions, skulking along the canals hardly feels like proper, dignified birding. And yet, it's also an irremovable part of the backyard birding scene in Florida and similar states, just as much as feeder-watching or taking note of what's around the neighborhood. These Venetian waterways are a part of all the communities in the area, and the birds are as well. 
It also provided the nice security of knowing that even if I dipped on some of the target species at my designated birding sites (which I did, a lot), I'd still see some cool stuff on the way there, or back.