Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Lake's Park: Stand-out Birds

Lake's Park provided good birding from the boardwalk and some decent birding in the pine palm forest. The best sightings, in terms of proximity and clarity, came from the otherwise undesirable mud banks of the Lake's Park shoreline. 
The white and red of these preening Ibis stood in stark contrast to the murky water and muddy shores. 

It was interesting to witness these birds finish their lunchtime probing in the mud and immediately switch over to post-lunch grooming, with their beaks still caked in jet black gunk. Despite my misgivings, there didn't seem to be any dirty residue on the pristine white feathers.

This bird in the forefront was a bit behind in the times. Its face was not nearly as red, nor was its gular pouch as distended as others (check out the stud in the background).
In native folklores, the White Ibis was reputed to be the last bird to seek shelter from an approaching hurricane, and the first to emerge afterwards. Dodging hurricanes and preening white feathers with muddy beaks...this is a bird that lives life on the edge.

One of the less edgy birds at Lake's Park was this breeding plumage Tri-colored Heron, which preferred to stay in the reeds and in the shadows. They live in a constant fear of hurricanes.

While birding at the much-vaunted J.N. Darling Refuge on Sanibel Island, I saw a couple of Little Blue Herons stalking through the mangrove forests. It felt very appropriate and was a satisfying sighting at the time, but there were no photos or prolonged views to be had. At Lake's Park, this bird was out in the open, feeding around the grassy shore of a small island in one of the lake that supported a large bronze statue of children playing ring-around-the-rosie.

It didn't feel quite as genuine as seeing them in the mangroves, but I sure appreciated the improved viewing. Little Blue Herons closely resemble Snowy Egrets when they're young, except for their legs and beak. This allows them to mingle with Snowy flocks, and thus better avoid predation, and their hunting success rates, according to at least one study, actually increase.
Eventually they give it all up though to become the handsome devil here:

I have no stats to back this up, but it seems like the Tricolored Heron has the most proportionately long beak of the heron/egret group. Add to that the striking speed of an annoyed cobra and the dead-eye red eye, and this bird is a fearsome hunter. Like just about every other heron, they're also stunning, and are another bird that, while seen all over Florida, afforded the best looks at the unassuming urban park.

After Lake's Park it was time to clean up--showering, peeling off my sunburnt skin, dying my hair, doing my nails--and go to a wedding. It was a somewhat unorthodox, but ultimately very satisfying conclusion to my Florida birding days.