Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sawgrass Nature Park, 2015

Whenever we are here in St Petersburg, we always try to spend at least one day birding at Sawgrass Nature Park. Surrounded by highways, buildings, and the city. It’s a small isolated haven of what this area once was.
It’s only a few steps from the parking spot to the first bayou. Right away we spotted a feeding little blue heron. Wading amid the green water plants it craned its neck as it looked for the small fish and invertebrates that make up its diet. Stabbing into the water it gave its prey a quick shake and then swallowed its lunch.
A few more steps and we were standing on the bridge, peering down on several common moor hens. Several painted turtles rose for a breath of air before diving down into the weed choked water. A gar stayed motionless below the water’s surface waiting for a fish or frog to venture to close to its sharp teeth filled jaw.
A little further we stopped at an overlook and the marsh hens swam to our new location, hoping for a handout. There are usually alligators at this spot and Renita spotted one across the bayou. It was laying on the raised levee warming itself in the morning sun.
She also spotted a pair of American Ibis partially hidden by the thick underbrush. They were also feeding by moving their long narrow curved beaks back and forth through the shallow water. They would occasionally stop to swallow prey they had found in the mud.
Another person told us of a mother alligator guarding it young in a small opening along the raised
boardwalk. We missed it at first but later saw people watching the gators and so we were able to stand above them and watch as the young gators swam looking for the best piece of sunlight.
A little further a green heron hunted minnows directly below the walk and so we got some great images of the small wader. Another birder suggested it was a young bird, because it was at the bottom of their normal size range. Still it had its adult plumage and color.
At the viewing tower an anhinga perched in the branches of a small bush. It was preening its feathers but didn’t spread it wings as they often do after fishing. Several lgbs flitted in the trees. (Little grey birds). Still we were able to finally capture an image allowing us to identify the bird.
Returning back down the boardwalk a loose domestic rooster walked across the grounds. Somehow it had taken refuge in the park and I was surprised someone hadn’t removed it for a pot of chicken gumbo, (it was nearing lunch time after all).
Renita again spotted several people taking images with their cameras and nearing them we saw the reason why. Two gopher tortoises were performing the tortoises tango. I.e. their mating ritual. The head bobbing, was followed by a nip on the front leg by the male as soon the female turned and allowed the male to climb upon her back.
It had been another good day at the small park. The gophers had provided us with a unique view of something rarely seen and the green heron had been another bonus of the short walk. Hopefully we will return another day and walk along the forest floor. That’s a place we usually see a pileated woodpecker. Thanks to the people that preserved the unique microcosm. Clear skies

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