Thursday, March 19, 2009

Caloosa Bird Club Trip & Naples Zoo

On Monday at o'dark thirty, I boarded a bus for a full day of birding with the members of the Caloosa Bird Club. They are a knowledgeable, experienced group - but made me feel right at home. Bill made sure I at least looked the part with a new Columbia shirt, comfortable criss-cross back strap for my "optics" (binoculars), birding hat, backpack and pants with lots of big pockets. I was set!

I sat with Nancy - who claimed to be a beginning birder as well - but I think she just told me that to make me feel better. She was delightful and I'm happy to make her a new friend!

Our first stop was the Green Cay Wetlands where I saw quite a few "life" birds (birds I had never seen before) like this Aramus guarauna (Limpkin - and yes, of course, I had to look that up in my new National Geographic "Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern North America.") He is a big bird - over 2 feet tall. They are not very common and he wasn't even in my little "Birds of Florida" book.

This time of year the birds are in full mating plumage and the colors are fabulous! This Tricolored Heron was showing off to the nearby female. Notice the blue on his bill.

Another shot showing his wings and feathers.

There were lots of Red-winged Blackbirds like this beautiful male with a bright red and yellow patch on his wings.

What I didn't know is that this is also a Red-winged Blackbird (non-breeding).

And so is this! This is the female and she looks completely different than the males.

There were several Purple Gallinules like this one who walked under the boardwalk we were on.

At one of the later stops, I thought I was looking at another Gallinule that was a little bigger than the rest - but the experienced birders told me it was a Purple Swamphen. The Swamphen is a bird from Europe that escaped from the Miami Zoo during one of the hurricanes and several are now living in the Everglade swamps.

Up close, the Glossy Ibis has beautiful colors this time of year. From a distance they just look black.

One of the club members had pictures of a Scarlet Ibis that he took on Fort Myers Beach - behind the Catholic Church and around the Matanza Bridge that crosses over to the island. It looks just like the regular Ibises we see - except it is bright red! I'll be looking out for him!

There were lots of marsh birds and ducks. This Common Moorhen is a noisy bird.

Looking very similar to the Moorhen is this American Coot - with a white bill.

Another life bird! This is a pair of Blue-winged Teals. We saw quite a few on our outing.

Purple Martins have adapted very nicely to man-made bird condo-miniums. I was fortunate to find one that was not sitting in the complex.

After our day of birding, we ate dinner at the historic Clewiston Inn by Lake Okeechobee. The food was mediocre but the company was excellent! I sat with my new friend Nancy and Vince - the most enthusiastic and experienced birder in the group. He lives to bird and was a most interesting dinner companion.

After a long day I was glad to see Bill waiting for me back at the starting point.

The next day - Saint Patrick's Day - we went down to the Naples Zoo. What a disappoint-ment! It's not a real zoo at all - more like a combination of a children's zoo and an amusement park or playground. They did have a nice pond with lots of alligators and the common Florida wading birds - which at this time of year have gorgeous colors. This pair of Blue Herons had just mated - which I have pictures of, but decided this is a family blog - so they are not posted.

Even the ugly, noisy Grackles are pretty in the sunlight.

I hope you can see the red patch on the lore (space between the eye and bill) of this lusty Snowy Egret.

Back at the Naples dock for a delicious seafood lunch, the Brown Pelicans were just hanging out waiting for the fishing boats to come in.

We ended our day at Mike and Mel's condo with a delicious corn beef and cabbage dinner - the traditional fare of the day.

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