Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way. —John Muir
We’re finally getting drenched with some much-needed rains in South Florida — the swamps and Everglades are thrilled, I’m sure of it. Last Monday alone, we received ten inches from the sky… TEN INCHES. That kind of downpour creates flash flooding, and the accompanying high winds (and lovely lightning) can wreak havoc on birds’ nests.
During a quick visit to the wetlands between the raindrops, it was obvious that there was much repair to the nests being done throughout the preserve. As I was blankly staring at a turtle (I love our turtles), I caught some commotion deep within a Pond apple tree, one that’s been an annual home to nesting Green herons. Mom had just returned with branches to repair the nest, and her little ones were obviously expecting food — and visibly unhappy about the sticks over the food.
On the lookout for mom
All babies are sweet, but Green heron babies are little cantankerous puffs of adorable.
She’s not that way, either…
And back she flew to the wetlands, to high commotion, for more nest-building materials. So much work to be done; babies still needed their food….
[For all you locals: If you're as fascinated by the area's water cycle and flow as I am, check out Go Hydrology in my "Florida Nature Blogs" to the right — fantastic daily updates and general information!]
And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye. —Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Our cormorants are some of the most personable birds of the wetlands. As common as they may be in this area, they’re fascinating and sweet creatures.
Hello, sweet one
I caught this serene cormorant — or “shag” (referring to the bird’s crest, which is lacking in the British forms of the Great Cormorant) — as he was preparing for the evening in the local wetlands.
These medium-to-large coastal (rather than oceanic) seabirds are plentiful in southeastern Florida, and can often be seen diving for fish and other aquatic grub. After fishing, the cormorants dry their wings ashore in the sun and in the trees (similar to the cormorant-like anhingas), as their feathers don’t possess the waterproofing oil of other seabirds.
One last look to the setting sun
Check out their beautiful and distinctive turquoise eyes that fade quickly after the breeding / nesting season.
Humans have long used trained cormorants to fish the waters of China, Japan, and Macedonia. Trained by fishermen, a snare is tied near the base of the bird’s throat, allowing the bird to swallow only small fish. When the bird captures and tries to swallow larger fish, the snare doesn’t allow the fish to be swallowed, and it becomes stuck in the bird’s throat. The cormorant is forced to return to the fisherman’s boat, where he helps the bird regurgitate the fish, removing it from its throat. Traditional cormorant fishing isn’t as common a method today — with the development of more efficient fishing methods — but it remains a tourist draw. However, the method is still practiced in some Japanese regions, and has continued uninterrupted for 1300 years in Gifu City, in Gifu Prefecture.
All good things are wild and free. ―Henry David Thoreau
At the beginning of what would be a 10-12 mile hike through the SWA system, along the Owahee Trail (near Grassy Waters Preserve) in northern Palm Beach County, this curious and bold fellow — majestic and magnificent, always — offered a steady and seemingly condescending gaze.
May your weekends be as wild and free as this beautiful creature!!
Sorry Mr. Red-shouldered Hawk — we simply cannot compete with that poise
A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.
As I grew up I was fervently desirous of becoming acquainted with Nature.
But hopes are Shy Birds flying at a great distance seldom reached by the best of Guns. —John James Audubon
Happy birthday to one of the most intriguing figures of history, the French-American ornithologist, conservationist, naturalist, and painter. John James Audubon — a man whose influence is keenly felt to this day — documented countless American birds in his gorgeous and brilliant drawings. His masterpiece — the enormous (-sized) color-plate book, The Birds of America (1827–1839), is widely considered to be the finest ornithological and artistic works ever created.
Thank you, sir, and happy birthday!
Audubon, Great Egret, 1821
Great Egret in Breeding Plumage, Florida Wetlands
Audubon, Louisiana Heron (Tricolored Heron)
Tricolored (Louisiana) Heron, Florida Wetlands
Visit Florida Rambler to learn about his beautiful Key West home, where he stayed in 1832… Discovering 18 new species (well, to the Western world at least).
National Audubon Society Logo — The Great Egret in Flight (Courtesy of The National Audubon Society)
There’s so much color in the depths of South Florida, but this little one’s not native to the area. It’s native to a region where I was raised (roundabout, anyways). When I think of COLOR, my brain always returns to the petite endangered Gouldian Finch — also known as the Rainbow Finch, appropriately.
This spectacularly-colored little bird is native to Australia, where their numbers have decreased dramatically throughout the 20th century due to habitat loss. They remain an endangered species in their natural habitat, with less than 2,500 remaining. While attempts at their reintroduction have proved unsuccessful, thankfully these lovely finches are the subject of a conservation program in Australia. There are currently plans to recover and conserve their natural habitats, with management guidelines in place to educate landholders about land management, promoting the recovery program, and Gouldian Finch conservation. They’re also popular birds in captivity and among breeders, which keeps their general populations higher.
Gouldian (Rainbow) Finch posing at his sanctuary in Butterfly World
In 1992, the species was classified as endangered in the wild. That same year, Catwoman stuffed a poor Gouldian into her mouth in Batman Returns — some say, to raise awareness for their plight.
Here’s to wishing all the best for this beautiful and bright little bird!