Shoreline Action: Birds, Turtles, and a Gator
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
Again He turneth the wilderness into pools of water, and the dry land into water springs. (Psalm 107:35, Geneva Bible)
Water is a universal magnet for birds and other animals, so “pools” (or “ponds” or “lakes”) attract wildlife. So having a pond (or a “lake”) in one’s backyard is good for birdwatching — as well as for watching other kinds of wildlife.
During the latter part of this month, for a couple days (May 20th through 22nd), I once again had the memorable privilege of birdwatching in St. Petersburg, at the hospitable home of Chaplain Bob and Marcia Webel. [Regarding this favorite backyard birdwatching site, see “Appreciating White Ibises (and Other Birds in Florida)”, posted at https://leesbird.com/2016/12/06/appreciating-white-ibises-as-well-as-dozens-of-other-birds-in-florida/ .] On Monday (May 21st), on or near that lacustrine shoreline, in addition to feeding some large turtles and a hungry alligator (about 4 feet long! — who stayed on the other side of a metal fence), we saw a lot of birds – osprey (a/k/a “fish hawk”), great blue heron, Louisiana heron (a/k/a “tri-colored heron”), white ibis, wood stork, mallard, Muscovy duck, snowy egret , great white egret, boat-tailed grackles, anhinga (a/k/a “snake-bird”), etc. – and we heard the eerie calls of limpkins (a/k/a “crying bird”). Onshore we also saw birds in the trees, including blue jay and some variety of sparrows, as well as frenetic grey squirrels. [Regarding Florida’s shellfish-snacking limpkins, see Lee Dusing’s “The Disappearing Limpkin”, posted at https://leesbird.com/2017/11/04/the-disappearing-limpkin/ .]
In error, then, I thought I saw a Purple Gallinules family, but Bob correctly identified these candy-corn-billed rail-fowl as Common Moorhen (a/k/a “marsh hen” and “Florida gallinule”), and Bob’s bird-book confirmed Bob’s identification. Meanwhile, at one point, amidst a lot of tossing pieces of bread unto the birds and turtles (and alligator), Marcia tossed some less-than-fresh tuna fish salad upon the shore – and the tuna was quickly gobbled up by a Louisiana Heron! (Louisiana herons are birds that I don’t often see – I first saw one at Aransas Bay, in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, on March 11th of AD1996, and I have rarely seen any since then.) It rained quite a bit, later (on Monday and Tuesday), so I was very glad that we did our backyard birdwatching when we did — here is a limerick to remember that time by!
Remembering Time (and Critters) at the Shore
Ducks afloat, hawks in the sky
Herons ashore, jays fly by;
Turtles near, some beyond
Gobble bread in the pond;
Busy critters catch my eye!
I didn’t know Marsh Hens looked like that. I’ve heard them all my life and never seen one!
Dr. Jim, another interesting article. One advice. I think it is time to by a new Birding Book and then you won’t have so many “A/K/A”‘s. :)
2nd Grade was quite some time ago. :)
Mike Burke has an interesting article on the Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata), in CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 29(5):47 (July-August 2019). In his article Burke describes the Common Gallinule, which is slightly smaller than the American Coot, as “a rail that looks like a big black chicken with ridiculously long toes and a red plate face … [that] blends seamlessly into its bill, which ends in a bright yellow tip”.
Love this post!
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