FLORIDA POND-SHORE REPORT, PART 1
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
“I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pond of water, and the dry land springs of water.”
Wow! What a morning birdwatching in St. Petersburg, Florida, at the home of Chaplain Bob and Marcia Webel, good Christian friends (of mine) since the early A.D.1970s (and good friends of my wife, years later). On the morning of Monday, January 16th (A.D.2023) we sat in lawn chairs inside the backyard that borders a near-the-bay pond (i.e., what Floridians call a “lake”), drinking our coffee (and eating toasted rye bread), enjoying the privilege of observing the following birds:
BALD EAGLE (Wikipedia image)
Bald Eagle. When a Bald Eagle fly to the top branches of a pond-shore tree the smaller birds fled, yielding to the eagle’s raptor reputation. All American patriots know the Bald Eagle, our national bird. The heads and necks (of both male adults and female adults) are covered with bright white feathers, giving it the appearance of being “bald” (from a distance). [See John Bull & John Farrand, Jr., NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY FIELD GUIDE TO NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS: EASTERN REGION, revised edition (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), pages 321-322 & 423-424.] These heavy hawk-like raptors love to eat fish, so it is not surprising to see them at and near seashores, lakeshores, estuarial bays and riverbanks, and similar shorelines where fish are readily available. [See Roger Tory Peterson, PETERSON FIELD GUIDE TO BIRDS OF WESTERN NORTH AMERICA, 5th edition (Boston, MA: HarperCollins, 2020), page 178.]
WHITE IBIS (Wikipedia image)
White Ibis. Although wild, these happy-to-eat-bread birds are noticeably bold in their willingness to approach humans who feed them bread crumbs. (In some Florida pond-shore park contexts they will literally eat bread morsels from human hands.) White Ibises are a long-legged chicken-sized waterfowl, almost all white (yet has black under-edging on its wings), with a long decurved (i.e., downward-curved) bill that is reddish (vermillion-orange/coral-red) in color. These wading birds enjoy eating critters that inhabit pond-shore waters, such as crayfish, small fishes, and aquatic insects. [See John Bull & John Farrand, Jr., NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY FIELD GUIDE TO NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS: EASTERN REGION, revised edition (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), pages 12 & 376.] These white waterfowl are known to hybridize with Scarlet Ibis. [See Eugene M. McCarthy, HANDBOOK OF AVIAN HYBRIDS OF THE WORLD (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2006), page 192.]
COMMON GRACKLE (Wikipedia image)
Common Grackle. Although I was originally inspired by a Great-tailed Grackle (at a pond-shore in Denton County, Texas) to write “Of Grackles and Gratitude”, in the July AD2012 issue of ACTS & FACTS ( posted at www.icr.org/article/grackles-gratitude ), the grackles that I saw in St. Petersburg, in the backyard by the pond-shore, were Common Grackles (varieties of which include “Purple Grackle” and “Florida Grackle”). Their glossy-black iridescent plumage shimmers in the sunlight, like a kaleidoscope of gleaning flickers of indigo, deep purple, peacock blue, midnight blue, dark bronze-brown, and emerald green. [See John Bull & John Farrand, Jr., NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY FIELD GUIDE TO NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS: EASTERN REGION, revised edition (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), pages 479 & 735.]
Other birds that we (i.e., Chaplain Bob Webel and I, while our wives chatted inside the Webels’ house) observed that morning, at or near the pond-shore, included Great White Egret, Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, Mockingbird, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, Snowy Egret, Common Moorhen, Anhinga, Tufted Titmouse (on a tree near the pond-shore), Limpkin (foraging near a group of ibises), Red-bellied Woodpecker (on oak branches by the pond-shore), plus later 3 Muscovy Ducks were seen waddling about on the grass of a neighbor’s front-yard. Besides birds, a playful (and very large) River Otter relaxed on the opposite shore of the pond, while several Eastern Grey Squirrels darted here and there on the ground and on the trunk and branches of nearby trees.
But the details of those other shoreline-visiting birds must await future blogposts (D.v.), because this one is almost finished.
Meanwhile, what a privilege it is to observe—close-up—God’s winged wonders, including those seen last Monday.
“Praise the Lord from the earth, … beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl.”(Psalm 148:7a & 148:10)