I met a local who informed me that since the drought of 2011 that prey species, and hence “production”, was low … meaning less critter action. Still, for me it was wonderfully new, and engaging, so I wasn’t deterred. I found new (to me) birds, and other new and interesting species…
I started by walking the boardwalk. I couldn’t do it once only, I had to go around again. I found an Apple Snail shell, large, green and round … I see where the name comes from. I enjoyed the birds (Carolina Wren, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Cat birds and other LBJs) and loved the Lichens (Baton Rouge, Old Man’s Beard) but what really stopped me was a Spiny Orb-weaver (see photo.) As I left a Zebra Longwing Butterfly fluttered by with slow methodical wingbeats, quite eye-catching.
Before I visited the marshes I quickly went along to the boat ramp, access to some open water. A medium sized alligator was across the waterway, but most amusing was a huge alligator waiting patiently underneath the wooden dock, right below unsuspecting Fishermen; a savvy gator.
Once I started walking to walk around the marshes I immediately came upon a Limpkin, a mottled brown waterbird. A life-bird for me, this was an exciting start to a walk. Amongst other things, Limpkin feed on Apple Snails.
As I walked slowly around the park I found some quiet areas away from the other visitors. Wet dark turtle shells would surface in the weeds, snakes could be seen slipping through the water, dragonflies sunning on reeds and gators on the banks; there was life all around. Having spent the last few days in the bustle that is Florida it was good to slow down to the pace of these
One amazing treat was as I came around one of the far corners a couple of Snail Kites were hunting. Sitting on the bushes I initially wondered if they were Northern Harriers, but they didn’t have that wind dancer hunting style. Their facial features had a bit of a look of an Osprey, but were they seemed smaller, and were lighter and mottled. Despite binoculars I didn’t get a good look at a hooked beak, but the identification “felt” right to me (and so distinct from the lovely red-shoulder pair nesting nearby.) Snail Kites eat Apple Snails.
Probably the most interesting part of the whole trip was this final discovery. I’d never seen something like this in the field. Bright pink, large, and clearly eggs. Turns out they are Apple Snail eggs. What a wonderful thread to this whole day; the Apple Snail…