While in Florida, I always make some time to go out birding with a friend and wonderful, local bird expert – Don Chalfont. I met Don through my mom, who spends 4 months at New Smyrna Beach, FL each winter. Of course, I have to come and visit and after the first time of birding with Don, I wanted to come back for more.
Yesterday Elza, another fine birder, joined us as we visited the Orlando Wetlands Park. It’s a vast area of managed wetlands where treated sewage (cleaner than the water in the St. John’s River!) is pumped into the wetlands. Around 25-35 million gallons a day is pumped 17 miles to this location and the natural process of water settling through the wetlands removes excess nutrients from the water and provides an amazing habitat for raptors, wading birds, ducks, warblers and sparrows. Besides birding, you can enjoy walking and bicycling on flat, dike roads and hiking through woods.
Don & Elza looking for a King Rail
One of the first birds we spotted with a fine Carl Zeiss spotting scope, far out in the distance, was a Crested Caracara. A while later it came closer to us and I was able to capture it with my measly 70-200mm lens with NO tele-extender. I sure wished I had a 500mm with me!
Another fine bird Don and Elza spotted was a Purple Gallinule. It moves around in the reeds and didn’t give us a nice open shot. However, my determination kicked in and I waited and was rewarded with a somewhat plausible image in flight.
Purple Gallinule coming in for a landing
If you’re a Limpkin fan, Orlando Wetlands Park offers numerous opportunities for not only viewing them, but listening to them. Being a newbie birder, Elza shared a story that the Native Americans said the Limpkin sounds like a crying boy. I heard a lot of crying! This one let me get pretty close and stuck it’s ‘tongue’ out at me.
While many of you back home are also enjoying record, warm weather and seeing robins and other birds returning, I got excited to hear/see the Red-Winged blackbird – usually the first bird of spring for us.
As the sun rose higher in the sky, we pulled out some picnic lunches and decided to head back in for the King Rail. Alas, it wasn’t to be today but while they were searching for it, I’m always looking around for another image. I noted a small raindrop on my arm and I looked up behind me to see ominous clouds mixing with fresh, wildfire smoke. The scent and scene took me back to the summer of 2000 when I lived in MT and the whole state was on fire from wildfires. I’ll NEVER forget the acrid smoke smell and to this day, I’m very sensitive to detecting it. This fire was likely a controlled burn and it was fun to see that it caused local rain drops to form.
Wildland fire darkens the sky
Thanks to Don and Elza, I saw some ‘life birds’ on this trip. Now to save for that 500mm lens!!