Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Wakoda Whatchee?

The last time we visited South Florida in 2008, we discovered some marvelous birding spots created by the Palm Beach County Water Utilities.  The name, Wakodahatchee, has an interesting history. It is derived from the Seminole Indian language and translates as "created waters." The Water Utilities folks treat the water, then pump 2 million gallons of water a day through the wetlands, where plants do a final scrub to make clean water.
Little Blue Heron
A three-quarter mile boardwalk gives birders easy access and terrific birding. More than 140 species of birds have been sighted at the wetlands, and far more birders from just about every state I bet. We were dismayed to see people walking on the boardwalk while talking on their phones. They don't know what they are missing! The birds thrive in the various wetland zones designed for a mixture of habitat types:
  • Open pond water areas to attract waterfowl and diving birds
  • Emergent marsh areas for rails, moorhens, and sparrows
  • Shallow shelves for herons and egrets
  • Islands with shrubs and snags to serve as roosting, nesting, and basking sites
  • Forested wetland areas for long-term habitat development
Anhinga with nesting material
Even though it's early for nesting, some birds were working on nests. Last time, there were actually chicks in the nest.
The Cormorants and Anhingas look somewhat alike to new birders, but they carefully kept themselves on different islands.
Swamp Hen
The Moorhens are all over, laughing and walking on the lily pads, but we have to search hard for the elusive Purple Gallinule, which we found here before. I thought we sighted it, but it sure had a funny looking, thick beak, and didn't seem to have the typical candy corn coloring on the beak and face. Another birder said they were having problems with an invasive Swamp Hen that had taken up residence, and that's what we saw. Porphyrio is the swamphen genus of birds in the rail family, which includes the bird we searched for, and about 6 others from around the world. Sigh, one more non-native is loose in Florida.
Iguana in orange
But we have been really surprised at all the iguanas! I posted about a green one the other day, but these huge iguanas were perched in the trees and bushes at the wetlands, advertising for a mate with bright orange spikes and feet! The three species of iguana found in Florida (Common Green Iguana, Mexican Spinytail Iguana, and Black Spinytail Iguana) have been around for decades. However, over the past few years, their populations have exploded.
Palm Warbler
It's sometimes hard to decide what to do about family in your vacation area. Should you go see them or not? We decided to drive on up to Palm Beach and visit. However, you have to be careful about getting too enthused about your own hobby. I'm never sure if they are really interested or just being polite when I talk about birds. However, when the visit was over, we moved on to Loxahatchee National Wildlife Reserve. It too has large impoundments of water, but we were pleased to find some of the smaller birds in the trees around the marshes.
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
The little Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher gave his high pitched call, and flashed his tail that looks like a mockingbird. The Palm Warbler was in winter plumage, and we had to look in several resources to be sure of the ID. And a Black and White Warbler flashed in and out of the bushes before us. I'm never sure which warblers might still be in the country for the winter.

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