Least Bittern

On my last trip to Florida, I had a chance to do some birding at Viera Wetlands, one of the birdiest sewage treatment plants around. We saw lots of great birds but I would have to say this cooperative Least Bittern was the highlight for me.

The Least Bittern is secretive by nature and seldom seen out in the open for extended periods of time. It acts a lot like a rail, though it is technically a heron.

This fellow seemed content to let us watch him hunt for minnows in the shallows of the wetlands. It was fascinating to observe this bird move across and over the water, stepping from stalk to stalk in the cattails and reeds.

As herons go, the Least Bittern is among the smallest in the world. You can reference the size of this bird pictured above with a Common Moorhen. Moorhens tend to be slightly smaller than the more common American Coot.
This bird sighting was one of those great, unexpected treasures that can happen any time you pick up your binoculars and head out for a morning of birding. The fact that these types of encounters are unpredictable and uncommon make them all the more memorable.


Everglades Birding

I have long since returned from Florida but have just now gotten caught up enough with life and work to return to 600 Birds. I had a wonderful time catching up with many friends in the business and was able to spend some quality time birding as well. All of the photos in this post were taken during my trip to the Everglades.

Common Ground Dove at Everglades National Park

This Short-tailed Hawk was one of my life birds from this trip. This was also taken at Everglades National Park. Overall, I ended up with sightings of 7 new birds on this trip (some of them pictured in this post).

Monk Parakeets nesting in a residential neighborhood in Kendell.

This Spot-breasted Oriole was perched on a wire about 4 feet from the parakeets.

This Red-whiskered Bulbul was seen at the same South Miami location where we found the oriole and parakeets. This was a residential neighborhood near the Kendall Baptist Hospital.

This is an Anhinga photographed just off the aptly named Anhinga Trail at the Everglades National Park. It was amazing to be on the boardwalk and watch the Anhingas swimming underwater alongside. Their feathers press against their body underwater, giving them an entirely different shape. Combine that with the fluid motion of their body as they move through the water, and you would think you are watching an entirely different creature.

These Smooth-billed Anis were found just outside of the Fort Lauderdale Airport. This small colony of 6 birds is hanging out in an abandoned lot adjacent to an industrial park, and may be the only known members of this species being seen in North America at the moment.

The trip was a little early to coincide with the presence of some of south Florida's more sought- after specialty birds like the White-crowned Pigeon or Black-whiskered Vireo. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic trip and one I hope to repeat. The Everglades and Florida Keys are some of the best tropical habitat a birder in the US can visit without a passport.

Target birds seen:
Monk Parakeet
Spot-breasted Oriole
Common Myna
Hill Myna
Short-tailed Hawk
Red-whiskered Bulbul
Smooth-billed Ani

Target birds missed:
White-crowned Pigeon
Greater Flamingo
Fulvous Whistling-Duck
White-winged Parakeet

North American life list total: 588