Thursday, February 21, 2019

Pretty in Pink

You might think that Flamingos are easy to see in Florida. Many residents have plastic pink flamingos in their yards which makes me think that the flamingo is the Florida state bird. They are not - the state bird or easy to see. American Flamingos are not common and where they are regular, they are difficult to see. Most of the Flamingos in Florida are seen at the bottom end of the Everglades by people who are kayaking in the back country. No roads can take you there. And most boats cannot access the area either. I've tried to see Flamingos in the Everglades in the past. I drove all the way to the end of the road and asked the people at the campground. They just giggled and told me that I needed a boat. I slinked away. That was years ago.

Fast forward 15 years and now there is a single Flamingo that has been hanging around in a wildlife refuge up on the Florida panhandle near Tallahassee. The bird has been there since December but I haven't been able to get there to see it. That all changed on Sunday when Connie agreed to make a quick road trip this week to see the bird. Truth be told, she really wanted to visit her sister who lives in Florida. A compromise seemed like the best solution. We left Pennsylvania at 6:30 PM on Tuesday and drove straight through arriving at St. Mark's NWR at 9:30 AM on Wednesday. 15 hours of straight driving.

I probably didn't do enough research because we arrived at the spot and found a vast area of impoundments to search. As we stood there wondering where to start, a Vermillion Flycatcher flew out to the road. WOW! Totally unexpected rare bird.  We have seen this bird in Mexico, Costa Rica and Belize. I saw one in another spot in Florida a few years ago but this guy put on a show searching for bugs along the road and perching on low sticks at the water's edge.

Here he is looking for a bug to pluck from the water.

Luckily, we found a birder who had seen the bird a few times. He was taking his friend/wife/? out to the impoundment to look for the bird. We walked ahead of the couple trying to cover a lot of ground quickly. Peanut LOVED the walk. We went about a mile out on the dike road. I heard someone yelling and looked back to see the couple frantically waving their arms. They found the Flamingo. We headed back to meet them with our spotting scope. Donna aimed the scope out into the marsh and viola, we had the bird!

In the scope
Happy dances ensued.

Flamingo! The bird is back there somewhere
Seeing the bird through the scope was great but I needed a better view so I headed out for another mile to get a closer look. It was quite a hike but totally worth it. The Flamingo was right there!  He/she didn't care a bit about me or Peanut.

Me and the Flamingo
I spent another 20 minutes watching and photographing the bird as he/she was feeding in the impoundment. Flamingos are much taller than I imagined.
He/she would stomp around in circles searching for food.

You can see how the bird uses his foot to search and stir up the water for food.

What a great experience.

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