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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Eagle Lake Mitigation Site - Naples, Florida

                                                                    by Gary Becker

Roseate Spoonbill

         It was almost noon in mid January 2015 when I arrived at Eagle Lakes Mitigation Site, one of my favorite birding places in Naples just 15 minutes from our condo. Getting such a late start I was not expecting too many surprises but in southern Florida you never know. While waiting for the traffic light to change at the entrance to the park, I spotted 3 Wood Storks circling overhead. Within minutes after parking I was treated to a kettle of 7 Wood Storks, a juvenile Bald Eagle, a dozen Turkey Vultures and 4 Anhingas.  
Wood Storks - very adapt at soaring

Immature Bald Eagle
Little Blue Herons
          Another 8 Little Blue Herons flew by without joining the kettle.  I was able to follow the birds for about 5 minutes before they drifted away some still maintaining a circling formation. Next discovery was a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk partially submerged in a marshy pond.  
Red-shouldered Hawk Skinny Dipping
          About 15 feet away was a flock of Coots which he was stealthily observing.  I think he was weighing his chances for a successful amphibious assault on the Coots but he never made a move in the 10 minutes I watched him.
American Coot
           A few blocks further along the path a calling Red-shouldered Hawk caught my eye sitting high in a pine tree.  While photographing the adult a second mature bird landed in another tree close by. I attempted to locate a nest but without any luck. Large combined flocks of White and Glossy Ibis, Little Blue Herons, Anhingas, Wood Storks, Double-crested Cormorants, Snowy, Great and Cattle Egrets, Common Gallinules, Mottled Ducks, Blue-winged Teal  were seen along with smaller numbers of Great Blue Herons, Tricolored Herons, Pied-billed Grebes, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Killdeer, and a single Roseate Spoonbill.  

Florida race - Red-shouldered Hawk

Wood Stork, White and Glossy Ibis

A close relative of the vulture - Wood Storks feeding

          Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Boat-Tailed Grackles were abundant.  A week earlier I observed an Orange-crowned Warbler but no luck today.  A tantalizing surprise came toward the end of my walk when a couple of birders alerted me to a “Bobcat” only a few blocks further along the path. Apparently the cat was harassing some waterfowl and the resulting ruckus caught the birder’s attention. Although only 5 minutes further along the path, there was no sign of the Bobcat when I arrived.  The Little Blues, Ibis and Egrets wading there in the water seemed pretty composed considering they had just been visited by a major predator. Besides the Red-shouldered Hawks and Juvenile Bald Eagle there were numerous Osprey and a  lone Kestrel  but missing were the Swallow-tailed Kites which were regular sightings on past visits in March and April of 2014.
American Kestrel
           Also missing from last spring was the large flock of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks and the lone White Pelican. I could also not find any of the unusual Fox Squirrels which were fairly common in the park last year. Still present were several Loggerhead Shrikes.  Last March there were 5 nesting pairs here but it is still early in the season.
Although a declining species, Loggerhead Shrike is still fairly common in Florida
          The park’s 90 acres contains a trio of water retention ponds all surrounded by a pine flatwood. I would recommend the park for anyone visiting the Naples area whether you are a nature lover or not. The paved trails makes for easy hiking and the abundance of beautiful animals makes for a great adventure even with small kids.
The omnipresent Boat-tailed Grackle

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