Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sanibel Island

There has been a white bird which we have seen often along the roadsides. I figured out that it is a cattle egret, and while I have seen so many of them, they have never been cattle!  Today on our way to Sanibel Island I saw two of those birds next to a big bull!  That was very exciting and confirmed that they are who they are supposed to be. Apparently it is the insects that hang around cattle which attract the cattle egret. Cattle provide a dining pleasure for those birds. The unique features of plants and animals are quite intriguing. On the Keys I saw a fishtail palm, a fascinating tree with very rugged-looking leaves. Even more interesting, is that each leaf has different cuts than the leaf next to it.
We drove through the national wildlife preserve on Sanibel Island before walking the seashore. We saw many of the same shore birds which we have been seeing in the past week or so, with the addition of the yellow-crowned night heron. He was roosting contentedly all hunched up on a branch so I didn't get a good picture of him. The heron is another bird which has puzzled me. I thought the main way to identify him was by the plumage on his head. Investigating that further I learned that, especially for the great blue heron, there is no plumage until he is a breeding adult. Speaking of the blue heron, we watched one in the refuge who had speared a rather large fish, and did not seem to be able to figure out how to eat it. We watched him for awhile. He kept picking the fish  up and then putting it down. We had to get going, and never did find out how he resolved that problem. We  then saw an ibis who had also caught a fish , apparently he had no problem with his dinner. We do not see the ibis all that often, and when we do see him there is no problem identifying him because of his downwardly curving slender beak. The breeding adult's legs and bill turn scarlet.
 There was one other interesting thing which happened while we were in the sanctuary. I had gotten out of the car to take some pictures when I noticed an osprey sitting high up on a nest. She was calling to her mate who was apparently some distance away, and he was answering back. They make what sounds like loud whistling kyew notes. It is not often that I can put a bird together with his particular  mode of communication so I found that fascinating. We did eventually make it to one of the public beaches on the island. I had been told that the shells on Sanibel are plentiful, and the minute I walked onto the beach I found that to be very true.There were so many that our shoes made a crunching sound as we walked!
  And it was not only shells which dot the beach, but also horseshoe crab, jelly fish, sponge, to name but a few of the creatures from the sea.  I felt like I could walk forever on this beach but the sun was sinking fast.

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