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My Life’s Birds: #400-402

June 23, 2010
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December 22, 2006 – Boynton Beach, Fl – For 25 years I’d spent every single holiday season in Ozark, Missouri, with my family.  But now I was married, and when you’re married compromises have to be made, not least of which the question of with whom do my wife and I spend our precious and far too fleeting holiday time off.  In 2005 we visited my family so in 2006, it was her’s.  I couldn’t complain though, Danielle’s family used to travel every year to the Atlantic coast of Florida where her grandmother was living the Jewish high life in a retirement community in Boynton Beach, just north of Fort Lauderdale in the vast expanse of generic suburban sprawl that is south Florida.  But Florida in winter, even the highly developed, heavily channelized version that predominates the peninsula anymore, offers some chances for some good birding, and I was ready to take it on.

I didn’t have to work hard.  Within 15 minutes of arriving at Danielle’s grandmother’s place and scoping out the sleeper sofa that would be my base of operations for the week, I walked out the back door to find a canal running along the back of the property.  In one glance down the bank I spotted Kingfishers, loads of Moorhens and White Ibis, and a handful of Wood Storks congregating on the opposite bank.  Lifer #400, easy as pie and larger than life.  I ran back inside to snag my scope and binoculars to get a better look at this unexpected bonanza of water birds and upon setting up and taking a closer look down the entire length of the canal I found not one, but two Limpkins awkwardly loping along the grassy edge.  Both were species I had hope to pick up, but I hardly had hopes they’d be this easy.

But it wasn’t over yet! Palm Beach County discovered long ago that the wetlands that where quickly being drained and paved over had another function beyond being birder magnets, they provide a means to reclaim wastewater in an environmentally conscious manner.  The county took the initiative to create a wetland ecosystem on several acres of unused utility property.  The area, called Wakodahatchee Wetlands, is now a popular spot for birders and photographers for the array of wading birds that it attracts.  I’ve mentioned in the past that my mother-in-law is also a birder, though not nearly as serious as I am (if that’s possible), and she was excited to show me some of the local spots, so the first evening we made the incredibly short trip to the wetland to take a look.  All of Florida’s common wetland birds were evident, but my favorite was easily the Purple Gallinule, the gaudy rail that, as the third lifer in 24 hours, was a fitting ending to a great day.

Who says holidays with family are only trouble?

photos from wikipedia

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