January 1980


Today Bob showed me the Burlington Water Department, where there’s a little park, a picnic area, and some water that stays open all winter. Then we went down to Shelburne. The water at the Shelburne Bay Fishing Access is frozen, but we saw a huge flock of MERGANSERS in the open water of Shelburne Bay itself —  between the turn and the marina. Bird list for the day includes COMMON MERGANSERS, HOODED MERGANSERS, BUFFLEHEADS, BLACK DUCKS, STARLINGS, PIGEONS, GULLS, HOUSE SPARROWS, and a WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH. We also saw a dark hawk near Shelburne Bay — Bob thought maybe a ROUGH-LEGGED, DARK PHASE?

Spotted a CHRISTMAS FERN growing out of the snow up on my back hillside. It was surrounded by a mulch of beech and maple leaves in open beech woods. I saw more CHRISTMAS FERNS in a similar spot, but there were more hemlocks around. Noticed some SPINUILOSE WOOD FERNS growing under some huge hemlocks toward an open edge of the stand. When I came back down I paused to listen to the subdued sound of my partially frozen brook. Noticed another patch of SPINULOSE WOOD FERN near the brook, again growing under open hemlocks. Found a MARGINAL WOOD FERN growing on the edge of a stand of white pines intermixed with gray, white, and yellow birches. When I bent down to look at it, I must have threatened a SNOWSHOE HARE because its sudden bounding movement caught my eye. It had been in some brush about three feet from where I was. I saw it distinctly when it stopped again and froze about 25 feet from me. It seemed grayer than I expected, probably because I’ve only had white bunnies to look at before. I started moving toward it, and it bounded off again. It stopped near another brush pile. I made the mistake of taking my eye off it, and next time I looked it was gone. I walked over to where I had last seen it to look at its tracks. It had taken off down into Doug and Burma’s woods, great leaps at a time. SPINULOSE WOOD FERN at the end of the Den Trees Trail growing in an open area under white pines. CHRISTMAS FERNS just off the trail in an open spot under a few skinny hardwoods growing amongst the white pines. Counted four of them in the same area. Lots more SPINULOSE growing here and there. Finally found a MARGINAL WOOD FERN growing in the same general vicinity but right at the foot of a dead white pine. It was surrounded by pine needles, branches, and twigs. A yellow birch and a dead hawthorne growing nearby, plus a little gray and white birch and hemlock. Found 17-18 small white pines growing in the part of my side yard Gary Burger cleared.

We’re at CORKSCREW SWAMP in search of a LIMPKIN (while Bob is still trying to pass his KIDNEY STONE and is very definitely growing a BEARD). Nothing but a LITTLE BLUE HERON at Station #55. Near the Lookout Tower, we saw a pair of CARDINALS, TUFTED TITMICE, BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS, and a CAROLINA WREN. From the Tower we saw a WHITE-EYED VIREO. We saw a BARRED OWL between the two lettuce gardens.

When we were driving on Tamiami Trail, we saw an EVERGLADES KITE (male) eating a snail then soaring. In Shark Valley we saw a female through Bob’s scope. She was also eating a snail. I saw another rust orange, darker-than-a-Monarch BUTTERFLY. This time I noticed black around the edges of the wings and other black markings. I also saw two little blue dots with black circles around the outside near the wing margin. I saw another BUTTERFLY, a small gray one with orange markings and a large black dot almost in the center of the wing and a smaller black dot toward the back.

The water in MANGROVE SWAMPS is brackish. Saw a STAR CRAB SPIDER, a beautiful black and red star-shaped creature. It’s common in mangroves. We saw a flock of WOOD STORKS that looked like grazing cattle. Heard the flutter and patter of a few COOTS taking off and then the watery whoosh of a whole flock pattering across the water into the mangroves in alarm. They sounded like an egg beater beating on the surface of the water or maybe like rapidly boiling water or maybe like a strong wind in dense foliage. They looked like small boats or hover craft. 11:30 a.m.: Between markers 4A and 4 (headed back to where we put in), we saw a large gathering of HERONS and SPOONBILLS in an enclosed pool among the mangrove islands. Some of the herons had black bills and yellow feet, and some were raising their head feathers. Others  had long yellow beaks and black legs. There were some smaller white birds with down-curved pinkish beaks and pink legs. Some had solid white wings and some had black wing tips. We watched two big herons face each other, raise their beaks, then fly up together and landed on a low branch. A smaller darker heron flew in — LITTLE BLUE? LOUISIANA? A WHITE PELICAN flew overhead but didn’t land. Also saw a BROWN DUCK that looked like a mallard and a KINGFISHER plus BOAT-TAILED GRACKLES and GULLS flying over.

Back on land, on Park Road near 9-Mile Pond, an OTTER came out of the trees and started toward the road. Mickey slowed down; the otter turned around and headed back into the trees.

Spent the night near Cape Sable. Took a sunrise canoe cruise. Saw white BUTTERFLIES with greenish wings, ZEBRA BUTTERFLIES (which look like swallowtails), and another small one with elaborate orange markings (looked like Question Marks and Commas). Also saw shells and algae. For birds, we saw PEEPS feeding on wet flats. Some were poking their beaks into the wet sand rapidly, looking like so many keys being typed on an old typewriter. Bob said he saw DUNLINS, SANDERLINGS, SEMI-PALMATED and LEAST SANDPIPERS. I saw another BUTTERFLY that looked like a small Monarch with white snowflakes sprinkled on its wings. I noticed that the color was a darker, rustier orange. Saw another big butterfly what was a bright gold-yellow. Spotted a HUGE THISTLE. I measured one of the five flowers growing on it. It was about half a pen length across. The plant had a thick smooth purple stem. It had spines on the leaves and bracts. I noticed a huge, gray, furry, dotted SPIDER on the huge thistle. Also saw huge GRASSHOPPERS with wings.

Later, while we were walking on the sand beach at Cape Sable, we spotted a shy and elusive SPARROW feeding in the grassy vegetation close to the beach. When flushed, it flew low over the tops of the vegetation then dove back down into it and stayed put until we almost stepped on it. It was a dark chestnut-brown bird with white on the underside.

We had a MANGROVE CAMPFIRE tonight. I could see ORION overhead through the mangroves. There were so many other stars I had trouble seeing Orion at first. MOONRISE at about 9:00 p.m.

Today we started our canoe trip. We put in at a place called Bear Lake at 11:00 a.m. I asked about the sulfurous smell — it’s the smell of bacterial respiration, which is anaerobic. A LITTLE GREEN HERON came poking along the edge of the canal as we were getting underway. It caught a small fish or lizard or something, dropped it, picked it up again, and ate it — all this about 5 feet from where I was sitting in the canoe. RED MANGROVES have propagules and prop roots. BLACK MANGROVES have pneumatophores. There were six in our group: Alex Stone and Sandy Barrett (our guides) plus Mickey, Debbie and Ed, Bob and Gale.

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