We discovered Sweetwater Wetlands park earlier this year, and I wrote a post on our birding there. We decided to return while camping not too far from Gainesville, and arrived late morning due to early rain. The park has wide, flat trails and plenty of boardwalks, which makes it the perfect park for even a casual nature walk or hike.
The birding, probably due to the late arrival, remained slow. I really came to practice with my lens, so I didn’t mind. This Eastern Phoebe was my first of this season. Plenty of wading birds and ducks crossed our path, plus the sudden arrival of an American Bittern. A Glossy Ibis flew overhead and landed just behind a rise in front of me. As I approached the area for a better look, I discovered him standing in the shallows of a pond, surrounded by Black bellied whistling ducks, just hanging out with them. I tried for a shot but the distance and lighting worked against me.
Trails and the boardwalks here encourage stopping and observing. I watched this heron fish for quite some time. Unsuccessfully, at least while I watched. Naturally, a lake or pond or any fairly still fresh water in Florida seems to require at least one alligator. I only saw this one during our time there, floating nearly unseen.
We did not bring any bird guides with us, and saw a soaring bird we could not identify. A helpful birder told us it was a Mississippi Kite, explained why, and I noted it to check and add to my list. When I compared the not very good photographs I took of the soaring bird with the field guide later that day, I just could not see it. Karl helped, we consulted another guide, but still felt the identification off. I don’t add a bird unless I can definitely identify it, even on a personal list. I spent over a decade on a twice monthly citizen science birding project, and that training stays with me. Some time later the mystery was solved, we confirmed it as a Snail Kite. I suspect the birder simply misspoke.
Our late morning arrival in sunshine turned to rain before we left. The clouds began to build but neither one of us paid it much attention at first. Naturally we were about as far from the car as we could be when Karl suggested we head back. We just started back when the rain started pouring down. We both tucked our cameras in our bags, and made our way toward the car. It poured the entire way, and stopped when we reached the car, naturally.