Corkscrew Swamp and Eagle Lake
Today we headed back east to Corkscrew Swamp. As we approached the area we saw Wood Stork, Glossy Ibis, Great and Snowy Egrets feeding in a roadside ditch. At Corkscrew Swamp, White-eyed Vireos could be heard calling but were not always easy to see, Red-shouldered Hawks called loudly and flew through the trees, sometimes settling on branches quite close to us, a Pileated Woodpecker showed down to about two metres, Northern Parulas were abundant, Tufted Titmouse and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher were added to the trip list and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo showed well in the trees. As well as seeing watersnakes, we also experienced the wonderful sight of a family of Otters playing in the channels and they seemed quite unconcerned about our presence as they swam under the boardwalk. From a viewing platform we watched 50+ Wood Storks and a few Anhingas soaring on thermals and two Swallow-tailed Kites hunting over marshland. Back in the swamp we had very close Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night-herons, Least Bittern, Little Blue Herons, Black-and-white Warbler and about 15 centimetres worth of bright green Sphinx Moth chrysalis.
Having completed the boardwalk we were given some useful information by locals and drove to Eagle Lake. We were told it was only about a 20-minute drive but 45 miles later we arrived somewhat bemused to find a sports ground with hundreds of people around. Leaving the vans, we walked through the throngs of people watching baseball matches and prize giving ceremonies to find an area of shallow water with small islands and patches of mud. There were birds everywhere! Waders were represented by Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary and Least Sandpipers, Killdeer and Black-necked Stilts. Larger wading birds included a flock of 73 American White Pelicans with a few Brown Pelicans, 78 Glossy Ibises, White Ibises, Great, Cattle and Snowy Egrets, Little Blue and Tricolored Herons, Wood Storks and Roseate Spoonbill. As we walked around the area we also picked up two Stilt and a White-rumped Sandpiper. A Bald Eagle sat magnificently atop a nearby tree whilst another flew around in the distance, seven Mottled Ducks fed at the water's edge and a Northern Flicker called loudly from a treetop. A Gull-billed Tern and a few Black Skimmers joined the six Caspian Terns sitting on a small island. We did have one target bird to get here but first we had to admire the male Bobolink feeding in the grass by the path. Then a flock of dark birds flew to nearby bushes and some of us managed to find that target bird: Bronzed Cowbird. There was more than one around but they were very flighty. Finally, one obliged by landing on a fence so all could admire it.
After this superb couple of hours we drove back to Corkscrew Swamp where we saw most of the same species as had been seen that morning, plus three young Eastern Screech-owls peering sweetly from their nest hole in a tree by the side of the boardwalk.