Celebrate the Beauty of Birds
Big Cypress National Preserve has a variety of excellent birding locations. The preserve is located in southwest Florida in some of the most rugged land in the state. Big Cypress Preserve encompasses approximately 729,000 acres of a freshwater swamp ecosystem, offering refuge for a wide diversity of birds. The Audubon Society calculates that bird diversity in Big Cypress Swamp is 177 native species.
Big Cypress Swamp is a place that is beautiful and rare. Drastically different than where I live in the southern Rocky Mountains, where long cold winters are the norm; conversely the months of November to April are the best times to visit southwest Florida. Temperatures are mild during the Florida dry season and the nuisance of mosquitoes is at a minimum. In mid January 2019 I began to make plans for an expedition into the Florida Everglades. Wetland habitat is limited in my area and an opportunity to explore the “river of grass” and watery environment of the Everglades captured my imagination.
I arrived in southwest Florida early February, intent on understanding and experiencing the Everglades ecosystem. I wanted to absorb the geology, hydrology, wildlife, (and warm subtropical climate) as a lasting memory. Several days were spent in Big Cypress National Preserve as part of the expedition. I recommend a stop at the Ernie Shorter viewing area as being rich in biodiversity as it straddles an ecotone of marl prairie and cypress swamp.
Discovering the complex biodiversity at Big Cypress Swamp was quite an amazing awakening. Wildlife viewing was all that I hoped for. I was especially gratified viewing our feathered relatives in their natural habitat. Anhingas, egrets and herons are found in plentiful numbers.
” In order to see birds it is necessary to become part of the silence” Robert Lynd
Length: 7.5″ Wingspan: 33″-44″ Population: common to abundant.
Persecuted in the past by farmers and hunters. Crows are still legally hunted for sport in many states.
Length: 23″ Wingspan: 30″-40″ Population: common to abundant
One of the ducks harvested in greatest numbers by waterfowl hunters.
Prone to lead poisoning from ingesting spent lead shot with food from bottom ooze.
Length: 4.75″ Wingspan: 7.5″ Neotropical migrant. Population: common but declining.
Vulnerable to habitat loss with maturation of forests.
Length: 35″ Wingspan: 45″ to 48″ Population: Common in breeding range.
In the past often killed by fisherman fearing fishing abilities of this bird.
Black Crowned Night Heron, (Juvenile).
Adults have a black crown and back with the remainder of the body white or grey.
Adult Length: 25″ to 28″ Wingspan: 44″ to 45″. Population: Overall stable or increasing.
Benefited from general protection by state, federal and conservation agencies.
Loss of habitat affects food supply and reproduction.
Length: 18″ to 26″ Wingspan: 26″ Population: common and stable.
Length: 24″ to 29″ Wingspan: 40″to 41″ Population: Increasing and expanding.
Responding to protection of nesting colonies.
Length: 46″ to 52″ Wingspan: 77″ to 82″ Population: Stable and widespread.
Have benefitted from protection of breeding colonies.
Length: 21″ to 27″ Wingspan: 38″ Common to abundant coastal marshes.
Population: Florida population lower than previous levels.
Juvenile White Ibis
As the young birds mature the darker feathers will moult, being replaced with all white.
Great White Egret
Length: 40″ Wingspan: 52″ to 67″ Population: abundant and widespread.
Early twentieth century was hunted to near extinction to supply millinery trade.
Threat (all wading birds) is continued drainage of wetlands.
An image of a Great White Egret, flying with wings spread, is the logo and emblem of the National Audubon Society.
Anyone can become involved in birdwatching anytime, anywhere. All it takes is a bird identification book, some binoculars and curiosity.
When you start to take notice of the birds around you, you might find yourself more curious and perceptive. You’ll notice sounds you might have previously overlooked. You might start to notice details in your surroundings, like trees and other plants. You might start to perceive time differently as birds come and go each season.
Bird watching can also be a social activity. Beyond being a fun family activity, birding clubs and park rangers offer opportunities to meet other people. Bird watching can be a doorway to recognizing and appreciating a wider world that was there all along.
There is a growing body of evidence that shows definitively that we need nature for our health and well being. Due to their accessibility, birds are a useful tool for environmental education and awareness of environmental issues.
You don’t have to be actively looking for birds to practice birding. Take note of the birds you see or hear on your walk to work or school, while you are looking out the kitchen window or while doing other outdoor activities. Being observant and aware of your surroundings can heighten your senses and help you find other surprises in nature, too.