Pine Island Conservation Area

This is part 1 of my birding adventures this weekend. I decided to scout out the Pine Island Conservation Area for future trips, since I hadn’t been there before.

Pine Island is very pretty, but as I elected to park on the west side of the lake, I was looking into the sun most of the time I was there. Then, after only a few photographs, my batteries gave out on my camera.

photo sun-strike.jpg
Pretty, but headache-inducing lighting.

The most significant sightings here were 2 new life-listers!

  1. Dark morph of a Short-tailed Hawk on a bare nest platform outside the park
  2. Least bitterns (including 2-3 chicks!) in the reeds (more on that below).

Conservation areas like this are usually multi-purpose. Pine Island is advertised, somewhat, as a sport fishing spot, and that is what most of the people I saw there were doing. I have mixed feelings on fishing, as I do with hunting, livestock farming and the like. I do my best to integrate my ideals with reality, and it’s possible many of my more activist friends feel that’s not enough. In any case, i was heartened to overhear a conversation between two fishermen that went something like:

“So, I make sure I have these hooks. They break-down pretty quickly and don’t stay in the fish’s mouth.”

“Oh, I hadn’t ever thought of that. I hate it when you step on or accidentally grab an old rusted hook, too.”

“Well, yeah, but it’s better for the fish and the environment.”

That was somewhat heartening.

There were Barn Swallows making periodic runs along and over the lake, and quite a few Ospreys. Watching the Ospreys soar overhead really made the sky feel open and free.

photo osprey-wide-shot.jpg
Osprey commanding a endless sky.

I also saw one Common Gallinule (I so keep wanting to call these birds Common Moorhens, but such is the way with the IOU), a pair of Snowy Egrets, some Common Ground Doves, Boat-tailed Grackles and a Turkey Vulture.

Then, my eye caught some motion in some reeds in the lake. Though quite backlit, the silhouette of a small heron was unmistakable as it flew from one clump of reeds to another. Then, I saw more movement the first bunch of reeds. Through my binoculars I could make out the same small heron shapes, but with a noticable amount of downy fuzz. The only reasonable photo I got was at the limit of my camera’s zoom. Least Bittern chicks!

photo least-bittern-chick.jpg
Baby Least Bitterns!

They and at least one adult were straddling and climbing through the reeds. The only reason I could reliably pick them out was the backlit haloing of the down on the chicks. Otherwise they were very hard to spot. This is how bitterns avoid preadators.

It was at this point that my batteries went out. That, plus the really bad sun angle convinced me to head out and drop by the nearby Enchanted Forest Santuary and see what was happening there. I’ll have a separate post for that.

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