One characteristic shared by avid birders is an almost irrational obsession with wanting to get the day's “last” or “special” bird. Like a photographer waiting and waiting in hopes of getting that memorable shot when the lighting is perfect or of some not-to-be repeated, happenstance occurrence, a birder will stay out yearning to get one more “good bird” knowing full well doing so likely will incur the wrath of significant other, family or friends.
This is especially so when the opportunity involves previously un-birded settings that hold forth the possibility that any number of “good birds” might be seen. That is how it came to pass that a half hour before I was due back at my hosts’ home to join them and my wife for a luncheon outing, I was pulling into the parking lot of Eagle Lakes Park in Naples. In fairness it was my hosts who recommended I go to Eagle Lakes. One of their friends had called it an “overlooked birding gem.” How then could they blame me for wanting to see it? How could I resist?
From the parking lot, it was easy to see how this alleged, “overlooked birding gem's” credibility could be questioned. The park presented the usual array of baseball diamonds, basketball courts and covered areas for cooking and picnicking. But I had been cautioned about taking the place on face value. “Go beyond the ball fields. That’s where you’ll find the birding sites."
Sure enough, a half mile walk brought me to in sight of two lake/wetland areas that clearly were prime wading bird and waterfowl habitat. With my time running out, I had to choose one or the other. “So many birds, so little time.” The birder’s lament. I opted for the one that seemed to have the most potential and struck out on the path that circled it.
I was not disappointed. The wetland’s center was teeming with egrets and herons, foraging in the water or perched on tree branches. Species sighted included great egrets, snowy egrets both glossy and white ibis, a couple of blue heron and three anhinga sunning themselves on the limb of a dead tree. On the water were American coot, purple gallinule, blue-winged teal and a single pied-billed grebe.
The action was not limited to the water either. Overhead were black vultures, turkey vultures and a pair of barn swallows. Meanwhile the surrounding thickets of shrubs were filled with the song of red-winged black birds, both common and boat-tailed grackles, northern cardinals and the seemingly ubiquitous red-bellied woodpecker.
In the end, I tallied about as many different species, 24, as minutes spent there, 30. That surely would salve any opprobrium I might suffer as a result of my tardiness. However, the morning’s highlight came in an unexpected way as it often does for birders. Heading back to my car. I glanced up at the light towers rimming the ball fields. Sure enough atop one of them was the unmistakable jumble of sticks of an osprey nest. Perched atop its edges were two osprey. From within the nest came the unmistakable call of a youngster wanting to be fed, which mom and dad obligingly did as I and a few other recreationists looked on raptly. Then it struck me, "Oh, ya, lunch." and off I went.