Bird #373 — Roseate Spoonbill

ajaia (Brazilian name for the bird) ajaja (ditto)

Tuesday, May 4, 1999 — 4:30 pm

Canaveral National Seashore, Florida

On Route 402, between the entrance booth and Playalinda Beach, visitors are only allowed to stop at occasional pullouts every quarter mile or so along the road. Since that was all I could do, that’s what I did. I pulled over at each one and scanned the area. For the most part, the pullouts were located by large patches of open water in the marshes. I was seeing Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons and Tricolored Herons all over the place. They’re OK, but I was searching for better game.

Finally, at a pullout about half a mile from the ocean, I found what I was looking for. On a tiny grassy hammock about 50 yards from the road, I saw a ball of pink. I had my Roseate Spoonbill. It was standing motionless with its bill tucked into its back feathers, but there was no doubt about its identification. It had a white neck and chest, light pink wings and a bright pink shoulder. It looked up for just a moment and I saw its pale gray bill with a round, flat bulge at the tip.

A Brown Pelican was sleeping on another hummock, and a Tricolored Heron was fishing nearby. As I was watching the spoonbill, a car pulled up close behind me.  I looked in the mirror and saw another car had pulled up behind it. An officer climbed out of the third car and walked up to the second car. He told the driver he was going too fast for park roads and asked to see his license and registration.  This was all going on just a few feet behind where I sat with my window open. I felt a bit funny sitting there, so I drove on to the beach.

At 6:00 in the evening, I was driving west on 402, near where I had seen the Reddish Egret. I saw two spoonbills flying over the marsh, headed toward the ocean. The excitement had slackened by this time. It was too early to leave, and to late to go somewhere else, so I decided to take the Black Point Wildlife Drive again. I didn’t see much more than I saw the first time. In fact, the two trips were almost identical in terms of birds seen, although some clouds had moved in, the breeze had picked up and it was a stunningly beautiful evening in the low 70s.

At the pool where I had seen a bunch of stuff earlier, I saw a bunch of stuff again; 8 Red Knots, 34 American Avocets, 13 Black Skimmers, 2 Black-necked Stilts, 2 Mottled Ducks, 4 Short-billed Dowitchers, 3 Dunlins, several each of Greater Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Black-bellied Plovers, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Tricolored Herons, a White Ibis and a Roseate Spoonbill. I hung around the area for half an hour or so, drinking it all in. At the beginning, the spoonbill was standing near the edge of the pool with the egrets. Later, it waded out into the center of the pool and began sweeping the water with its bill, going back and forth with the bulge just under the surface. I was surprised at how small the spoonbill was when I saw it standing with the egrets. For some reason, I had the impression they were closer to crane size.

When I finished with the wildlife drive, I left the refuge. I stopped at a small park just east of the bridge over the Indian River and watched the gulls, terns and pelicans fishing in the river. The sun was setting purple and orange over the mainland and porpoises were chasing small fish just off shore. It was the perfect ending to a great day of birding.

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