Emeralda Marsh Field Trip, 16 Feb 2024

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Ten bird folks enjoyed the four mile Emeralda Marsh Wildlife Drive. We had hoped to hear the first Northern Parula of the season, but that was not to be. Things got very interesting when we arrived at the large watery wetlands. Right away, a pair of Northern Harriers were sighted.

A bit later, we came upon rafts of coots with many Ring-necked Ducks mixed in. Elaine Roche saw a dozen American White Pelicans circling in the distance. But the star of the show was this female Snail Kite. Leaders Rey Wells and Larry Best sighted and chased via SUV the kite that happened to be going our one day. Larry saw it perch on a low roadside snag. The bird rested there for quite some time, giving everyone a great opportunity for viewing and photographs.

Instead of taking the right turn and exiting to Emeralda Island Road as we have in the past, we continued straight onto an even narrower one lane road with a grass strip in the middle. We hoped to see the white
pelicans that Elaine had seen in the air. That didn’t happen, but we were treated to an Osprey feeding on a fish near the top of a snag. Seconds after this photo was taken, the Osprey lost control of it. No
one got a photo of the fish falling from the Osprey’s grasp. Darn!

We exited to Emeralda Island Road and headed for Leesburg for lunch before stepping directly into Venetian Gardens.

Venetian Gardens

On the way out of the lakeside Ski Beach restaurant, Bob Ross said that that he and Elaine had to leave. The remaining eight of us went looking for Purple Gallinules and other birds of interest. We sure found them.

Purple Gallinules were plentiful and were engaged in pre-breeding activities. Lots of displaying and chasing was observed. But the highlight of the Purple Gallinule show was this bird that had just caught
a large snail. Three other gallinules took turns attempting to partake in the feast.

As we finally headed back toward the parking lot, Lisa noticed a hawk flying low with another bird in its talons. It landed nearby on the grass. The hawk was a Red-shouldered. The prey was a Purple Gallinule.
Many photographs were taken as the hawk feasted on the gallinule.

It was quite a day at Emeralda and Venetian.

By Rey Wells, group photo by Larry Best

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