Today a friend was demoing a boat at Silver Springs, so I joined her for a 2-hour paddle and lunch afterwards. As usual the Silver was full of wildlife, although today we saw no monkeys or snakes.
We paddled around the nursery tree island and watched the nesting Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) and Anhingas (Anhinga anhinga). I was looking up approaching the island, getting ready to take a picture of a baby Cormorant. When I looked down I found that I had drifted to within about 6 feet of a fairly large gator. A little too close for my comfort level, although the gator did not seem disturbed by my presence. Gators tend to hang out around the island, waiting for baby birds to fall into the water for a quick snack.
I managed to get a few shots of the baby birds. Some are still sitting in the nests while others are out on the limbs, stretching their wings preparatory to their first flight.
Baby Double-crested Cormorant guarded by adults
Three little Anhingas, still wearing their baby fluff, out on a limb exercising their wings
We also saw many pairs of Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) swimming along the edges of the stream-side vegetation, but no baby Woodies.
Wood duck pair
Female Wood duck
Male Wood Duck
The Pickeralweed (Pontederia cordata) is in bloom. It’s such a beautiful native plant, providing cover and food for all sorts of animals in the river. It just seems a shame to saddle it with a name like “weed”.
A closeup of Pickeralweed bloom
Bumblebee on Pickeralweed
We saw several other gators, mostly smaller than the one at the nursery island.
A little gator (about 18 inches) peeking at us from the weeds.
And, of course, lots of Cooters (Pseudemys spp) basking in the sun.
A female Cooter drying his shell on a log in the sunshine
Last weekend we saw dozens of immature Little Blue Herons (Egretta caerulea) sporting their white coats. Today they were missing, but we watched several adult Little Blue Herons stalking for dinner.
An adult Little Blue Heron stalking crustaceans amid the grasses
And we came across one Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that let us get pretty close.
Usually very wary, this stately Great Blue Heron let us get to within about 20 feet of him.
And we saw a couple of Green Herons (Butorides virescens) also stalking in the weeds.
A Green Heron, with its short legs, sticks near the shoreline
We also saw a couple of Limpkin (Aramus guarauna). Not exactly rare on the Silver, but we usually only see one or maybe two on each trip. So there are snails on the Silver, but probably not enough snails to support a large number of these birds.
A Limpkin searching for Apple snails
Near the end of our paddle, close to the state park ramp, we saw another bird we usually only encounter down near the confluence with the Ocklawaha – a Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea). In this case it was a young one, not fully plumed out yet.
A young Yellow-crowned Night Heron