Sweetwater Wetlands

Tri-colored heron ((Egretta tricolor)

Regis and I left Dart behind and went to Sweetwater Wetlands in Gainesville, Florida on our second day of camping in Starke, Florida. The wetlands were created to improve the water quality of wetlands in Paynes Prairie and the Floridan Aquifer. It is an amazing place with lots of birds, butterflies, alligators, horses, plants and other animals. There are gravel trails and boardwalks that allow visitors to get great views of the environment.

We were not disappointed. The place is amazing and easy to visit. We saw many Common Gallinules while there. I bet it would have been great to visit when many of those birds were chicks earlier this year.

Black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) and common gallinules (Gallinula chloropus)
Common gallinules

We had the most fun watching a double-crested cormorant that caught a large fish. It was having difficulty swallowing the fish and some other birds took advantage and tried to steal its catch. Two more cormorants and a great blue heron showed up and there was a struggle. One cormorant wound up with the fish and swallowed it but with all the activity, we don’t know whether the original cormorant kept its catch or another cormorant stole it. Unfortunately, I was struggling with the focus settings on my camera which is new to me and I didn’t get any in focus shots. Everything happened too fast and too far away.

Double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auratus) with a might big fish.
Double-crested cormorant and great blue heron (Ardeas herodius) trying to steal the fish from a cormorant.
A double-crested cormorant and great blue heron having a dispute over a fish.
The winning double-crested cormorant eating the large fish.

My favorite gift of the day was an Anhinga that wanted to stay on the railing on the boardwalk in spite of the human activity. You could walk by it slowly and it would not leave. I was able to take many picture from both sides. Because of the way the sun was shining as the bird opened its mouth, its possible to see the veins in the skin.

Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)
Lily pads with water puddles on top.
Cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis)

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