“West Pines Soccer Park and Nature Preserve” sounds like a contradiction in terms, akin to “Joe’s Barber Shop and Fine Dining.” Located near our Florida home in neighboring Pembroke Pines, its extensive soccer fields share a border with a fragmented Water Conservation Area. Suburban housing nearly envelops the entire complex, yet it is an unexpected little patch of protected natural habitat.
The presence of cattails indicates that the water has been fertilized by agricultural and residential runoff. The native Sawgrass evolved in the nutrient-poor Everglades ecosystem, and it struggles to compete with invasive plants when the substrate is artificially enriched with phosphorus and nitrogen. The Water Conservation Area weakly imitates the historic Everglades hydrological cycle, swelling with rainwater during the summer and gradually drying out with the approach of winter.
A short boardwalk leads into the wetlands and one of two wildlife viewing platforms:
During past visits to this convenient oasis, we have been startled by deer, …
…surrounded by smelly vultures, …
Christopher Cudworth, an Illinois neighbor, provided benchmarks that can help us evaluate and better appreciate our encounters with nature. You will enjoy reading his reflective essay, “Five Life Lessons You Can Learn from Birding (Birdwatching),” subtitled “Birding Can Be an Instrument of Learning, Joy and Humility.”
Each experience, whether in a faraway wild place or a back yard, teaches us one or more of these lessons:
The pair called to each other as the female made a pass in front of the nest tree. As soon as she landed on the rim of the nest, the male flew off. The female peered down into the nest, possibly rearranging nest materials or turning the eggs.
She then settled down to continue incubating:
Afterward, we stopped by the Soccer Park and Nature Preserve, just down the road from the eagle nest.
A Northern Mockingbird posed on an interpretive sign. A bird may not be rare or colorful, but can still be beautiful:
There were flocks of Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warblers:
We witnessed an interesting inter-generational conflict between two Little Blue Herons. When we arrived at the observation platform, we saw a dark blue adult heron fishing peacefully in an area of shallow. open water.
An immature Little Blue Heron, distinguished from the egrets by its greenish legs and black-tipped gray bill, suddenly flew in and landed quite near the adult bird:
The adult Little Blue immediately moved over to chase it away:
The young bird held its ground as both spread their wings in an aggressive display:
Finally, the adult made good on its threat, and chased after the younger white bird, eventually catching up with it and tussling in the grass:
Later, a Loggerhead Shrike perched on a lawn chair on our back patio:
Click here for a slide show of some of the wildlife I have seen at the soccer park.