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03/25/12
Birding from the boards at Green Cay Wetlands
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Florida & SE US, Birding "Patches"
Posted by: Ken @ 12:12 pm

Any birder visiting South Florida just can’t miss stopping at three special places in western Palm Beach County: Loxahatchee National Wildlife  Refuge, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, and Green Cay Nature Center. The latter, in Boynton Beach, was our objective as we traveled up to have lunch with one of my “old” classmates. When I say old, I mean it in the classic sense, as we started kindergarten together and were in the same grades all the way through grammar school and graduated together from the same high school. Our meeting place for lunch was a little over an hour’s drive from our home, and Green Cay was a convenient place to stop on the way.

This is the 9,000 square foot Nature Center.

Green Cay HDR 5 20120318

Purists might argue that Green Cay is a rather artificial place. Indeed, it is quite a new habitat, a domestic waste water treatment plant that opened to the public only seven years ago. But what a place it is! Green Cay’s 175 acres include 100 acres of wetlands with a mile and a half of boardwalks that traverse open lakes, ponds and sloughs, varied marsh habitats, cypress stands, and several dry islands.

This is one of the cypress-covered islands.

Green Cay clouds HDR 20120318

Unlike so many “sewage ponds” that attract birders, there are no bad odors at Green Cay. The crystal-clear water that enters has been well treated to remove nearly all the  suspended and dissolved biological substances, and Green Cay is the final stage of treatment. Yet it is fertile enough to support a rich growth of plant life that purify and filter the water. When it flows out of Green Cay, so-called tertiary effluent, the water can safely be used for agriculture or be discharged into waterways.

The boardwalk runs along the edge of a large lake.

Green Cay boardwalk HDR 91-20120318

Green Cay is a big hit with local residents and casual visitors as well, and it’s best to get there early if you want to find a convenient place in the huge parking lot. Overheard, a grandmother talking to her little grandson and granddaughter: “Are you happy I brought you here?” The little girl replied: “Grandma, I really like this place.” The boy cried out gleefully: “I love it!”

A Great Blue Heron tends its chick right next to the boardwalk.

Great Blue Heron with chick 20120318

A Great Egret catches some salad to go with the fish.

Great Egret with fish and salad 20120318

One interesting thing about the place is that the wildlife have become accustomed to having all the people around. Herons, Limpkins and rails forage along the boardwalk, seemingly unconcerned. What a difference from the wetlands near our home, where the only visitors besides a few birders and joggers are kids on ATVs. We are lucky to get a fleeting glance at a bittern or a raptor… or a Bobcat.

Our target species for this visit were the Sora and the Least Bittern, both of which had recently been reported at Green Cay. We were not disappointed.

The Sora was most cooperative.

Sora 2-20120318

Sora 20120318

Sora emerging 20120318

We especially hoped to see one or more of the family of Bobcats that have been thrilling photographers with close-up views. When we arrived there at about 9:30 in the morning, we met a friend who had a drop dead photo of an adult Bobcat that had strolled out into the open almost in front of the Visitor’s Center. He had taken it less than an hour previously. There were no other reports of Bobcat sightings while we were there.

I was so thrilled to see a Least Bittern that I took far too many photos. These are a few samples. I’ve never before had such good luck in getting one to come out of hiding.
 
Least Bittern 3-20120318

Least Bittern 2-20120318

Least Bittern 20120318

Least Bittern with fish 20120318

Who can pass up a photo-op with a Purple Gallinule…

Purple Gallinule 20120318

…or a Glossy Ibis in breeding plumage?

Glossy Ibis 20120318

This immature Little Blue Heron is changing into adult garb.

Little Blue Heron immature 2-20120318

The Blue-winged Teal were fighting over mates, but these two males are getting along peacefully.

Blue-winged Teal males 20120318

Pied-billed Grebes take advantage of the richness of prey in the waters.

Pied-billed Grebe 20120318

Purple Martins are busy bringing nesting material into their apartments.

Purple Martin house 20120318

A White-winged Dove looks down from a pine tree.

White-winged Dove 20120318

American Coots are plentiful, but hey, they’re birds too!

American Coot 20120318

24 Responses to “Birding from the boards at Green Cay Wetlands”

  1. Laurence Butler Says:
    Great shots Ken. The Rail and Sora are particularly clear photos and of some elusive birds! I really like the scenic shots at first too, really set the mood for the narrative. Great post.
  2. Beverly Says:
    Lovely photos & commentary; thanks for sharing your visit!
  3. Andrew Says:
    It looks like a wonderful place to visit… wonderful images. Some of our biggest reserves in the UK have some really modern viewing facilities and the birds don’t seem to mind.
  4. HansHB Says:
    So many lovely photos! An awesome post for WBW!
  5. Eileen Says:
    What a great place for birding. I wish I was there. I would love to see the Sora and the Bittern. Your photos are awesome as usual. Great post and thanks for sharing.
  6. fjällripan Says:
    Beautiful photos of all these interesting birds!
  7. Carole M. Says:
    such a wonderful series of birding photographs. I loved the luncheon stopover too.
  8. Martha Z Says:
    Oh, what wonderful images. I wish I had known about this place when we visited my sister-in-law in Boynton Beach.
  9. Mick Says:
    Great photos of all the birds. It is so good that a wastewater treatment plant has created such a great environment for wildlife - plus one where the birds obviously feel safe from harassment.
  10. heyBJK Says:
    Wow, Ken! What fantastic photos! I can’t even decide which one I like the most. Your scenic shots are gorgeous!
  11. Linda Says:
    What fabulous shots! I spend a lot of time visiting in Florida, but haven’t been that far south for a while…guess that will be on my agenda soon!
  12. Mary Howell Cromer Says:
    A really wonderful and diverse selection of bird images. They are superb quality~
  13. Hilke Breder Says:
    Marvelous photos, all of them! You are in a great birding spot, but it takes lots of skill to get these pics.
  14. Boom & Gary Says:
    Stunning series!! Especially the sora. Boom & Gary of The Vermilon River, Canada.
  15. Modesto Viegas Says:
    Great series!!!
  16. springman Says:
    As we know, there’s no substitute for getting close. In that regard this looks like a bird photographers paradise. I know that drop dead good bobcat picture is coming, you’ve been putting in the time. The Least bittern is a pretty good reward until then! I like that Florida is seeing the value of the birding tourist trade, very wise creating facilities like these! Cheers Ken…
  17. joo Says:
    I simply love your photos!
  18. Pat Says:
    That looks like a wonderful place to visit. These photos are gorgeous. I noticed that the Least Bittern is pretty well camouflaged among those reeds. He’d be hard to spot from a distance.
  19. Ken Says:
    @ Springman– I heartily agree! Take a look at a slide show of these Bobcats photographed from the Green Cay boardwalk earlier this year by Carmen (”Florida Blume”)– these are really to die for! http://www.flickr.com/photos/beltaneblume/sets/72157628315168051/show/ My Bobcat family is no longer together. I saw only a single one earlier this month, and it was too far away to go after.
  20. Larry Jordan Says:
    Well Ken you never disappoint! All beautiful photos and what a gorgeous place. We have a similar waste water treatment reserve here on the California coast called Arcata Marsh. Amazing shots of the Sora and Least Bittern. I would give most anything to find a Least Bittern let alone getting a photograph like yours. I can understand why you took so many. I probably would have used my entire memory card on that bird having never seen one!
  21. Jill Shultz Says:
    Ken, Great photos! I was just at Green Cay yesterday (now back home in NY). Hope you can help me identify the birds I saw nesting next to the Great Blue Herons. They were in the lower tree to the right. Stocky, mostly white birds with a reddish wash over their chests–head and neck profile made me think cattle egrets, but I never got a look at their legs and feet (impatient friends, lousy binocs). The mark that really threw me was a black band along the bottom of their wings. I am baffled!
  22. Richard Says:
    Thanks, Ken: we’ll be sure to make a visit when we’re back down there in July.
  23. NatureFootstep Says:
    wow, so many great sightings in one day. Certainly a place I´d like to visit. The Least Bittern is really a great bird. :)
  24. Ken Says:
    Thanks for you comments! This is truly a wonderful place. A great thing about Green Cay is that birders and photographers exchange information about sightings and locations. Some of the “regulars” seem to be there every time we visit. Sometimes it pays to quickly get over to join any crowd that is peering and photographing from a spot on the boardwalk. I would never have seen the Sora had it not been for a lady walking by who casually pointed it out. Same for the bittern– a birder told me the exact loaction where he had seen it earlier that morning. Take a look at a slide show of these Bobcats photographed from the Green Cay boardwalk earlier this year by Carmen (”Florida Blume”)– these are really to die for! http://www.flickr.com/photos/beltaneblume/sets/72157628315168051/show/ My local Bobcat family is no longer together. I saw only a single one earlier this month, and it was too far away to chase.

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