Kongo is visiting Tampa this week to spend some quality time with family. About a mile from the home of the monkey’s youngest is a wonderful place called Lettuce Lake Park. It’s part of a network of regional parks in the Tampa Bay area that highlight nature and Florida’s fragile ecosystems in the middle of a big city.
Kongo has been to this park once before but this time he brought a proper camera lens to capture some of the many water birds that live here. The park is located along the Hillsborough River in Tampa and adjacent wetlands. Boardwalks allow visitors to walk out over the wetlands and really get close to the wildlife.
Kongo spotted a couple of night herons, lots of Ibis birds, a wood stork, an elusive anhinga, and a wading limkin. There were egrets and owls around as well but not close enough to shoot with a lens. And there was a very shy roseate spoonbill that never really came out of its perch in a thicket of cypress stumps.
At one fascinating encounter with the mysterious anhinga bird, Kongo watched it swallow a good sized fish whole over the course of about ten minutes work.
Anhingas are also called snake birds because when they are hunting they stick their necks above the water and it looks like a snake rising above the surface. Once an anhinga swam directly below the monkey’s perch on the boardwalk.
The ibis bird was sacred to the ancient Egyptians. Somehow they made it from the Nile River all the way to Florida. When Kongo gives gallery tours at the Getty Villa in Malibu, one of his favorite objects is a mummy from the 2nd century A.D. of a young man named Herakledes. When the Getty did a MRI of the mummy they found another mummy inside and it was an ibis bird.
Wood storks are sometimes confused with ibis birds and were once known as a “wood ibis” but they are their own species.
There’s an observation tower overlooking the river in the park. While Kongo was pausing there this turtle poked its head up to see what was going on.
Swamp lilies abound in Lettuce Lke Park.
One of Kongo’s favorite birds is the night heron. He spotted a couple of different black-crowned night herons at the park. They have distinctive red eyes that enable them to see better at night, when they do most of their hunting. (Hence the name…)
If you’re in Tampa and need to kill a few hours, swing on over to Lettuce Lake Park. It’s worth the effort! Besides birding and hiking along the boardwalk, you can rent a canoe and head out on the Hillsborough River.
Travel safe. Have fun!