King of the Dump
If you are birding in South Florida, you must go to the dump, Dump Marsh that is. Situated behind a massive landfill, dubbed Mt. Trashmore by local residents, are two marshes, an east and a west pond. On a good day, a sweet tropical wind blows from the ocean to the southeast, but should the wind shift to the north you’d better have a clothespin for your nose. Once you pass by waste management buildings and huge water processing tanks tucked behind barbed wire topped chain link fence you’ll discover a piece of Florida from time past.
Native plants, wildflowers, albeit with some exotics, surround the marsh boundaries.
Cattails rustle with redwing blackbirds and a variety of visiting warblers frequent the bushes. Just look around and you will probably spot a red-shouldered hawk, osprey, or even a bald eagle. If the water level is low enough, shorebirds ply the shallows. As dusk nears, herons, egrets, and ibis fly in to roost in the surrounding trees and bushes. Have you ever heard the velvet rush of dozens of wings wash over you? It is a memorable brush of peace. Oh yes, an alligator even cruises the wetland much to the peril of moorhens, coots, and ducks.
Recently, a visitor from afar spotted the marsh and decided to stay awhile.
Local birders were delighted and soon word spread, bringing like-minded enthusiasts from all over the state. The guest, a tropical kingbird from southeastern Arizona, had wandered quite a distance from its usual south-of-the-border wintering grounds. A large flycatcher with a bit of a superiority complex, it found an abundant supply of dragonflies among other insects and decided to stay. Immediately the tropical kingbird established territory and took up reign atop the area’s barbed wire fences and electric wires.
Fortunately, for birders bearing long lenses, it quite cooperatively posed on barbed wire between forays for tasty insects and obligatory territorial challenges to loggerhead shrikes and a lone western kingbird.
If you visit South Florida, do not forget the dump. You never know, you might meet the King.