The photo gallery attached to this post shows scads of endangered wood storks searching for food early one morning. Where did I take these shots? On a sojourn to their breeding grounds in the Corkscrew Swamp of Florida? The inner reaches of a National Wildlife Management Area? On a boat trip to one of our secluded barrier islands?
Nope, nope and nope.
I just stopped on the side of the road.
Theres a little pool, probably no more than a quarter-acre, at the intersection of S.C. 802 and Meridian Road on Ladys Island that attracts wood storks and other wading birds many mornings this time of year. You don't have to hike a mile, whack your way through underbrush or douse yourself in insect repellent to see them. Just follow the sidewalk.
Its a veritable drive-through window for birders, and it offers an up-close look at an endangered species, no less.
If watching critters work helps you relax it does me wood storks make for pretty good therapy. They have an unusual feeding method National Geographic describes it as a underwater mouse trap in which they skim their open bills along shallow bottoms and wait for a fish to swim by. If something ventures in, their jaws snap shut.
The storks I noticed on this particular trip didn't seem to catch much, though. One paraded about proudly with a stick in his mouth for 10 minutes or so, and a few of the other birds seemed genuinely jealous. But that was about the extent of the haul.
I also noticed these birds perhaps because they are accustomed to the passing traffic? were less skittish than the ones I've encountered while kayaking. Although clearly aware of my presence, these birds simply moved to the opposite side of the pool as I approached, rather than flying away.
Other birds inhabited the same pool, so you get a sense of the contrast in various birds' hunting methods for instance, a stealthy little tri-colored heron stalked the edge of the pond and darted at his prey, rather than waiting for it to swim in his mouth. A snowy egret also plopped himself in the middle of the wood storks and stood there ... at least until a couple of the storks shooed them away with their bills.
I watched for 45 minutes or so and would have stayed longer, but I had my own work to do that lawn wasnt going to mow itself.