I caught this Anhinga as he was climbing out of the water onto an Alligator ramp. This waterway is a canal along the edge of an old rice field impoundment that attracts many fish eating birds.
Anhingas feathers are not waterproof which helps them to swim and hunt low in the water but also means they have to leave the water to dry off.
You can see the gular pouch extending below. Similar to a pelican’s pouch, this skin between the beak and neck helps the bird “open wide” and swallow much larger fish than you might expect.
I haven’t seen an Anhinga do this while drying off and am not sure what he was up to. I waited awhile to see, but like many of the water birds these fellows can spend a long time doing nothing and I lose interest or get distracted by something more interesting.
A few Royal Terns have been coming regularly to one of the old rice field ponds to feed. Terns are extremely skillful flyers and I watched two of them for an entertaining 45 minutes, making loops around the pond and occasionally out over the Ashley River.
The terns were constantly turning their heads and changing direction. When they spot a fish in the water they hover.
They go completely under water.
And if all goes well, come up with a fish!
Up and away!
Interestingly, the two terns then flew together out over the river. They got too far away to tell if the fishless bird was trying to steal the meal or if they were sharing.
There is a touch of fall color in the “skinny tree” which earlier this year hosted one Great Blue Heron and several Great Egret families. Now the tree serves as an occasional landing spot for a passing bird.
This Anhinga chose it as a drying off spot and executed a smooth landing.
He then turned his back to the sun and spread his wings to dry off.
We are seeing more flocks of honking Canada Geese in the sky, a sure sign that fall migrations aren’t far off. These four were part of a flock of about twenty that appeared to be trying to get into formation. They were not successful and ultimately circled noisily back and landed where they started.
A flock of American White Pelicans was standing in a line as the sun came up over this shallow pond. The water was not deep enough for them to dive for fish so I was expecting them to take off any minute to look for breakfast.
I positioned myself to hopefully catch them taking off. Instead, they quietly preened as a few Roseate Spoonbills and Wood Storks did the same.
They moved very little in the 90 minutes I was at this pond. Unfortunately they didn’t like it so much that they had repeated this routine when I returned a few days later.