11 August 2011
Swaro CL Test Drive
With my new Swarovski CLs in hand I decided that an all day field test was in order. Since it's shorebird season I figured a good place to start was in Western Palm Beach County, FL. This area is known for shorebirds starting in August but shorebirds are easy to spot any time of day so for my first CL test drive I thought going to a new park would be the best way to start the day.
Kimmie met me at 6AM and we headed west to Dupuis Wildlife Management Area. Along the way we saw some typical Florida landscapes like fields of cows and stands of pines. Most people think of South Florida as a highly developed area that encroaches on the Everglades but if you're in the central part of the state above the Everglades you will find lots of agricultural land that has a very Central Florida feel.
Once in the park we started our bird list. For the most part the place was pretty quiet but we did have nice looks of Downy Woodpeckers and Red-shouldered Hawks. The CLs were performing well in the early day light. I had nice crisp views in the low light areas. One minor annoyance for me with the binoculars were all the lense covers. So I removed the top covers altogether. This allowed much faster use as we were in and out of the car.
The Ocean to Land section of the Florida Trail runs right through Dupuis WMA. The orange blazes were easy to spot as it crossed the road.
The best of the morning was an Eastern Towhee. Now I know what you must think, a towhee is a common yard bird but in South Florida, this isn't true. To see things like towhees and Carolina Wrens you must head out into the more quiet areas of wildlife management areas.
One of the best parts of the park was an area of prescribed burn. I loved the contrast of browns and greens near the road. This practice had recently been implemented and parts of the park had that nice smoky taste in the air. I scoped the pines but saw little more than some Common Ground-doves.
The driving road dead-ended at a small pond. With my new CLs I had great looks at a mating frenzy of dragonflies. The shorelines were swarming with these winged animals and it was a nice sight to find at this bird less area. The CLs did well focusing close as the dragonfiles darted around me.
Once we left Dupuis WMA we decided to head south to the agricultural fields. Along the way we took a small detour to Lake Okeechobee. Now in my experience, the lake is a hard thing to see first hand. I've driven to a few "lake" parks but mostly you see a canal that runs the border of the lake. But there is a small bridge north of Pahokee, FL that gives you an eagle eye view of the biggest lake in Florida.
We took a drive up on the dyke and found ourselves looking at a small island. This is the best Lake Okeechobee look I've ever had. And thanks to my bins I was able to spot a large alligator cruising the bank. The shot below was done by digibinning the gator through my CLs. Not bad for long distance snapshot. I was aided by resting my bins on the ledge of the car window. With minimal hand shake it was a nice photo (not great, but identifiable).
With our lake views behind us we drove south through Pahokee. For those that haven't seen the small rural areas of Palm Beach County you are in for a stark contrast to the rich affluent areas near the beach. This area is dotted with Palm Trees very much like the wealthy Worth Avenue in Palm Beach but instead of designer shops you will find old abandoned school buses and small little bait and grocery shops.
Kimmie and I stopped at a questionable gas station diner and ordered a plate of alligator nuggets, fried catfish, and fries. I could hear the arteries clogging but the food wasn't bad. The atmosphere was a bit too run-down to fully enjoy the meal but it was entertaining to say the least.
With meals consumed we headed to the shorebird areas near Belle Glade, Florida. You will have to come back next week to get the full installment of birds seen. For now I'll leave you with a photo of a typical field in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). This shot shows you the border of sod field and sugarcane field. These are the primary crops that you can find in Western Palm Beach.