St. John Tradewinds News

Connecting with Nature: Drama in the Black Mangroves

What a joy to see the great egrets again, chasing each other around in the pond below my house in Fish Bay. I knew most of the black mangrove trees had been stripped of leaves and blown over, but didn’t know how the birds had fared.

When I arrived I saw there was some water in the pond, and one day there were five great egrets down there at once. These seem to be resident birds because they have the long feathery frills and green patches on their faces that indicate they are breeding.

The water attracted a variety of other birds too.

The clapper rails were particularly noisy, calling out to each other loudly, and easy to spot because the pond edges were so exposed.

A little blue heron came to fish in the pond.

And a gray kingbird perched on a dead branch, swooping out to catch bugs flying by – with plenty to choose from.

One morning I was very excited to see some movement by the edge of the pond that turned out to be a red-faced common gallinule (formerly called a common moorhen).

It was a mother and a baby. No wait, two babies.

They swam across the pond and then were hidden again. But not well enough. In a few minutes, I saw out of the corner of my eye a pearly-eyed thrasher flying by with a black fuzzy ball dangling from its sharp beak. Oh no! Immediately the mother gallinule went chasing after the kidnapper, clucking and crying out in the bushes where I couldn’t see what was happening.

Finally, I saw the mother creeping out of the bushes, and I imagined her heartbreak – but then I saw that miraculously both babies were with her.

Unfortunately, one baby was hopping – its leg seemed to have been injured during the thrasher capture.

The unrepentant thrasher watched from a branch.

I haven’t seen the gallinule family since then, so I don’t know if the baby recovered.

But I have seen green herons, and smooth-billed anis, adapting to the changed, less-leafed environment.

It has been great to see so many old friends still here, despite all the changes and turmoil.

Photos by Gail Karlsson. Gail is an environmental lawyer, and author of The Wild Life in an Island House, plus the guidebook Learning About Trees and Plants – A Project of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of St. John. uufstjohn.com/treeproject.  For more articles and local information, go to gvkarlsson.blogspot.com or www.fishbaywetlands.com.  Contact: gkarlsson@att.net Instagram:@gailkarlsson