After 35 years of birding, I finally encountered a limpkin within ten minutes of entering the Celery Fields Wetland Area, in Sarasota County; by the time we left the preserve, I had seen more than twenty. The reason for my success was also evident; the shells of large aquatic snails, among this wader's favorite prey, lined the canals and lakeshores.
Once a vast sawgrass marshland, the Celery Fields were drained for agriculture; in more recent decades, this lowland became Sarasota County's primarily floodwater control site. While its ponds, canals and wetlands continue to serve the latter purpose, Celery Fields has become renowned for its diverse avian population; in response, some of the wetlands have been restored to their natural state, access trails and boardwalks have been constructed and the 400 acre preserve will soon be home to the Audubon Society of Sarasota County. Birding at Celery Fields, which is located just east of I-75 and south of Fruitville Road, is especially rewarding during the winter months, when permanent residents are joined by migrants from the north.
On our visit this morning, we encountered almost every heron and egret that can be found in the Sunshine State. Other sightings included sandhill cranes, bald eagles, roseate spoonbills, wood storks, ospreys, common moorhens, white and glossy ibis, anhingas, brown pelicans, mottled ducks, hooded mergansers, least terns, marsh and sedge wrens, boat-tailed grackles and savannah sparrows. And, of course, the limpkins.