Monday, November 28, 2016

Ding Darling

Monday November 28th

Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Last February we had a surprise visitor hanging out with the American White Pelicans at  the Wildlife Drive at Ding Darling on Sanibel Island. For two or three day a Great White Pelican, a native from the Old World, was a star attraction.  I don't believe that its provenance has been determined yet or were it went off to, but it did draw a lot of attention.

Back in January, 2010 we experienced a terrible cold spell which resulted it a great deal of damage to agriculture and to wildlife. We had major fish kills, which decimated the local snook population and had even effected larger cold sensitive animals such as sharks, sea turtles and manatees. Even iguanas fell frozen from the trees. And at Ding Darling the cold is suspected in the death of Wilma, an old, rare, female American Crocodile. She was another star attraction at Ding, as she was the only American Crocodile found on the Gulf Coast. Today, her bones are on display at the visitor center.

In the Spring we come out to Ding in search of Mangrove Cuckoos, Black-whiskered Vireos and migrating songbirds. The last couple of year we had another star attraction with a lone White-Crowned Pigeon taking advantage of the Tropical Hardwood Hammock found along the Shell Mound Trail. 

Right now we are seeing some interesting waterfowl making rare appearances at Ding. Last Saturday a lone Long-tailed Duck was photographed along the Wildlife Drive and last weak we have a report of a Brant.  Both appear to be one day wonders. I didn't expect to find anything unusual today, but you never know. 

I arrived at low tide, which is very important for your best wildlife observation experience. We had hundreds of wading birds - White Ibis, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Reddish Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Yellow-Crowned Night-herons, Little Blue Herons, Roseate Spoonbills, and Wood Storks. There were dozens of American White Pelicans, Brown Pelicans, Double-Crested Cormorants, Pied-billed Grebes and Blue-winged Teal.  We also had Anhinga, Osprey, Magnificent Frigatebird, Vultures, Laughing Gulls, a Ring-billed Gull, Willets, Greater Yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstones, Semipalmated Plovers, Black-bellied Plovers, Dunlin and  Least Sandpipers . E-Bird Report
Great Egret

 Also saw a lot of Mullets, Both living and dead.  As the tide was moving in a large number of dead and blotted mullets came into the lagoons. This speaks of a fish kill from a recent Red Tide incident in the waters around Sanibel.

An American White and a Brown Pelican

An Immature Little Blue Heron

Reddish Egret Sporting a Tracking Radio

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Looking for Birds

Wednesday November 23rd

Well it seems that I am not a very good birder.  Through out the year I've  chased after many interesting birds.  Many I was able to see, but those misses can be so disappointing and annoying.
American White Pelicans
Yesterday, I toured birding venues around Pasco County were so many interesting birds are being reported.  Started out at Hudson Beach Park. I hadn't been here since I was kid back in the 60s. Back then, my family took our yearly  vacation to visit my Grandparents, who lived in New Port Ricky. We spent a lot of time at Hudson Beach. That was before much of anything had been developed out there. The beach was really just a rocky shoreline, where we caught tiny blowfish and sea horses. There was a cinder block snack shop on site and there was very little shade. Our sunburns were terrible.

I arrived at Hudson Beach at seven-thirty to a much more modern beach setting. The air was cool and Monk Parakeets were squeaking nearby. Was hoping to be successful in adding my name to the list of birders who have sighted a rare-to-Florida Red-necked Grebe. Well after an hour of scanning, it appeared that I had dipped. There was a grebe, but it seemed to me to be a Horned Grebe. A trio of Buffleheads (first of the season for me), a pair of Bald Eagles perched together on  signage in the channel and some Mallards were present.
American Bittern
From here I went twelve mile north to Bayport Park and Jenkins Creek Park for the female Brewer's Blackbird. This lone Brewers has been a reliable winter visitor to this location for a few years now always in the company of Boat-tail Grackles. Back in February, Bob Pelkey and I dipped on this bird, and now I dipped on it again. Several birders reported seeing it at Bayport on the same day as my visit. Interesting birds seen here included an American Bittern at Bayport and a huge flock of American Pelicans soaring southward over Jenkins Creek.
Wood Storks
Plus a flock of resting Wood Storks at nearby Linda Pedersen Park

Next stop was Key Vista Nature Park in Holiday. Made a second stop at Hudson Beach Park first, were results were not better. Arrived at Key Vista Park a bit after eleven where I did, finally, see one of my target birds in a Red-breasted Nuthatch of maybe two. Not a Lifer for me , but the a first for me in Florida. Normally this species doesn't venture this far south in the winter, but several have now been reported in Alachua, Pasco and Pinellas Counties. Tried to get pics before they moved out of sight, but they were much to active. Another species that shouldn't be this far south was a confirmed Winter Wren.  I couldn't get a photo of the wren either but heard it several times close to the parking lot. Other interesting birds seen here included  a FOS Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Tufted Titmice.

Next stop was Philippe County Park in Safety Harbor. I've never been there before but it was quite nice. Came here to look for Brown Boobies know to seen resting on the power line towers located off-shore. Needed to use my scope, but could pick out at least three boobies among the scores of Double-crested Cormorants and Brown Pelicans on the furthest tower. Other interesting birds included Ospreys and a Bald Eagle.
Northern Harrier
A final stop was to look for the yellow-headed blackbird at Ackerman Park in Sarasota. It was supposed to be easy. Others had seen it that day. But I dipped. Interesting birds present included Brown-headed Cowbirds, a Northern Harrier and a few Northern Shovelers.
Brown-headed Cowbird
In reflection, it wasn't a bad trip.  But the most annoying thing about missing some of the birds, and you never get all of them, is that you can build up expectations based on all the successful results others have reported.

Just this past Monday I entered the Winkler Point section of Estero Bay Buffer State Park in Ft Myers. This is always a tough hike. Its usually wet and mucky, subject to hordes of mosquitoes and exposure to the elements can be draining. But the salt marshes here can host some very good birds.

Elected to give it try, based on some great, recent reports by friends on the bird activity here. The weather was good that day, cool with a light breeze, and there was no insect activity. But I could not replicate my friends list. Did see the hundred-plus American Avocets in the bay and a few Blue-winged Teal, a Green-winged Teal, Cooper's Hawk and heard a Clapper Rail,  but that was about all.

So, its actual quite unimportant, to fall a little short. Look for satisfaction in what you have accomplished. 
So What Kind of Grebe IS This?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Some of the Faces at Six-Mile Cypress

Wednesday, November 9th

Gray Squirrel
Today I spent about an hour at the Six-Mile Cypress Slough boardwalk. Basically was interested in a bit of walking and a bit of photography. The weather was nice, the light was good and the parking lot was quite full.

Double-Crested Cormorant


Carolina Wren

Red-Bellied Woodpecker dining on Dahoon Holly berries

Downy Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

A Napping Black-Crowned Night-Heron

Florida Banded Watersnake

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Tuesday November 1st

Sometimes, for fun, I like to spend a day on a Birding Blitz. Today the weather was nice, so spent about eight hours hitting venues around Lee County. Set a goal of sighting one hundred species and did find a few interesting ones, but only tallied seventy-five.
Sandhill Cranes at Harns Marsh

Purple Gallinule at Harns Marsh
Several of the venues were not very birdy, and actually dipped on some common species, like Blue Jays and Catbirds. Some other birds I expected to find, but missed included Ruddy Turnstone, Wilson's Plover, Reddish Egret, Common Ground-Dove, Red-headed Woodpecker and Eastern Meadowlarks. 

Gray-headed Swamphen at Harns Marsh

Red-Shouldered Hawk in Lehigh Acres
Some of the good sightings included Florida Scrub Jays in Lehigh Acres, a Coopers Hawk at the Wellington Road Red-headed Woodpecker Colony (no woodpeckers were present though.), Marsh Wren, Gray-headed Swamphen and Purple Gallinule at Harns Marsh, first-of-the season Dunlins at Bunche Beach and the Peregrine Falcon at the Pink Shell Resort on Ft Myers Beach.

Might repeat this event around the end of the month. More wintering species will be present. Maybe I could exceed the century mark

Today's List
Dunlin at Bunche Beach
Ring-necked Ducks at Harns Marsh

Mottled Duck at Harns Marsh
Short-billed Dowitcher

Friday, October 14, 2016

Snow Birds are Arriving

Friday October 14th

As our Fall Migration experience begins to wan, we are welcoming the arrival of our wintering snow birds.  Not just the retires fleeing the pending cold and snow, but those bird species that arrive here for the same reason.

Some of this week's Birding

Brown-headed Nuthatch at Babcock-Webb

As a change from watching for migrating passerines, I spent a couple days looking for some of our resident species. Last Monday, after completing a doctor's appoint in Cape Coral, I sought the Cape's more special species.  

Eastern Meadowlark at Festival Park

Florida Scrub Jay at Festival Park
Namely the Florida Scrub Jays at the Festival Park Neighborhood where a large and unexpected covey of Northern Bobwhites was flushed. And then the Burrowing Owls and Monk Parakeets at the ball fields on Pelican Boulevard. Nearby Rotary Park as been a hot spot this season, but was very quite on a short visit.

Loggerhead Shrike
On Tuesday, visited Babcock-Webb WMA in Charlotte County. Arrived at sunrise at the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Colony on Oil-Well Grade. This location has been disappointing lately as it appears that this woodpecker cluster has dropped to a single RCW. Today this individual could be heard as it exited his hole, but immediately flew away from my direction. Eastern Towhees,  and Eastern Meadowlarks were very quite and few were encountered. No Bobwhites, Brown Thrashers or Sandhill Cranes were head or seen. Did see and hear several newly arrived House Wrens. Got nice views of a couple of Brown-headed Nuthatches and spotted both a Northern Harrier and a Sharp-shinned Hawk. Palm and Pine Warbles were everywhere as well as Common Warblers, Downy Woodpeckers, Eastern Bluebirds and Belted Kingfishers.
Burrowing Owl at Pelican Blvd Ball Fields

Red-shouldered Hawk at Rotary Park
From Babcock, I spent a few minutes to check-out the pond located in a pasture just south of the Punta Gorda Airport, that can sometimes host some very nice bids.  Today only found a few Mottled Ducks, a Lesser Yellowlegs and a Western Sandpiper
Mottled Duck

Then on to check-out Kiwanis Park in Port Charlotte. This venue had recently hosted some coveted migrants, including rare in peninsular Florida, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Philadelphia Vireo, Black-billed Cuckoo and Golden-winged Warbler.  But I failed to get here in time to see these species, (had to work) before favorable winds arrived to push these guys across the Gulf of Mexico as they trek south. arriving about noon, the park was quite. few species on hand. Did sight my FOS Eastern Phoebe, an American Redstart and a family of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. I had never been here before, but will add it to my stops in the future. 

Northern Flicker at Babcock-Webb

Wintering Birds are Arriving

Most all of the expected shorebirds seen wintering at Bunche Beach, save Dunlins and wintering gull species, are on hand. Elsewhere, we're seeing the numbers of Palm Warblers growing and Eastern Phoebes, Common Yellow-throats, Pied-billed Grebes, Tree Swallows, Northern Harriers  and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are just arriving. as well. Still waiting on the arrival of Yellow-rumped Warblers, Blue-headed Vireos, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets.

Gater at Babcock-Webb

Eastern Phoebe at Kiwanis Park in Port Charlotte

Black-bellied Whistling Duck at Kiwanis Park
So too will be the arrival of wintering waterfowl. Blue-winged Teal are already here and in the weeks ahead we'll see Ring-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaups and Northern Shovelers. Even later we'll see Red-breasted Mergansers, Horned Grebes, Common Loons, Gadwall, Ruddy Ducks and hopefully a couple of Snow Geese.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Birding in September

Tuesday, October 2nd


The Birding this September along the boardwalk at Six-mile Cypress Slough Preserve has been quite rewarding. Were not seeing any great fall-outs, but there has been a steady movement of birds passing through. Acadian Flycatchers and Eastern Wood-Pewees are seen almost daily. But perhaps one those Black-billed Cuckoos or Yellow-bellied Flycatchers or a Philadelphia Vireo may yet stop by. They are unusual sightings along the Florida peninsula, but are being reported at migrant hotspot to our North.

One recently seen, but infrequent species to observe here were multiple sighting of  a couple of Canada Warblers. 

Baltimore Oriole
Photo courtesy of Tammy 
The earlier arriving species like Louisiana and Northern Waterthrushes have been passing through as have Ovenbirds, 
Black-and-White Warblers,
Yellow Warblers, 
Worm-eating Warblers, 
Summer Tanagers, 
Yellow-throated Vireos, 
Red-eyed Vireos,
Yellow-billed Cuckoos, 
Hooded Warblers, 
Northern Parulas, 
Prairie Warbler, 
Yellow-throated Warblers and 
Prothonotary Warblers. 
The Prothonotary Warblers were seen in very good numbers in August, but have become uncommon lately. 

Louisiana Waterthrush
We're now enjoying sightings of Blackburnian Warblers, 
Tennessee Warblers, 
American Redstarts, 
Swainson's Thrush, 
Coopers Hawk, 
Baltimore Orioles, 
Blue-winged Warbler, 
Bay-breasted Warbler, 
Chestnut-sided Warbler, 
Black-throated Blue Warbler, 
Black-throated Green Warbler, 
Magnolia Warbler, 
Pine Warbler and Palm Warbler

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Eastern Wood Pewee

Canada Warbler
But perhaps one those Black-billed Cuckoos or Yellow-bellied Flycatchers or a Philadelphia Vireo may yet stop by. They are unusual sightings along the Florida peninsula, but are being reported at migrant hotspots to our North. 

American Redstart
This Bobolink was photographed at Harns Marsh,
but they can heard as they fly over Six-mile