Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Upland Sandpipers

Tuesday, August 23rd

Its been three years, but I've finally succeeded in sighting Upland Sandpipers. I had dipped on the species the past two years, but today Bob Pelkey and I arrived at the correct sod farm for some rather distant views. This field, south of South Bay, in the Everglades Ag Area, had been well documented on eBird of reports of Uppie sightings. Other grass-peeps were several small flocks of Pectoral Sandpipers.
Upland Sandpiper

On the way back to Ft Myers we stopped at  the Barn Owl Cypress Stand at the junction of Miami Canal Road and Bolles Canal Road were we have on occasion actually seen a barn owl. We maybe, kinda-sorta spotted the flash of white wings of a large bird fleeing the scene that may or may not have been a barn owl. It probably was one, but maybe it wasn't. Just don't know for sure. Further investigation failed to reveal any other sight or sound of the elusive birds. So we settled for an Eastern Kingbird, a couple of Prairie Warblers, a couple Gnatcatchers and a bunch of Barn Swallows. 
Crested Caracara

Other sightings on the day included Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, snoozing Common Nighthawks, Wood Storks, Crested Caracaras, Belted Kingfishers and Sandhill Cranes

Monday, August 22, 2016

Chasing Pelagics

Monday, August 21st
Atlantic Spotted Dolphins

Enthusiastic birders, Dave and Tammy McQuade, have actively been  engaged in the search for pelagics out in The Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf is not known for the type of off-shore birding one can experience off Cape Hatteras or Monterey Bay, but Dave and Tammy have been finding the unexpected.  Last year they encountered a juvenile Red-footed Booby and last month an Arctic Tern.

Sooty Tern

I was invited to join them on there boat for this month's sojourn. Yesterday, we left the dock at 6:30 AM in Ft Myers with the added company of Eary and Jennifer Warren. The plan was to search the waters off Lee County, with investigations targeted toward the known reefs and wrecks. Shearwaters and Storm-Petrels were a part of today's target list along with pelagic terns and any migrating neo-tropics. 

Our list for the day was rather short on the pelagics. For me, the sighting of a Band-rumped Storm-Petrel was a lifer and the juvenile Magnificent Frigatebirds, Sooty Terns, Bridled Terns and Black Terns rounded out the day. As for migrants, we saw Cliff and Barn Swallows, plus Hooded and Prothonotary Warblers

Immature Sooty Tern

Other wildlife included a very large pod of leaping Atlantic Spotted Dolphins and several Bottlenose Dolphins. A couple of Loggerhead Turtles were spotted as well as a Leatherback Turtle. And watching the Flying Fish skim across the surface of the water helped to fill time time between bird sightings

Atlantic Spotted Dolphins

Notable was the absence any gulls, pelicans or royal terns till we actually were approaching the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River was we were returning in the late afternoon. 

I really appreciate the invitation from Dave and Tammy and wish them luck is their quest to hit 600 birds for this year. Fifty to go.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Fall Migration Has Started

Monday August 15th

Six-Mile Cypress Slough Preserve - Ft Myers, Florida

Yellow Rat Snake -
A commonly seen reptile at Six-mile
Six-mile Cypress is one of our better Fall Migration hot spots in Lee County for the neo-tropical migrants. And this week there numbers have really stepped-up. From the end of July till now we have seen a steady stream of the early migrating species such as  Black-and-White Warblers and Northern Parulas. A few Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Red-eyed Vireos and Yellow Throated Warblers too. 

This week we have seen a influx of additional warblers including Yellow, Hooded, Prothonotaries, Prairies, American Red-starts, Louisiana Waterthrush, Northern Waterthrush and Ovenbirds, We have also had a couple of Kentucky Warblers show-up. They are very uncommon in our area.
Kentucky Warbler

Summer Tanager, Eastern Wood-Pewee and Acadian Flycatcher have all recently been seen. Common Yellowthroats, Swainson's Warbler and Worm-eating are still expected.  Other species that have recently arrived locally, but in other habitats include Belted Kingfisher, Barn Swallows and Piping Plovers 
Carolina Wren

Red-shouldered Hawk

Northern Parula

Armadillos have been digging in the butterfly garden
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

Eastern Swallowtail Butterfly

Northern Parula

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
White Ibis

Cuban Brown Anole

Black-and-White Warblers are very common lately

Monday, August 8, 2016

Red Knots at Bunche Beach

Monday, August 8th
Red Knot at Bunche Beach

Black-bellied Plover
Visited Bunche Beach this morning during a cooperative, low tide, to look for new arrivals from the Short-billed Dowitchers with maybe a few Long-billed Dowitchers mixed in, many still in their alternate plumages. Also many Western. Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers. A flock of five Spotted Sandpipers were hanging together and a flock or kettle of seven Osprey were soaring over the bay. Saw my FOS Kingfisher.  But missed any whimbrels or black terns which are being reported on Carlos Point on Ft Myers Beach. 
northern breeding grounds. Saw  a great many

There a few Black Skimmers, Willets, Wilson's Plover, Piping Plovers, an
Piping Plover
American Oystercatcher,
lots of Semipalmated Plovers, a couple of Ruddy Turnstones, Barn Swallows swooping along the beach, some Black-belled Plovers, Sanderlings and Marbled Godwits.

Then a flock of Red Knots, still showing some of their alternate plumage, flew in and began actively foraging. Tried to call in any yellow warblers, which are also being reported in the area, but only got a nice Prairie Warbler. It was a nice visit.

Red Knot

Red Knots

Red Knots

Wilson's Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover


Piping Plover

Short-billed Dowitcher
Marbled Godwit

Least Sandpiper

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Bowditch Point - Ft Myers Beach

Wednesday, August 3rd

Spent an hour this morning at Bowditch Point Park on Ft Myers Beach just to do some birding. Part of the beach is roped off due to a dredging project, but a good sampling of peeps were still in-hand.
The Great Away heading out into the Gulf for some grouper fishing
My son was once a mate on this vessel.

Started to visit with a pair of Gray Kingbirds on the wires just outside of the park. On the beach were three large concentrations of resting sandpipers. It appears that hundreds of Western Sandpipers had arrived along with a few FOS Piping Plovers. Among these birds were also many Wilson's Plovers, Semipalmated Plovers, Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones and a lone Snowy Plovers.

Other beach birds present included Least Terns. Laughing Gulls, Sandwich Terns, Royal Terns, a few Brown Pelicans, a pair of Marbled Godwits, Short-billed Dowitchers and Willets. The White-morphed Reddish Egret with the tracking radio was also here today.
Black-bellied Plover

White-Morphed Reddish Egret

FOS Piping Plover

Piping Plover

Least Tern

Short-billed Dowitcher

Snowy Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Wilson's Plover

Western Sandpiper


Banded Piping Plover

The park also has a Gopher Tortoise refuge.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Browns Farm Road

Monday, August 1st

From page 212 in the ABA Bird Guide 'A Birder's Guide to Florida' by Bill Pranty, is a brief narrative concerning birding on Brown's Farm Road. This narrow road breaks off from cr-880 a few miles south of Belle Glade in what is referred to as the Everglades Agricultural Area. Come late summer and into Fall, the sugar, rice and sod fields here, can be a great place to find migrating grass peeps and shorebirds. A major attraction for these birds are the flooded cane fields. The farmers will flood these fields between crops to kill off nematodes and other root attaching pests, and the migrating shorebirds flock to these man-made wetlands.
Gull-billed Tern

Currently, near the northern terminus to Browns' Farm Road is a very large flooded field were some early shorebirds have arrived including several Wilson's Phalaropes.  These phalaropes are very uncommon in Florida and there appearance here was an inspiration for Bob Pelkey and I to visit  today. 
Wilson's Phalarope with a Semipalmated Sandpiper

Wilson's Phalaropes
We arrived about 9 AM and met Peter Hawrylyshy and Robert Lewis who had already had eyes on the phalaropes. The birds were a distance out but we could clearly see there twirling movements as the feed. Other species present included Wood Storks, a Roseate Spoonbill, Black-necked Stilts, American Avocets, Black-belled Plovers, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstone, a lone Stilt Sandpiper, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers,Laughing Gulls, Gull-billed Terns, Black Terns and a Re-shouldered Hawks. This site did lack waterfowl and white pelicans and only a few wading birds. This a nearby colony of Cliff and Cave Swallows at a small cement bridge over the canal on cr-880. We also checked-out the nearby Six-bend Sod Farm for grass peeps, but its still early yet and the sod fields were quite.  The Uppies should be arriving in a couple of weeks.

Black-necked Stilt
Photo by Bob Pelkey

Stilt Sandpiper

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Earlier we did some investigating along Brown's Farm Road for any other hot spots. We were able to locate Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling Ducks, more Black-necked Stilts, Mottled Ducks, Common Gallinule, Solitary Sandpipers, Killdeer, a lone Pectoral Sandpiper, Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned Night-herons, Common Nighthawks, Anhingas, a lone American White Pelican, Barn and Cliff Swallows, Glossy and White Ibis, various waders, White-winged, Mourning, Eurasian Collared and Ground Doves, Eastern Meadowlarks, Red-shouldered Hawk, a very high count on Green Herons and a great many Brown Cowbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds and Boat-tailed Grackles. 

Solitary Sandpiper
While on the phone with Dave McQuaid for an up-date on directions, we had a Gull-billed Tern right past the car. We managed to get a few pictures as a trio of the terns made several passes up and down the canal as they hunted.

Photo by Bob Pelkey

Barn Swallow 
Black-bellied Whistling Duck

White-winged Dove

Brown-headed Cowbird

Least Sandpiper

Glossy Ibis

Shiny Cowbird
There was one more stop to make after finishing up at  Brown's Farm Road and that was to visit Belle Glade Marina on Torry Island, just a few north at Lake Okeechobee. Here, we are after a pair of Shiny Cowbirds, but we hit a snag.  Seems that the bridge providing access to Torry Island was under repair and would be closed for most of the day, except between Noon and One PM. We had almost a forty-five minute wait, but it was worth it. The male Shiny Cowbird was easily located within a few short minutes. We dipped in the orchard orioles and eastern kingbirds, but did see a Cooper's Hawk, Pileated Woodpecker, Limpkin  and a Great Egret which after reviewing its photo may possibly be a White Great Heron based on the leg color.

Is this a Great Egret or Great White Heron?

Apple Snail shell at Belle Glade Marina.
 No doubt refuse from a Limpkin's meal

Other sightings on the day included Swallow-tailed Kites, Ospreys, Crested Caracara, Red-tailed Hawk Chimney Swift and Fish Crows.  I'd have to say that a return trip is necessary after migration heats up.