Thursday, February 2, 2017

Great White Pelican

Thursday February 2nd
Great White Pelican seen at Ding Darling in 2016

So cool to see that last years mysterious appearance of a Great White Pelican at Ding Darling NWR made a brief return this week. Those folks who arrived yesterday morning had an opportunity to experience her. But she did fly off around 11 am and did not return to the disappointment of the large crowd of motivated birders staking out the site today. 

But where has she been for the past year? No one reported any sightings, other than her appearances at Ding Darling.   The swelling of the skin around the the eyes is only seasonal, which means that the lack of this tell allows for the bird to more easily blend in with the American Great Pelicans.

And how did this specimen come to be here? Past investigations did not find any reports of an escapee.  Did it fly here? I doubt it.  Its a long way from its home range in Africa and Eurasia.  My theory is that it, like so many other exotic flora and fauna, arrived as a stow-away aboard some freighter or oil tanker.   

Compare the Great White Pelican to the American White Pelicans

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Harns Marsh

Wednesday February 1st

River Otter with its lunch

Headed over to Harns Marsh in Lehigh Acres for my monthly Lee County Bird Patrol survey for this venue and was rewarded with a fine day.  Spotted a nice male Snail Kite along Sunshine Parkway, near to arriving at Harns. They have become a bit scarce here lately.

At Harms, I started with a flock of American Robins accompanied by Red-belled Woodpecker, Gray Catbird, Mourning Doves, White-eyed Vireo, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. An aggressive pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks appeared to be driving off a young RSH at the vulture roost.

Gray-headed Swamphens were active along the walk with a couple of Purple Gallinules as well. While observing a River Otter munching on a sunfish, one off the purple gallinules came out to investigate what the otter was up too and quickly ran back to cover. Also present today were a large number of Common Gallinules, Pie-billed Grebes, American Coots, Grackles and Limpkins. Not very many Red-winged Blackbirds today.

River Otter
Due to lowering water levels the number of waders is increasing with Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Tricolored Herons, Roseate Spoonbills, Little Blue Herons, White Ibis and Glossy Ibis. The numbers of Blue-winged Teal seemed to also be increasing along with about sixty Ring-billed Ducks and a hand full of Mottled Ducks. Missed om any black-bellied whistling ducks, but was able to finally sight the lone male Ruddy Duck others have been reporting.

American Robin

Gray-headed Swamphen

Blue-winged Teal

Purple Gallinule

Ruddy Duck

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fort DeSoto Birds

Tuesday, January 17th

Ft DeSoto Park, in Tampa Bay, is a Go-To place to bird, especially during migration. Currently, though we have a couple of special birds there making it worthwhile for a day trip.

Smooth-billed Ani
We currently have a lone Smooth-billed Ani wintering on the island. This species comes into  Florida from populations in  Cuba. They have historically been uncommon in Florida, but there was a big increase in their population in the southern half of the state in the mid 20th century. However, starting in the 1970's their population has crashed and are now considered to be very uncommon today. So today, with my daughter Katie, come to Ft DeSoto to see the Ani.

Another uncommon species to spend the winter in Florida is the Lark Sparrow. A single bird is wintering on the island in the company of Palm Warblers. We did not see the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers that are being seen the campground entrance.

Besides the Ani and the Sparrow , we had some good looks at Red-breasted Mergansers and Nanday Parakeets.
Nanday Parakeets

Red-breasted Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
American White Pelican
Ospreys are extremely common here

Monday, January 16, 2017

Bunche Beach

Saturday, January 14th

Live Atlantic Giant Cockles were exposed today during an 
exceptionally low tide at Bunche Beach

A report of the sighting of a long-billed curlew, yesterday, led me to return to Bunche Beach today. Arriving just before dawn, I wasn't alone. Peter Hawrylyshyn and Meg Rousher have also arrived, as well as a couple of ladies here, taking advantage of an extremely low tide, to do some shelling.

As the day brightened, the low, low tide was exposing a lot of live 'shells'.  Primarily giant cockles and lightening welks. One lightening welk that the ladies found was at least a foot long and was involved in consuming a clam. These live 'shells' can not be collected. It is unlawful to collect live shells silver dollars or starfish in most south Florida waters

A pair of Brantley, rare to Florida, have taken 
up residency at Bunche Beach

The pair of rare-to-Florida Brants continue to be found at Bunche and can often be very tolerant of of observers and photographers. Hopefully they'll be hanging around for awhile.

Reddish Egret, note the antennae attached to this birds back 
and its leg band 

Common Tern
Ring-billed Gull
Wintering shorebirds, gulls, terns, American White Pelicans have been quite numerous.  A few Common and Caspian Terns have been reported, along with many Piping Plovers, Semipalmated and Black-bellied Plovers. Occasional a lone Bonaparte's Gull has show-up.  The same with Lesser and Greater Black-backed Gulls.

 Least Sandpipers and Red Knots can be seen on the exposed sea grasses and the exposed mud flats attract Black Skimmers, Laughing and Ring-billed Gulls, Royal, Sandwich and Forster's Terns, Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, Short-billed Dowitchers, Dunlins, spotted Sandpipers and Western Sandpipers. In the shallow waters we see Marbled Godwits, Willets, Reddish, Snowy and Little Blue Egrets, Tricolor Herons, Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibis and Brown Pelicans. In deeper water  a couple of Common Loons, a Horned Grebe and a half a dozen Black Scouters can sometimes be seen.  In the skies watch for Ospreys and Magnificent Frigatebirds as well as large flotillas of American White Pelicans. 

In the mangroves look for Yellow-crowned Night-herons and Belted Kingfishers. Palm Warblers Gnatcatchers are also present in the mangroves. Plus an Orange-crowned Warbler has been seen on a regular basis. I've made six attempts on sighting this small bird. 

Sandwich Terns

Red Knots

Piping Plover


Brown Pelican

Common Loon

Foster's Tern

Looking for Buffleheads

Monday January 16th

Yesterday, got an invitation from Dave McQuaid to join him and Tammy to look for  a pair of Buffleheads reported at Matlacha Pass. So Today, at about mid-morning we set out from the marina to explore the waters of Lee County in search of any sea ducks and other birds.
Herring Gulls
Spent about five hours on the water and it was evident that this there are far fewer sea ducks winter in Lee County. Only spotted  some  Lesser Scaups and about 29 Redheads. In previous seasons, we had rafts of these birds counting into the hundreds.  Don't know what is happening, perhaps their food sources have been diminished due to our recent water quality issues.
Common Loon
We counted sixteen Common Loons on the day and about the same number of Horned Grebes and Red-breasted Mergansers. Other expected species seen included American Oystercatchers, American White Pelicans, Brown Pelicans, Cormorants, Herring Gulls, Laughing Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, Caspian Terns, Royal Terns, White Ibis and lastly a juvenile Northern Gannet. Total misses included the Buffleheads, Scoters and Frigatebirds.

Caspian Tern with Ring-billed Gulls and Royal Terns

It was fun.  Thanks Dave and Tammy.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Lee County Blitz

Monday, January 2nd

Started a long day at day break from the parking area at Harn's Marsh Preserve.  Its a new year. A time for renewal.  A time to start a new list. Today will be a Lee County Blitz or a Big Day, to count as many bird species as possible in a day.  I did mine solo, which probably cost me a few ticks.
Ring-necked Duck
But at Harns Marsh, I ran into Meg Rouse, China Bont and Dick the photographer and together we had some good sightings. Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Purple Gallinules, Gray-headed Swamphens, Swamp Sparrow.
Florida Scrub Jay
From here I left the group and sought out the Florida Scrub Jays that can be found at 47th Street West in Lehigh Acres.

Then onto the pond on Homestead Road in Lehigh, were I added a Crested Caracara, Roseate Spoonbill, Least Sandpipers a Greater and a Lesser Yellowlegs.

Next was the Red-headed Woodpecker colony on Wellington Road in Lehigh, but I haven't spotted any of the woodpeckers here for some time. But I did find a  Sharp-shinned Hawk.
Sharp-Shinned Hawk

The White's feeders in Alva can be a great spot to find buntings, goldfinches and White-winged Doves. But not for me today. And the nearby Red-headed Woodpecker colony on Parkinson Road only revealed an American Kestrel.  No woodpeckers.

Maybe at the Caloosahatchee Regional Park there'll be a Red-headed Woodpecker or maybe a White-eyed Vireo.  Nope.  Moving on

Then I tried the Caloosahatchee Creek Park and again no woodpeckers or any thing else.

Finally at Pop Ash Creek Preserve there was a Red-headed Woodpecker.  Not much else.

Onto Cape Coral were I made a stop to see Bald Eagles at the Famous Pritchett Eagles Nest, as seen on the national news. Then to the Great Horned Owls nest on SW 22th Ct and the Monk Parakeet nests at the ball fields on Pelican Boulevard. But all through Cape Coral I never spotted a Burrowing Owl, which is unusual.
Great Horned Owl

Onto Ft Myers and found several Nanday Parakeets on Tufts Street. Then onto a spot along the river to look for any scaups. No ducks though.

Its starting to get late and I've missed the low tide, but headed over to Bunche Beach anyway.  The place was packed with folks enjoying a holiday outing. No point in even trying this venue. Missed a lot of birds by being late here.

Wrapped up the day with a walk on the board walk at Six-mileCypress Slough Preserve.  Again not many birds on hand. A long trying day with too many miles on the car. Looks like I hit on 79 birds. Short of the 100 count goal for the day.  My friends Dave and Eary were far more aggressive and managed a Lee County Big Day count of 134 species.
Nanday Parakeets

Day's Bird List (79) -

Black-crowned Night-heron
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Muscovy Duck, Wood Duck, Mottled Duck, Mallard x Mottled Duck (hybrid), Blue-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Wood Stork,  Magnificent Frigatebird, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Least Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Cattle Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Black Vulture,  Turkey Vulture,  Osprey,  Snail Kite,  Northern Harrier,  Sharp-shinned Hawk,  Bald Eagle,  Red-shouldered Hawk,  Purple Gallinule,  Gray-headed Swamphen,   Common Gallinule, American Coot, Limpkin, Sandhill Crane,  Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Great Horned Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, Monk Parakeet, Nanday Parakeet, Eastern Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Blue Jay, Florida Scrub-Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Tree Swallow,  Carolina Wren,  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Common Yellowthroat, Palm Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird and House Sparrow

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 in Review

December 31, 2016

This past year I had set a goal to observe at least 300 birds as in travels around Florida.  Bob Pelkey and I had traveled to the Panhandle region of the state and all the way south to the Florida Keys. We had some outstanding days like the Hummingbird House in Tallahassee, the Mississippi and Swallow-tailed Kites massing near Belleview in Marion County or chasing Wilson's Phalaropes on Browns Farm Road

Purple Sandpiper at Ponce Inlet

We also had a few Lifers seen in our own backyard. There was the American Flamingo at Bunche Beach and the Great White Pelican that sent a couple of days at Ding Darling on Sanibel. Down in Naples at Freedom Park was a, rare to Florida, Broad-winged Hummingbird. The Yellow-breasted Chat had been a nemesis bird for me till I was able to finally, see the one that visited Sugden Park in Naples.An extremely rare visitor to this state was a Pacific Golden-Plover seen on a sod farm in Palm Beach County. Then there was those hummingbirds in Tallahassee were I had lifers in a Calliope Hummers and a Black-chinned Hummingbird. This past winter a small flock of Vaux's Swifts could be seen on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville. Out on the Gulf of Mexico, as a guest of Dave and Tammy McQuade, in  a search for  pelagic species I add a lifer in a Band-tailed Storm-Petrel. On Long Key State Park was my first ever pair of Connecticut Warblers and a pair of Orange-winged Amazons in Coral Gables.

Vermilion Flycatcher at St Marks NWR

That goal of 300 birds did come up  two birds short. It wasn't for a lack of trying. Some of the species I chased and dipped on included Gadwall, Canvasback, White-tailed Kite, Franklin's Gull, Zenaida Dove (stacked this bird out twice), Smooth-billed Ani, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Cuban Pewee, Brown Creeper and Lapland Longspur. Maybe 2017 could be better.

Year List - 2016 (298)

1   Muscovy Duck - Florida

2   Wood Duck

3   Mottled duck

4   Wood stork

5   Double-crested Cormorant

6   Anhinga

7   Great Blue Heron

8   Great Egret

9   Little Blue Heron

10  Cattle Egret

11  Black-crowned Night-heron

12  White Ibis

13  Black Vulture

14  Red-shouldered Hawk

15  Common Gallinule

16  Ring-billed Gull

17  Mourning Dove

18  Roseate Spoonbill

19  Barred Owl

20  Belted Kingfisher

21  Red-bellied Woodpecker

22  Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

23  Downy Woodpecker

24  American Kestrel

25  White-eyed Vireo

26  Blue-headed Vireo

27  Blue Jay

28  Fish Crow

29  Tufted Titmouse

30  House Wren

31  Carolina wren

32  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

33  Eastern Bluebird

34  American Robin

35  Gray Catbird

36  Northern Mockingbird

37  Black-and-White Warbler

38  Common Yellowthroat

39  Palm Warbler

40  Yellow-rumped Warbler

41  Northern Cardinal

42  Common Grackle

43  Pied-billed Grebe

44  Turkey Vulture 

45  Killdeer

46  Snowy Egret

47  Horned Grebe

48  American White Pelican

49  Brown Pelican

50  Tricolored Heron

51  Reddish Egret

52  Yellow-crowned Night-heron

53  Osprey

54  Bald Eagle

55  Black-bellied Plover

56  Wilson's Plover

57  Semipalmated Plover  

58  Piping Plover

59  Spotted Sandpiper

60  Willet

61  Marbled Godwit

62  Sanderling

63  Dunlin

64  Least Sandpiper

65  Short-billed Dowitcher

66  Laughing Gull

67  Black Skimmer

68  Blue-winged Teal

69  Ring-necked Duck

70  Snail Kite

71  Northern Harrier

72  American Coot

73  Limpkin

74  Sandhill Cranes

75  Crested Caracara

76  Eastern Phoebe

77  Marsh Wren

78  Swamp Sparrow

79  Red-winged Blackbird

80  Boat-tailed Grackle

81  Indigo Bunting

82  Painted Bunting

83  America Goldfinch

84  House Sparrow

85  Red-headed Woodpecker

86  Green Heron

87  Glossy Ibis

88  European Starling

89  Red-tailed Hawk

90  Eastern Whip-poor-will

91  Tree Swallow

92  Western Sandpiper

93  Ruddy Turnstone

94  Eurasian Collared-Dove

95  Rock Pigeon

96  Burrowing Owl

97  Loggerhead Shrike

98  Florida Scrub Jay

99  Eastern Meadowlark

100 Monk Parakeet

101 American Wigeon

102 Lesser Scaup

103 Bufflehead

104 Red-breasted Merganser

105 Ruddy Duck

106 Short-tailed Hawk

107 American Avocet

108 Greater Yellowlegs

109 Lesser Yellowlegs

110 Royal Tern

111 Merlin

112 Nelson's Sparrow

113 Salt Marsh Sparrow

114 American Bittern

115 Sora

116 Common Ground-Dove

117 Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

118 Northern Flicker

119 Brown-Headed Nuthatch

120 Pine Warbler

121 Eastern Towhee

122 Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

123 American Crow

124 Wild Turkey

125 Lesser Black-backed Gull

126 Herring Gull

127 Cedar Waxwing

128 Great Black-backed Gull

129 Snowy Plover

130 American Oystercatcher

131 Black Scoter

132 Barn Owl

133 Wilson's Snipe

134 Pileated Woodpecker

135 Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

136 Northern Waterthrush

137 Sharp-Shinned Hawk

138 Savannah Sparrow

139 Brown-headed Cowbird

140 Gray-headed Swamphen

141 American Flamingo

142 Red Knot

143 Sandwich Tern

144 Northern Parula

145 Magnolia Warbler

146 Cooper's Hawk

147 Nanday Parakeet

148 Purple Martin

149 Hooded Merganser

150 Northern Shoveler

151 Long-billed Dowitcher

152 King Rail

153 Common Loon

154 Forster's Tern

155 Hermit Thrush

156 Black-bellied Whistling Duck

157 Vaux's Swift

158 Carolina Chickadee

159 American Pipit

160 Chipping Sparrow

161 Song Sparrow

162 Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

163 Rufous Hummingbird

164 Black-Chinned Hummingbird

165 Calliope Hummingbird

166 White-breasted Nuthatch

167 Orange-Crowned Warbler

168 Baltimore Oriole

169 House Finch

170 Pine Siskin

171 Redhead

172 Clapper Rail

173 Purple Gallinule

174 Great Horned Owl

175 Vermilion Flycatcher

176 Sedge Wren

177 Northern Gannet

178 Purple Sandpiper

179 Caspian Tern

180 Yellow-breasted Chat

181 Surf Scoter

182 Bonaparte's Gull

183 Long-billed Curlew

184 Western Kingbird

185 Yellow-throated Warbler

186 Hairy Woodpecker

187 Black-throated Green Warbler

188 Prairie Warbler

189 Broad-billed Hummingbird

190 Bell's Vireo

191 Egyptian Goose

192 Bachman's Sparrow

193 Great Crested Flycatcher

194 White-winged Dove

195 Neotropic Cormorant

196 Northern Rough-winged Swallow

197 Great White Pelican

198 White-Crowned Pigeon

199 Common Myna

200 Brown-crested Flycatcher

201 Yellow-chevroned Parakeet

202 Common Hill Myna

203 Ovenbird

204 Swallow-tailed Kite

205 Black-throated Blue Warbler

206 Broad-winged Hawk

207 Cape May Warbler

208 Yellow-throated Vireo

209 Chuck-Wills-Widow

210 Brown Thrasher

211 Northern Bobwhite

212 Red-breasted Grosbeak

213 Magnificent Frigatebird

214 Red-eyed Vireo

215 Worm-eating Warbler

216 Prothonotary Warbler

217 Scarlet Tanager

218 Least Tern

219 Gray Kingbird

220 Eastern Screech Owl

221 Black-Whiskered Vireo

222 Wood Thrush

223 Tennessee Warbler

224 Hooded Warbler

225 American Redstart

226 Blackpoll Warbler

227 Summer Tanager

228 Orchard Oriole

229 White-winged Scoter

230 Parasitic Jaeger

231 Common Tern

232 Blue Grosbeak

233 Barn Swallow

234 Pomarine Jaeger

235 Pacific Golden Plover

236 Common Nighthawk

237 Peregrine Falcon

238 Yellow-headed Blackbird

239 Black-necked Stilt

240 Bobolink

241 Solitary Sandpiper

242 Blackburnian Warbler

243 Gull-billed Tern

244 Chimney Swift

245 Yellow-billed Cuckoo

246 Least Bittern

247 Gray-Cheeked Thrush

248 White-rumped Sandpiper

249 Connecticut Warbler

250 Roseate Tern

251 Antillean Nighthawk

252 Cave Swallow

253 Semipalmated Sandpiper

254 Bronzed Cowbird

255 Mitred Parakeet

256 Orange-winged Parrot

257 Common Hill Myna

258 Tropical Kingbird

259 Mississippi Kite

260 Pectoral Sandpiper

261 Fulvous Whistling-Duck

262 Cliff Swallow

263 Stilt Sandpiper

264 Wilson's Phalarope

265 Black Tern

266 Shiny Cowbird 

267 Whimbrel

268 Kentucky Warbler

269 Yellow Warbler

270 Louisiana Warbler

271 Eastern Wood-Pewee

272 Bridled Tern

273 Sooty Tern

274 Band-rumped Storm-Petrel

275 Upland Sandpiper

276 Eastern Kingbird

277 Cerulean Warbler

278 Chestnut-sided Warbler

279 Canada Warbler 

280 Blue-winged Warbler

281 Veery

282 Bay-breasted Warbler

283 Acadian Flycatcher

284 Swainson's Thrush

285 Bank Swallow

286 Northern Pintail

287 Green-winged Teal

288 Red-breasted Nuthatch

289 Winter Wren

290 Brown Booby

291 Lark Sparrow 

292 Mallard

293 Groove-billed Ani 

294 White-crowned Sparrow 
295 Whooping Crane

296 Canada Goose 

297 Brewer's Blackbird 

298 Brant