Monday, September 28, 2009

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Today Monday, September 28th, I arrived at Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary just after daybreak. Spent the next four hours birding the boardwalk through this ancient cypress swamp. The sanctuary was hopping with four active species - Carolina Wren, White-Eyed Vireo, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers and Common Grackles. Was hoping to hit on a major warbler fall-out. Did hit on five warblers - Common Yellowthroat, Prairie Warbler, Nothern Parula, Yellowthroated Warbler and a female American Redstart. But no real fall-out today. Missed on reported Prothonotary Warbler, Ovenbird and Northern Waterthrush. Also missed were Ruby-Throated Hummingbird and Painted Bunting. But had two very good hits on other birds while stacking out the Bunting House feeder for bunting activities. Seems we had some migrants passing through as I had two Veery and a lifer with an excellent look at a Yellowthroated Vireo. Came across three FOS Gray Catbirds as well. Other sightings include Red-Shouldered Hawk, Great Crested Flycatchers, White Ibis (only waders in the swamp due to deep water), Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker and Downy Woodpecker

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ft DeSoto Park

On Monday, September 21, 2009 my daughter Melissa and I traveled up to St Petersberg from Ft Myers to bird Ft DeSoto Park. The park is on Mullet Key near to the Skyline Bridge in Tampa Bay. We had a good birding day back last April during the spring migration. We missed out on having a great day like when birders hit the island during a "Fall-Out" of large flocks of exhausted migrants. But we did OK especially with the ficus tree at the headquarters building. Our list for that day included Mottled Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Magnificent Frigatebird, Great Egret, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Osprey, American Coot, Black-bellied Plover, Willet, Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Common Tern, Royal Tern, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Tree Swallow, Gray Catbird, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Palm Warbler, American Redstart, Kentucky Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Summer Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Orchard Oriole, House Sparrow

But as for a good fall migration day we seemed to be a bit early and had zero luck with only finding a few Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, a few eastern Kingbirds and a couple of Gray Kingbirds. However the shorebirds were very good. We easily found the resident Long-Billed Curlew and was happy to locate Caspian Terns at both the East Beach and North Beach locations. We don't see Caspian Terns down in Lee County. In fact I hit it as my lifer just last February over at STA-5 in Hendry County. It was a good day with terns with five species. It would have been nice to locate a Black Tern, but it is probably already too late in the season. I thought that I had a Lesser Black-Backed Gull at North Beach, but could not get a good viewing, but did have one perched on a pole road-side as we were leaving for the day. Again these gulls don't come further south to Lee County, so it was a good catch.

My list for this visit - Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Black-bellied Plover, Wilson's Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Piping Plover, American Oystercatcher, Willet, Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Caspian Tern, Common Tern, Forster's Tern, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Kingbird, Gray Kingbird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, European Starling

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Update on the Yamata Scrub Least Grebe

The following was just posted on the FloridaBirds-L message board, by John Shelly
" One of the 4 Least Grebes that Dave & Lee Hasse discovered last year on9/21/08 is back at the north pond at Yamato Scrub which is about half amile east of the intersection of N. Congress and Clintmore Rd. in BocaRaton."
Hopefully we'll be able to enjoy these rare birds again.

To Twitch or Not To Twitch

This past winter, while visiting Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, I found myself in conversation with a Brit - I’ve met a lot of Brits here birding Florida - as we were waiting patiently at the Bunting House feeder for Painted Buntings to make an appearance. He proceeded to ask me if I Twitched. Not being familiar with the phrase, he explained that it was the chasing after a rare bird sighting. Hopefully to add it to your life list. My answer has to be yes. However, my handful of disappointments had begun to curb my twitching activities.
Sometime the chase was easy, like when I found a fresh posting on Birdbrains about a Scarlet Ibis at nearby Lakes Park in Ft Myers. Well within ten minutes we were out of the door and had my tick within a half-hour of reading the posting. Some other successes include Whooping Cranes, and Harris Sparrow in Paines Prairie, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers in Florida City, A Ruff in Myakka State park, the Tropical Kingbird in Homestead, a Masked Duck in Lake City and Purple Sandpipers in Ponce Inlet
Sometimes the chase is a bust. Twice I headed to Ranch Road in Lake County to add the, easily locatable Says Phoebe, which is a rare vagrant to Florida and to the near by Lusk Road location for an Ash-Throated Flycatcher. Many people had successfully located the birds, but I wasn’t so lucky. The much posted about Fork-Tailed Flycatcher last November, that was hanging around the Pelican Island WMA, disappeared just prior to my arrival. I had also twice ventured to Key Largo looking for White-Crowned Pigeons and only found mosquitoes. Purple Swamphens were supposed to be easy to find in Pembroke Pines, but seems that the population had been removed as they are exotics.
Looked for Chestnut-Fronted Macaws and other parrots around Kendall- Miami area. Also missed Spotted Orioles and Red-Whiskered Bulbuls in Kendall several times. Also need to add my many failures at locating the Smooth-Billed Ani near the Ft Lauderdale airport.
So now I have to ask myself where to it is worthwhile to twitch on the latest rarities. I passed on the Greater Sand-Plover in Jacksonville due to distance and costs, being broke actually, which was a shame as many observers were also able to add Artic Terns to their life lists too. Now we are hearing about a rare vagrant pair of Sulphur-Bellied Flycatchers in the Annex area near the Everglades, were I was just a week earlier. But I don’t think I can head back anytime soon. So-to-twitch-or-not-to-twitch

Below is an excellent site for explaining about Twitching and other aspects of birding

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Western Spindalis and Least Grebes

On my Labor Day birding blitz I attempted to find the Western Spindalis that had been long reported at Long Pine campground in the Everglades National Park. The pair had nested and fledged three offspring, which was great as the Western Spindalis are actually vagrants from the Caribbean. They are not endemic to the US and are only occasional found in the Keys or along the southeast coast of Florida. Would have been a fantastic life-list hit. But upon my arrival I met a couple of folks at the correct spot, who were wearing protective anti-mosquito garb and netting, that it seems that they were reporting to those of us who were arriving in hopes of a grreat find that they were now gone. I knew that the fledglings had already moved along, but now the parents have left as well. Very disappointing. But future opportunities will arise. Please visit the links below for more information concerning the Western Spindalis stay in there Everglades.

Last fall we had better luck with another species from the Bahamas who had also set up house in Florida to raise a family. They were a pair of Least Grebes. Only a couple of earlier reports of Least Grebes were every noted in Florida. So the pair who had nested at Yamata Scrub Park in Boca Raton, was a big sensation. We visited the their pond on October 1, 2008 and again in January 2009. Sadly the family of four began disappearing one at a time till by Spring none were left. No idea were they went. Chances are they were victims of predation.

Links to items about the Western Spindalis

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Birding Blitz

My birding goals have been to reach a minimum count of a hundred species per month, which takes some work in the summer here in southwest Florida. I did manage it. Few interesting sighing over the summer include finding three Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks with a dozen newly hatched ducklings on the ponds at Domestic Ave, which have had been seen there before or since (where did they go?), Black Terns and Red Knots at Bunche Beach, and a couple of Shiny Cowbirds.
But now with migrations kicking-in I chose I set a goal of a hundred in one week. I had day-long blitzes on September first in Lee County and the seventh in Dade County. I hit most of the best birding spots locally as well as Everglades National Park (Snail Kites and Yellow Warblers and tons of mosquitoes) and Lucky Hammock in the South Glades-Frog Pond Wildlife Management Area ( good hits here included Alders Flycatcher and White-Tailed Kites. Just missed Least Flycatcher and a Short-Eared Owl seen by others just after I left).
I managed to hit the hundred

Muscovy Duck
Mottled Duck
Pied-Billed Grebe
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant

Great Blue Heron

Great Egret

Snowy Egret

Little Blue Heron

Tricolored Heron

Reddish Egret

Cattle Egret

Green Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

White Ibis

Glossy Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Turkey Vulture

Black Vulture

White-tailed Kite
Snail Kite

Cooper's Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Crested Caracara
Common Moorhen

Black-bellied Plover

Wilson's Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Piping Plover
American Oystercatcher

Spotted Sandpiper

Greater Yellowlegs


Lesser Yellowlegs
Marbled Godwit

Ruddy Turnstone

Red Knot

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Western Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper

Short-billed Dowitcher
Laughing Gull

Least Tern

Common Tern

Forster's Tern

Royal Tern

Sandwich Tern

Black Skimmer
Rock Pigeon

Eurasian Collared-Dove
White-winged Dove

Mourning Dove
Common Ground-Dove
Barred Owl

Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker
Alder Flycatcher

Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird

Gray Kingbird
Loggerhead Shrike
White-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow

Fish Crow

Purple Martin

Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Tufted Titmouse
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Northern Mockingbird

European Starling

Northern Parula

Yellow Warbler
Pine Warbler

Prairie Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler

American Redstart
Eastern Towhee
Northern Cardinal

Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark

Common Grackle

Boat-tailed Grackle

Brown-headed Cowbird

House Sparrow
Common Myna