Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Back to Babcock-Webb

Hit the birding trail for the fourth day in a row, Tuesday, October 20th, by checking out Babcock-Webb WMA in Charlotte County. The location is famous for the big three rareities for south Florida of the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, Bachman's Sparrow and Brownheaded Nuthatch and on the this trip I miss on all three.
Arrived about 8:45am and had quick hits on a Red-Tailed Hawk, sandhill Crane, Pine Warblers, Eastern Meadowlark and a Yellow-shafted Flicker. The birding slowed down from here on. Found lots of noisy Gray Catbirds and FOS House Wrens. Usually raptors aren't very plentifull here, but seems that migration was contining with sightenings of Red-Shouldered Hawk, American Kestrel, Broad-Winged Hawk and a couple of Sharp-Shinned Hawks. By 11;30 I was on my way home. Needed to get a much needed nap in before going into work
My list - Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, White Ibis, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Sandhill Crane, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Chimney Swift, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Blue Jay, House Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Pine Warbler, Palm Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle

Friday, October 23, 2009

Back to Lucky Hammock, The Everglades & Cutler Wetlands - October 19th


On Monday October 19th I still had the bug to cash-in on the big cold front fall-out in the Miami area that stung us on Sunday's hawk watch on Sanibel Island. I had the day off and arrangements had been made to free-up my time, so I ventured over to the east coast.
To reach my first stop by sunrise, I had to leave home at 4am. This stop was at what some birders call Lucky Hammock and The Annex on Aerojet Road. This just outside of the eastern entrance to Everglades National Park. The attached posting on the TAS message board, noted an exciting list of birding opportunities like White-Tail Kites, Short-Tail Hawks and Western, Eastern and Gray Kingbirds plus a Philadelphia Vireo. Arrived just before sun-up and drove the length of the road looking for any nighthawks or chucks-poor-widows. None found. But a Norther Harrier quickly arrived on sight and a roosting White-tailed Kite was noticed sitting atop a bush in the field. The kite soon took off in the early morning. Short-tailed Hawks began to show up and several, both light and dark were active in the area. It was still windy like Sunday which tends to keep many birds buried in the shrubbery, but the hammock area yielded some good birds. They included a female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, Prairie Warbler, Palm Warbler, Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, several American Redstarts, a female Painted Bunting. A couple of pairs of Sandhill Cranes came in to the nearby fields.

The Annex area was not nearly as birdy because of the winds. Lots of Gray Catbirds were vocalizing but skulking in the brush. A a very late Gray Kingbird fought the winds in its effort to sit on the power lines. Never did find any eastern Kingbirds, but I did run into Larry Manfredi, who showed me were a Western Kingbird was sitting. The Gray and Western would be keeping each other company. Larry Manfredi is a noted local birder and guide. His web site is very valuable in the search for south Florida and Caribbean specialties. Larry spend a half hour with me, sharing information on the background to this location and how best to look for certain specialities. I would love to book a trip with him some day.

My list - Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Cattle Egret, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, White-tailed Kite, Northern Harrier, Cooper's Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Sandhill Crane, Killdeer, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Gray Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, White-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Tree Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Palm Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle

Probably are Short-billed Dowitchers
Enter Everglades national Park about 11:00am and spent the next four and half hours looking for birding hot-spots. They were not to be found here today. Took a stab at the Western Spindalis in Long Pine campgrounds, but not much of anything was found there. Not much was found anywhere. Ventured all the way to Flamingo were a few shorebirds and several Ospreys were present. Had a bald eagle soaring above Eco Pond. Noted several flocks of Wood Storks moving back into south Florida. Today there was a large American Crocodile basking on the shore across from the marina at Flamingo.
My list - Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Kestrel, Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Blue Jay, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Palm Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Towhee
Left the park for my final stop before heading the three hour drive home. Headed over to the Homestead-Cutler Ridge area to a site known as Cutler Wetlands, which is a surface water management sight. While sitting at a red light at US 1 in Homestead I was able to locate a pair of Common Mynas among the hundreds or so crows, grackles and starlings hanging out at the intersection, by the white spots under there wings as they flew from one resting spot to another.
The extreme variety of birdlife found at Cutler Wetlands makes it a must stop location. Past sightings have included sacred ibis, flamingo and yellow-headed blackbirds. Today we had Long-Billed Dowitchers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spoonbills and Blue-Winged Teal.
My list - Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Great Blue Heron, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Lesser Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitcher, Rock Pigeon

Sanibel Lighthouse Hawk Watch

Had been looking forward to the Audubon of Southwest Florida's Sanibel Lighthouse Hawk Watch for some time. Because of work I missed last year's event, but showed up the very next day to take a try on my own. Luckily I ran into Vince McGrath who had lead the prior day's hawk watch. This one-on-one was a great learning experience for me. We had well over 100 American Kestrels, a few Merlins, Peregrins and Ospreys. had a number of Sharp-Shinned Hawks and many Swallows. I think we even had a Bald Eagle.

My list for October 13, 2008 -Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Snowy Egret, Black Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk, American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Black-bellied Plover, Willet, Ruddy Turnstone, Laughing Gull, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Tree Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Palm Warbler, Brown-headed Cowbird

So this year, we had a very nice cold front arriving right on time for this years scheduled hawk watch on Sunday October 18th, 8am - 10am. My debate was to show-up for the scheduled event or come on my own the following like last year due to the fact that I was getting off of work at 7:00am Sunday morning. Because of the potential bird fallout from the cold front was such a great opportunity I elected to struggle with my constant bane of sleep derivation and headed over to Sanibel Island on Sunday straight from work. The weather was very windy and chilly by Florida standards. But those strong winds had actually blown the birds away from southwestern Florida. Turns out Miami and Key West had outstanding birding that Sunday. So our birding was very slow. Very few song birds were on hand. Our first hwak arrived at 9:45am - a Sharp-Shined Hawk. By the time I left at 11am we had about 16 American Kestels, a dozen Sharp-Shinned Hawks, a couple of Broad-Winged Hawks and a few Ospreys were present. Also had about 6 Merlins with one individual we found very entertaining as it was aggressivelly interacting with another Merlin and the other hawks present. Prehaps those birders still on hand managed an outstanding sighting like a mississippi kite or something like that. You just never now when something exciting might show up. But not for me. It was time for some sleep for me.

My list - Brown Pelican, Osprey, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, American Kestrel, Merlin, Short-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Rock Pigeon, Chimney Swift, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Prairie Warbler, Palm Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Boat-tailed Grackle

Monday, October 5, 2009

Birding Trip to Fort George Island - Jacksonville, Florida

Joined up with a Duval Audubon Society bird tour Saturday, October 3rd on Fort George Island, lead by National Park Service Ranger, Roger Clark. Excellent event. Started at dawn riverside at Kingley Plantation Preserve, over to Ribault Club, then to Huguenot Memorial Park ending at various roadside sites near to New Berlin Road. Had four lifers including Carolina Chickadee, Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, Great Black-Backed Gull and Clapper Rail (only heard several over the course of the day actually). I recorded 84 hits, but the group recorded 105 hits for the day. Ironically our final, but unrecordable birds were three mute swans found on an isolated lake in a half-built out subdivision.

My List for the Day--- Wood Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Reddish Egret, Cattle Egret, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Wood Stork, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Clapper Rail, Common Moorhen, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Sanderling, Pectoral Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Caspian Tern, Forster's Tern, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Black Skimmer, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chimney Swift, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Swainson's Thrush, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Tennessee Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Pine Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Palm Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Summer Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Painted Bunting, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, Baltimore Oriole

Kingsley Plantation and Ribault Club are a part of Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve which is operated by the National Park Service. On the day we visited the local PBS station ran a documentary they created about this local National Park Service facility to compliment the the rollout of the Ken Burns "National Parks" documentary that PBS is now featuring. Our tour leader for the day was one of the national Park personal interviewed for the program.
The day following the Fort George Island event, my daughter and I ran up into Georgia to Crooked Lake State Park before heading heading back south to Ft Myers. Crooked Lake State park features salt marshes and upland forests.
We stayed for a couple of hours and the best sighting was a Hermit Thrush.
My list - Double-crested Cormorant, Great Egret, White Ibis, Osprey, Cooper's Hawk, Laughing Gull, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Tree Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Hermit Thrush, Northern Mockingbird, Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal, Boat-tailed Grackle