Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hermit Thrush

Ft DeSoto to Lake County
January 21st- Day #3
Double-Crested Cormorant

Laughing Gull at Egmont Key pier
Ft DeSoto Park
Left home at 10am for day three of my birding vacation. The late start was unavoidable and the day's weather was awful. Arrived at Ft DeSoto Park about noon and found conditions very windy, but no storms yet. The winds attracted a couple of dozen wind-surfing enthusiasts, who took over the east beach. I had counted on east beach as a possible site for diving birds, shore birds and perhaps a caspian tern or a black-backed gull. Only got Sanderlings, Dunlins and a lone Ring-billed Gull. Moved onto the Egmont Key pier which was not very birdy and people as well, due to the weather. Only about four Double-Crested Cormorants, a few Laughing Gulls and a lone Common Loon.

But was fortunate to watch a flyby juvenile Northern Gannet. This was surprise as this species is not found here, but with the heavy winds and that juvenile birds are known to wonder beyond their normally established range it was possible. I am very confident on this sighting and this would also be a life bird.
Checked out North Beach, which was wind swept and devoid of birds as well. But I was able to find a a few American Oystercatchers and a juvenile Herring Gulls clustered with Royal Terns and Ring-billed Gulls in a secluded spot out of the wind. Had a pair of Red-Brested Mergansers fly in just as I was heading out.
My list - Red-breasted Merganser, Common Loon, Northern Gannet, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Great Egret, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Black Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, American Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Dunlin, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Royal Tern, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Loggerhead Shrike, Fish Crow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, American Robin, Pine Warbler, Palm Warbler, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird
Ft DeSoto Brochure-Map

Prior to arriving at Ft DeSoto, Checked out the Tierra Verde pond for waterfowl and the pond was loaded. Mostly found Redheads and Ring-necked Ducks, plus Pied-billed Grebes, Ruddy Ducks, American Wigeons, Lesser Scaups and Northern Shovelers.
My list - American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Egret, Osprey, American Coot, Ring-billed Gull

Lake County
My late start got me to Ranch Road east of Astulta in Lake County a bit late to find the resident say's phoebe, because of the pending nightfall and a prior local rainstorm the bird was probably at roost. So took a stab at the western kingbirds, sparrows and a possible ash-throated flycatcher on Lust Road in Apopka. But it too was bird-free. But did find a pair of Western Kingbirds and hundreds of American Robins at the nearby Hopper Farm roost site.
With it getting dark I lastly took a shot at owls at the North Shore - Lake Apopka restoration parking lot. Did get a pair of Hermit Thrushs and as I was checking them out, noticed not ten feet away but separated by a fence was a bobcat. We both did a quick retreat. Observed the cat a couple more times and it seems that it was not intimidated by my presence. Did get a brief look at a low flying Great Horned Owl.
Lake Apopka Restoration Area map


My list - Great Blue Heron, Wood Stork, Sandhill Crane, Great Horned Owl, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, Western Kingbird, American Robin

Monday, January 25, 2010

Swamp Sparrow

White Ibis

Babcock-Webb and The Celery Fields
January 19th - Day #2 of Birding Vacation

Babcock-Webb WMA - I try to time my arrival at Babcock-Webb just at dawn so as to have the best opportunity to locate the Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers as they exit their holes. Today my timing was perfect as I arrived at the colony site on Oilwell Grade and found that the pair of RCW were already poking their heads out of their holes and calling to each other. Then in a burst each exits their home to begin a new day. At the next side trail I was lucky to get a Bachman's Sparrow and several Grasshopper Sparrows. Even
had a sole Brown-headed Nuthatch working the pine trees here, were a fox squirrel was also busy constructing a nest. So within a half hour I had hits on all three of Babcock's big three - RCW, bachman's sparrow and the brown-headed nuthatch

Later I came onto a nice mixed flock of Yellow-Rumped and Pine Warblers, with Downy Woodpeckers. A bit further on had a repeat hit on an RCW and and another brown-headed nuthatch.
Lastly, I came across a few sparrows, which I at first took for chipping sparrows, which I had not seen before at Babcock-Webb, but are listed on the printed bird list. However, after reviewing my photos I believe I actually found Swamp Sparrows, which are not on the bird listing.

My list - Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Northern Harrier, Sandhill Crane, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Loggerhead Shrike, Blue Jay, Tree Swallow, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pine Warbler, Palm Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Towhee, Bachman's Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle

Swamp Sparrow

Fruitville Road
Next headed up to Sarasota were I rechecked the pond on Fruitville Road were a female common goldeneye and a female bufflehead were located last month. They were not to be found. But there was a male scaup that was much larger than any of the other Lesser Scaups on hand and bases on the size I have concluded it was a Greater Scaup.
My list - Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Hooded Merganser

The Celery Fields
Stopped at the nearby Celery Fields with the idea of locating Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks. The nearby ponds were loaded with American Coots, Moorhens, Blue-winged Teal and some Mottled Ducks. A Northern Harrier was working over the area and Palm Warblers were at home at the gazebo. The Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks were located far back on the shoreline of a larger lake and were confirmed as a pair rose up and flew closer to my location.
My list - Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Anhinga, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Laughing Gull, Loggerhead Shrike, Palm Warbler, Red-winged Blackbird

My count for the day - 49 species

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Owl to Owl - Birding in Dade County

Owl to Owl
Birding in Dade County
Monday January 18th - Day #1 of my birding vacation

Along Tamiami Trail
This is to be day #1 on my birding vacation week. Starting out with a very long day trip to Dade County to seek out seasonal South Florida specialties, plus any exotics I can locate. Left home about 5:30am and traveled the Tamiami Trail heading first to the campus of Florida International University. As dawn brightened the new day hundreds of wading birds could be seen lining the parallel canal, but my first bird sighting of the day was a Barred Owl who’s silhouette was easily seen in a bare tree along side the highway. Did stop to confirm the sighting and knew it would be a good day.

Florida International University
FIU is located along the Tamiami Trail outside of Miami and is were the Florida Rare Bird Alert had noting the unusual sighting of a male Western Tanager. One reason I chose Monday for this trip is that it was a holiday and the school would be closed for the day allowing easier access to parking, which is a big deal here. Ran into Trey Mitchell here, who along with a couple of other local birders, put me onto the tanager.
 The Western Tanager was a life count for me. This is link to Trey Mitchell's tanager photos.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Also observed a pair of White-Crowned Pigeons leaving the campus preserve as I arrived. The noisy monk parakeets were easily notice and did find a couple of Blue-Headed Vireos. The other birders were mostly heading up to the Miami Beach area to looking for the red-footed booby and common eider reported there. Another choice was Bill Baggs to look for the La Sagra Flycatcher . But my plans were to head over to Lucky Hammock for hawks.

 My FIU list - Cooper's Hawk, Rock Pigeon, White-crowned Pigeon, Monk Parakeet, Loggerhead Shrike, Blue-headed Vireo, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Western Tanager, Boat-tailed Grackle.

Florida City
Checked out the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher site on 314th SW in Florida City and was able to get a single flycatcher and no western kingbirds on this stop.
Lucky Hammock
 Contractors were busy at the Lucky Hammock location as they were prepping the area for the C-111 canal Everglades Restoration project, to divert the canal drainage effect by spreading the water flow across more land. This project should not effect the birding at this location. This morning not much was happening at the hammock, but a couple of Swainson’s Hawks and a couple of Short Tailed Hawks were easily located. A Northern Harrier was very active in the fields as well. Moved on to the Cutler Wetlands from here, but I plan to return at dusk to look for Lesser Nighthawks and Short-eared Owls.

In as stop in Homestead for gas had a pair of Common Mynas foraging about the gas station. I have found this location to be pretty reliable for mynas. The corner of West palm Drive and Krome Ave.
Cutler Wetlands and Cutler Marsh
The lighting was awful at Cutler Wetlands and it was difficult to id a lot of the ducks and the water was high so there were almost no shorebirds or waders. About a dozen American White Pelicans were present.

American White Pelicans at Cutler Marsh
 Thought that I would give the nearby Cutler Marsh area a try. Found more than a hundred white pelicans and a few ducks like Blue-winged Teal, Green-Winged Teal and Mottled ducks, plus a few Glossy Ibis. Hundreds of vultures can be seen soaring over the near ‘Mt Trashmore’ garbage dump.

My list for Cutler Wetlands - Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal, American White Pelican, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Ring-billed Gull, Eurasian Collared-Dove

My list for Cutler Marsh- Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, American White Pelican, Great Egret, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Phoebe

Headed from here to Kendall Baptist Hospital campus. This is a good area to look for exotics like red-Whiskered Bulbuls, Spotted Orioles and various parrots. Walked the ponds and had hits on Red-Masked and Mitred Parrots. The ponds are also home the a great many White Ibis, Muscovy Ducks and a couple of domesticated geese. Also drove around the neighborhood across Kendall Avenue from the hospital for the Bulbuls, but got a dip on them. I understand that it is best to patrol that area in the early morning, like about 8:30am.

My list - Muscovy Duck, Double-crested Cormorant, White Ibis, Monk Parakeet, Red-Masked Parrot, Mitred Parrot, Fish Crow, European Starling, House Sparrow.
Back to Lucky Hammock

Got back to Lucky Hammock about 5:00 and met a veteran birder named Dave who was in from Naples. He had pretty much followed the same itinerary as I had. He put me onto the pair of White-tailed Kites commonly seen here as they came in to hunt the fields. These birds would soar over the area and then hover in place as they scoped out any likely meal options. They hunted just up till dusk. I was able to sight a Western Kingbird inside the hammock. Usually we’d see them wire sitting, but I guess it had gone to roost. One interesting sighting was for Dave, when he walked across the field to the tree-line, as we waited for the short-eared owls, he nearly stepped on a Whip-poor-will which flushed at his feet. Lots of raptures were still about including a Broad-winged hawk, Red-Shouldered Hawk, a Merlin, several Kestrels, the Northern Harrier and a Swainson’s Hawk. Finally at dusk a pair of Lesser Nighthawks rose above the trees to the west. They were a life count for me. As the mosquitoes came out and it was getting a bit dark we chose to leave, I thought that I had heard the short-ear’s call but nothing was seen. But finally an owl made its appearance. Its silhouette could be seen landing atop a power pole and a second owl flew up to it and then flew down low and out of sight. So we had an owl, but it was not the sought after short-eared, but a Great Horned Owl.

So at the conclusion of this long day my last bird was also an owl. Started with an owl and ended the same.

My list for Lucky Hammock - Cattle Egret, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, White-tailed Kite, Northern Harrier, Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Swainson's Hawk, Merlin, Sandhill Crane, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Great Horned Owl, Lesser Nighthawk, Eastern Phoebe, Western Kingbird, Tree Swallow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Palm Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark.

A total of 69 species were counted for the day
Muscovy Duck, Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, Common Mynah, American White Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Egret, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Wood Stork, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, White-tailed Kite, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, American Kestrel, Merlin, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Sandhill crane, Killdeer,  Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Ring-billed Gull, Rock Pigeon, White-crowned Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Monk Parakeet, Mitred Parakeet, Red-Masked Parakeet, Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, Lesser Nighthawk, Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Phoebe, Western Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike, White-eyed Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, American Crow, Fish Crow, Tree Swallow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Palm Warbler, Western Tanager, Savannah Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, House Sparrow.



Sunday, January 17, 2010

Burrowing Owls

Burrowing Owls nest near Cape Coral Public Library

Burrowing Owl on sentry duty

The ballfields on Pelican Boulevard in Cape Coral are a very dependable location for Monk Parakeets and Burrowing Owls. Cape Coral also has numerous burrowing owl nests, including at the Public Library and is very protective of the little owls. One potential threat to the owls is the Nile Monitor Lizard. Were many Florida communities are plagued by Iguanas, Cape Coral has a growing population of monitor lizards, which can grow six feet long and are carnivorous. So there is concern for the little owls and peoples pets. The cold spell that we are just coming out of may have had a big impact on Florida's invasive species like the lizards, iguanas and pythons. we how soon how well they faired as it returns to warmer weather.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


This morning at shift change at work, which is just at sunrise, my relief operator, arrived bummed out. Because just before reaching the gate a bird had collided with his windshield in the predawn. He thought that it was a small owl. We investigated and found that it was in fact a whip-poor-will. A real shame. Why couldn't have been a grackle?
It has been a very long time since I have heard the calling of a whip-poor-will serenading through-out the night. Many years ago I recall hearing them from the property back behind my home, which has since been developed, and from the woods bordering my workplace. But I have missed them since.
Noticed a large flock of feeding pine warblers further down the road from the whip-poor-will, accompanied by a flock of American Robins and numerous tree swallows overhead. Cardinals and catbirds were active in the understory.
Headed over to Bunche Beach and found a very low tide. Numerous Black Skimmers were resting on the flats along with Brown Pelicans, Herring, Laughing and Ring-billed Gulls and Sandwich and Royal Terns. Had Sanderlings, Short-Billed Dowitchers, Piping, Wilson's, Semipalmate and Black-bellied Plovers. Also had a pair of Red-Brested Mergansers just off-shore from the parking area.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Bronzed Cowbird

Bronzed Cowbird - note the red eye
This cold spell, along with a minor ailment, had kept me from doing very much birding for the past few days. On Tuesday the 12th, temperatures were rising up to the 50s, so I went to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary hoping for painted buntings and warblers. Arrived about 11:00am and the parking lot was already rather full. Found that the freeze had burned much of their butterfly garden. Spent about two hours and had some good sightings including a male Painted Bunting and an Ovenbird at the bunting house. There was also a good variety of warblers like American Redstarts, Palm, Yellow-Rumped, Norther Parula, Black & White and Common Yellowthroat. There was a large mixed flock of American Robins and Common Grackles just past the ponds. My list includes --Anhinga, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Parula, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pine Warbler, Palm Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Painted Bunting, Common Grackle

I had been very keen to try and relocate the Bronzed Cowbirds in Clewiston, so I left right from work on Wednesday, the 13th, morning to find them. I really should have gone home and get my sleep, but I wanted to collect a hit on the cowbirds for my new year count, before they dispersed. Arrived at the levee park in Clewiston about 9:00am and the temp had to be about 45 degrees, but no cowbirds were about. Figured that I would wait a reasonable time and was rewarded with a few nice ticks. Like the pair of limpkins that flew down the channel and the sora that kept calling from the marsh on the opposite side of the channel. Lots of gulls and a lone royal tern, plus brown pelicans and cormorants. Then the cowbirds arrived. Found a red eyed Bronzed Cowbird who was not to cooperative in getting his photo taken. Another all black cowbird may have been a shiny cowbird as I it seemed to lack the red eyes of the bronzed, but I could not get a definitive look. My Clewiston list - Pied-billed Grebe, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Northern Harrier, Sora, Limpkin, Killdeer, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Royal Tern, Rock Pigeon, Belted Kingfisher, Fish Crow, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, Bronzed Cowbird, Brown-headed Cowbird

On the way home I rechecked the feeders in Alva and a nice chat with the home owners, who invited me to attend a scheduled birding event in March. Was able to Add Indigo Buntings and White-Winged Doves.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Monk Parakeet

After having ignored my back-yard bird feeder for several days, the birds were very active today and cleaned it out quickly. The weather continues to be very cold for Florida and will remain so all week. Perhaps the cold spell inspired there appetite. In the morning the feeder was surrounded by doves. Dozens of mourning doves worked the ground below the feeder with a few Ground Doves working the perimeter. Eurasian Collared Doves dominated the feeder itself. The resident Mockingbird, Cardinal and Red-Bellied Woodpecker were keeping an eye on all this.

By the afternoon the doves were replaced by a huge gathering of Boat-Tailed Grackles, who dominated the feeder, Common Grackles, Brown-Headed Cowbirds and Starlings. One strange common grackle lacked the normal black color, but was actually brown in color.

The big surprise came while I was sorting through all of the brown-headed cowbirds looking for a shiny cowbird, not found, when a Monk Parakeet landed on the feeder. The bird stayed for a few minutes till the whole flock burst into the air. Many came back, but the parakeet did not. The closest I have seen of any of these birds to San Carlos Park was in nearby Cape Coral.

The parakeet is one of the best sightings so far at my feeder. I was lucky once to have a male Painted Bunting make a pit stop a few years ago and last winter I had a Clay-Colored Sparrow hang-around for a couple of days. But usually we only get the usual backyard birds.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Gannets and Loons

Common Loon on a pond in San Carlos Park

Was very interested to see if I could relocate the common loon I had found on December 31st. Left work about 7am with the weather clear, breezy and about 43degrees and headed directly to Domestic Avenue to check out the ponds. No ducks, a pied-billed grebe and only one coot located, but the loon was easily found and was very active, including calling that eerie loon call.
My next option was to head home for some much needed sleep or to make a quick trip to Bunche Beach to look for red-breasted mergansers or white pelicans. With the successful locate in mind I choose to go to the beach.

Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society on a bird walk at Bunche Beach with Sanibel Lighhouse visiable across the bay.

Upon arrival I located a Spotted Sandpiper on the exposed mud below the bridge and ran into a birding group from Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society here for a bird walk event on the beach. The weather was still cold and breezy, but unfortunately the tide was extremely low. These factors all contributed to poor birding. I was invited to join up with the Audubon group which offered up some excellent opportunties. Because we quickly had a couple of Bald Eagles, another Common Loon and several first year Northern Gannets and at least one older gannet. These gannets were a complete suprise. Certianly a good way to start out the year. Before leaving we also had a single American White Pelican, a couple Piping Plover, a Semipalmated Plover, a couple more Spotted Sandpipers and a couple of Yellow-Crowned Nightherons. Really not a bad morning.