Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Masked Duck

Masked DuckMerritt Island and Viera Wetlands
January 23rd - Day #5 and final stops

Merritt Island
Spent the night in Titusville, which is on the doorstep to Merritt Island national Wildlife Refuge as well as cape Canaveral. So was able to enter the refuge at 8:00am. My first good hit for the day was on the causeway with a couple of second winter Lesser Black-Backed Gulls. What had originally caught my eye with this group of gulls was a pair of adult black-backed gulls. Could be sure if they were greater or lesser black-backed gulls as they immediately flew off.
Took the Black Point Wildlife Drive were many good hits were made including American Avocets, Roseate Spoonbills (only sighting all month of spoonbills), more American White Pelicans, Caspian Terns, Northern Pintails, American Widgeons, Blue-Winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, Bald Eagle and a Sora. Missed on the Eurasian Widgeon, but I did not hear about its presence till later and besides there were hundreds of ducks with many in bad light.
At stop #8 was able to call up a sora.. On last years visit to the refuge a sora was called up by another birder’s recording at this spot. This is also an excellent habitat for other rails species, as well, which would have been nice to locate. As for calling up the sora, I remembered someone telling me once that a rail could be called up by a clap of your hands. So with nothing to lose I tried it and the sora began to chatter and made its appearance. Not sure if the clapping really worked, but I was finally able to get a picture of a sora.
After completing Black Point I drove over to the Bio Lab Road, which parallels Mosquito Lagoon. Last year I was able to locate Florida Scrub Jays near to the Bio Lab Road, on cr406, but not today. They can often be found along the roadways in the scrub areas.
The Bio Lab Road had Blue-Winged, American Coots, Mottled Ducks, most of the waders and several shore birds like Dunlins and Sanderlings. Found Forster’s Terns and another lifer in a Bonaparte’s Gull.
Sadly a dead loggerhead turtle was seen close to the shore. I later reported the turtle at the visitors center. I was informed that the turtle probably died from cold stress from the resent two weeks of freezing weather we just experienced. Something like 2,500 cold-stressed sea turtles had been collected by wildlife management from around the state in an effort to try to save as many as possible, yet hundreds still did not make.
The visit to the refuge was a success with fifty-three species.

My list - American Wigeon, Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Pied-billed Grebe, American White Pelican, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, Glossy Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Sora, American Coot, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, American Avocet, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Dunlin, Laughing Gull, Bonaparte's Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Caspian Tern, Forster's Tern, Royal Tern, Rock Pigeon, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Fish Crow, Tree Swallow, American Robin, Gray Catbird, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle

Great Blue Heron - Bio Lab Road on Merritt Island

Bonaparte's Gull - a poor photo but a lifer. Was preening on shore along Bio Lab Road, Merritt Island.

Sora on Merritt Island

Savannah Sparrow on Merritt Island

Next and the last stop of the vacation was Viera Wetlands near Melbourne. The wetlands are a discharge ponds for a Brevard County wastewater plant and has become quit well known as a good birding location. Most utility plants are off-limits to the general public these days, especially since 9/11. But the Viera facility continues to welcome public access to the wetlands on a controlled basis.
The big draw these days at Viera Wetlands is a wintering male Masked Duck. Very rare to Florida. This is a tropical species usually found in the Caribbean or Mexico on south. I was able to get a tick last year on a female that wintered on Alligator Lake near Lake City.
Spent about an hour and a half here and was able to locate the duck by watching were the serious birders were gathering. Other good hits here were a Crested Caracara, a pair of Limpkins and two pair of Sandhill Cranes. Also present was Caspian Tern and several species of ducks including Hooded Mergansers.
This stop concluded the birding vacation and was now time to head for home. Originally my plans included the panhandle to seek more rare and regional birds like a green-tailed towhee, lark sparrow and pacific loon at Ft Pickens, Florida Caverns State park for more northern birds like brown creeper, golden-crowned kinglets and winter wrens and St Marks NF for all the waterfowl and diving birds. Maybe next winter.

My list - Muscovy Duck, Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck, Hooded Merganser, Masked Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Wood Stork, Crested Caracara, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Limpkin, Sandhill Crane, Caspian Tern, Palm Warbler, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle

Try this link for an article and photo about the Masked Duck

Hooded Merganser

Close-up of Glossy Ibis

Pair of Blue-Winged Teal at Viera Wetlands

Count for the day - 67

Total count for this week's birding vacation came to 140

Viera Wetlands

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