Monday, July 12, 2010

Gull-Billed and Black Terns

Gull-Billed and Black Terns
Tampa Bay
July 12th

After reading several reports of Black Terns at Gundy Beach, near St Petersburg and of Gull-Billed Terns at a mitigation impoundment on Cockroach bay Road, near Ruskin, I planned stops at these locations on my trip up to Tampa Bay today. My original plans were to check out Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa as well as visit my daughter who has recently moved up that way. So we had a full day ahead.

Cockroach Bay Road
A Cattle Egret at Cockroach Bay Road
My younger daughter, Katie, and I head out early making the first stop at the Ruskin location.  And just as reported, at the first impoundment encountered we did find four active Gull-Billed Terns working the pond. A LIFER!!
This location also held a large number of Cattle Egrets and European Starlings, due to the sod farms across the road. We also found several Black-Belled Whisting Ducks with at least a dozen ducklings. Other family groups include a family of Moorhens and a Black-Necked Stilt with three babies. The following is a list for this location - (26) Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Mottled Duck, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Black Vulture, Osprey, Common Moorhen, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Laughing Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Mourning Dove, Fish Crow, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird

Lettuce Lake Park

I had hoped to locate the Prothonotary Warblers that nest here and maybe a summer tanager or carolina chickadee. Was lucky to encounter a mixed flock, which offered a very brief look at a Prothonotary Warbler. The flock also offered several Tufted Titmouse, Downy Woodpeckers and Northern Parulas. But no tanagers or chickadees. One interesting encountered included a pair parulas bringing food to a noisy but fledged offspring,(at left)

A couple of Limpkins were seen including this fellow enjoying a stroll on the boardwalk

List - Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Black Vulture, Osprey, Limpkin, Downy Woodpecker, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Northern Parula, Prothonotary Warbler, Northern Cardinal

Gandy Beach
I don't know why, but one of my favorite birds are the little Black Terns. I first encountered a few as they made there brief stops at Bunche Beach around Labor Day on their fall migrations the past couple of years. We see them in there more drab plumage. Last year I was successful in briefing seeing a fly-over of a pair of Black Terns in breeding plumage, while visiting in northern Illinois. This afternoon, I was able to see, from a distance at Gandy Beach (a part of the Gandy Road Causeway), at least three in breeding plumage. A couple of others were seen to have molted already. Unfortunately, all the black plumage birds were scared off by beach traffic and did not return. So no useful photos. Other terns seen included Least Terns, Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns and Black Skimmers. Brown Pelicans, Laughing Gulls and a Willet were also present. Dolphins too.
Sandwich, Least and a Black Tern

Least Terns at Gandy BeachRoyal and Sandwich TernsLeast Terns with a Black Tern

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