Tuesday, September 28, 2010


September 28th

This could be a good time for birding in South Florida with a cold front passing through. There is a great expectation for some great fall-outs.  We shall see.
We also have a tropical storm brewing to the south, pushing up towards Florida,which should also contribute to the expected birding events.  I think that there is also a possibility of pelagic species to be pushed close to shore. This maybe why we had an unusual observation yesterday of a red-necked phalarope at Bunch Beach.
For me there is irony in this observation of the phalarope in that I had been tagging along with Mr McGrath as he was conducting his bird survey, but elected to leave shortly before he found the phalarope. Could of had a lifer.  The red-necked phalarope is not really seen in southwest Florida.

Chose to check-out the Sanibel Lighthouse area for any migrants stopping yet, but found it very quite. Did find a female Prairie Warbler and a female American Redstart, but that was all for warblers. The migrants that I did find was a couple of Merlins and a Peregrine Falcon. One other bird I found that surprised me a bit was a Red-headed Woodpecker sitting in a snag with a couple of Red-bellied woodpeckers.
By tomorrow we expect a lot more activity here.
Before reaching Sanibel Island I opted to try for the phalarope at Bunch Beach.  I really did not expect to relocate it, but you never know unless you try. Well, I tried and will have to book onto a pelagic birding trip some time in the future to score on the bird. There is a trip advertised for November 14th out of Ponce Inlet in New Smyrna Beach.
Walked both ends of Bunche Beach and say about the same as yesterday.  Had to be about 200 Red Knots scattered across the mud flats which is a great increase in activity. Heard a White-eyed Vireo in the scrub back of the beach and observed a FOS Merlin circling the mud flats, probably looking for a tasty little peep for lunch. Diffidently a great site for birding. Have encountered international, basically British, birding groups visiting Bunche Beach on many occasions.

To round out the three species of falcon found here in this season, I stopped by Domestic Street in south Lee County were I knew I'd be able to locate a couple of Kestrals. Which gave me the trifecta on falcons for the day.

Least Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper

Western Sandpiper

Black-bellied Plover

Red Knots

Monday, September 27, 2010

Red Knots at Bunche Beach

Red Knots at Bunche Beach
Monday, September 27th

Came out at Bunche Beach in Estero Bay to see what's new.  Arrived about 8:30 on a falling tide and very people using the beach.  Found the usual shore birds - Sanderlings, Semipalated Plovers, Black-bellied Plovers, Brown Pelicans, several Marbled Godwits, a couple of Piping Plovers, several Wilson's Plovers and Willets. Short-billed Dowitchers were busy on the receding shoreline and were checked out for any Red Knots. And Yes, we do have a busy flock of Red Knots on hand. So we finally are seeing numbers of the red knots here.  Won't be long and the dunlins will appear too. Hundreds of Black Skimmers are on hand and about a dozen Roseate Spoonbills also. Spotted a single Spotted Sandpiper, a dozen or so Least Sandpipers a a couple of Western Sandpipers. The usual waders were here including Reddish and Great Egrets, a Great Blue Heron and few Little Blue Herons. A pair of Magnificent Frighetbirds appeared and a lone Osprey.  Several Fish Crows were around and it seems one was feeding on a dowitcher's carcass on the beach.

Ran into Vince McGrath who was here to do his Bird Patrol survey.  He is a  very knowledgable, experienced birder and I took the opportunty to tag along with him for awhile.  He will be leading the Hawk Watch at Sanibel Lighthouse on October 17th, which I plan on attending.  Sanibel Lighthouse can be seen across the bay from Bunche Beach. We can expect to see sharp-shined hawks, merlins, peregrines, kestrels, ospreys, bald eagles and more as they head south. October 17th is also the kick-off for Ding Darling Days at the Ding Darling wildlife refuge on Sanibel Island.
   UPDATE (9/28): I left Vince too soon. Read his report on Birdbrains -
 As I stand here a red- necked phalarope is feeding with western

sandpipers and semipal plovers at Bunche Beach in S Ft Myers, Lee Co

Piping Plover

Piping Plover

Short-billed Dowitcher

"Did You See That!!" - Red Knots

Red Knots

Black Skimmers

Roseate Spoonbill


Spotted Sandpiper

Bird List for the Day at Bunche Beach - (28)
Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Reddish Egret, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Osprey, Black-bellied Plover, Wilson's Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Piping Plover, American Oystercatcher, Spotted Sandpiper, Willet, Marbled Godwit, Red Knot, Sanderling, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull, Black Skimmer, Belted Kingfisher, Fish Crow, Northern Cardinal

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cuban Pewee

Cuban Pewee
Everglades National Park
September 13th.

Recently Larry Manfredi, a Florida birding guide, of South Florida Birding, made an unusual discovery of a Cuban Pewee at the Long Pine Key picnic grounds in Everglades National Park. This bird is probably only the third reported sighting of the Cuban Pewee in the U.S. according to the Florida Audubon.  Official approval is pending. But by all accounts it is the real deal.  Birders have been coming in from all over the country to view this rarity. I was there is morning and waited along with a couple from Marco Island, Florida, who actually just flew in from Michigan and came straight here first instead of home. A couple of other fellas came in from Pennsylvania.  Another couple just came in from birding in Alaska to get a lifer with this rarity.

We waited for three hours, having arrived at the suggested time of 7:00 am.  But the bird was tardy. During the wait we observed many of the usual birds found in an upland pine forest including Pine Warbler, Great Crested Flycatcher, an Eastern Pewee, American Crows, Eastern Bluebirds, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Cardinals and the commonest bird of the day Northern Mockingbirds. By 10 am I was ready to move on and was almost to my car, when Shouts and a car horn could be heard. Yeap, the bird was located.  I really appreciated getting called back. As I was able to join the others in great looks at the bird. LIFER!!! Unfortunately my pics were very poor.  So please check out this photo of the Cuban Pewee taken a couple of days prior. CUBAN PEWEE LONG PINE KEY ENP 2304 #2 taken by Danny Bales.  Compare it to my best shot
Cuban Pewee - Everglades National Park, 09/13/2010

My List for the Day includes The Eveglades and Homestead - (58) 
Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, White Ibis, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Black-necked Stilt, Spotted Sandpiper, Willet, Sanderling, Least Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Common Nighthawk, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Cuban Pewee, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Gray Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, White-eyed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, American Crow, Fish Crow, Barn Swallow, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Pine Warbler, Ovenbird, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, Orchard Oriole, Common Myna,  Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove,  House Sparrow

American Crow at Long Pine

Mahogany Hammock

Northern Mockingbird, most common bird of the day

Semipalmated Plover at Flamingo

Gator at Anhinga Trail

Friday, September 10, 2010

Baby Gators

Six-Mile Cypress Slough Preserve
September 8th

Headed over to Six-Mile Cypress Slough Wednesday morning to look for migrants and was lucky to met up with Walt, who is a very skilled birder.  When I met him on the boardwalk he already had a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers located, which were a part of a nice mixed flock. Walt also quickly locked-on to a couple of female Blackburnian Warblers, and Northern Parula.  We were able to add American Redstart, Black-and-White and a nice female Hooded Warbler. Walt reported a nice assortment of migrants found at Sanibel Lighthouse yesterday at the same time I had come up empty at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, were I did not hit on any warblers, but did get a Eastern Wood-Pewee.  So following my stay at Six-Mile I headed over to Sanibel Lighthouse, but found it very quite.  Only warbler was Prairie Warbler.

Baby Gators - Below is a series of pics of two week old gators as seen from the Six-Mile Cypress boardwalk.

Momma Gator on guard

Momma Gator


Thursday, September 9, 2010

American Redstart - Paynes Prairie

Paynes Prairie
September 6th - Labor Day

   I had been interested in locating a mississippi kite this summer, in part to tally up my annual list but to also hit on a quadfecta of kites found in Florida - snail kite, swallow-tailed kite, white-tailed kite and the mississippi kite.  Had not really been able to to travel to the northern half of Florida this summer, but this Labor Day weekend offered some time to try and find the missing kite in the Paynes Prairie State Park area south of Gainesville.  This would be crap shot, as the mississippi kites are mostly gone from Florida to winter in Texas by the start of September.  But it was not impossible as ebird reports have shown. These birds had been currently reported in the Paynes Prairie area as of August 29th.
Paynes Prairie deer
Being a four hour drive, I left home at 4am to try and arrive at the park's opening at 8 o'clock. Was met by a constant calling of hidden White-eyed Vireos and encountered a pair of white-tailed deer. Near the campgrounds by Lake Wauberg encountered a noisy mixed flock of Carolina Chickadees, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, Black-and-White Warblers and Northern Cardinals. There were more but the thick foliage did hamper the search. Down by the lake I did find Pileated Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-eyed Vireo, American Redstart, Yellow-throated Warbler, Fish Crows, a Green Heron, Great Blue Heron and Blue Jay.  No Kites.
One of Paynes Prairie's wild horses

Bolan Bluff Trail

A wild citrus, probably wild orange

An American Redstart
   Left the main park environment to walk the Bolen Bluff Trail a couple of miles north off US441. This is a popular trail for birders and a good location for sighting kites, acadian flycatchers and migrating warblers. The trail was busy with birders and no one I spoke with was encouraging on finding any kites today. But many were reporting good sightings like Kentucky warblers, blue-winged warblers, yellow-billed cuckoos, acadian flycatchers, prairie warbler, yellow warbler and waterthrushes.  I dipped on all of these. I was successful with locating White-eyed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, many Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Blue Jay, Northern Parula, Blackburnian Warblers (3 males), Pine Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, many Northern Cardinals and an Indigo Bunting. But again no kites.  I did find a couple of the wild horses, that along with a small herd of bison, were released to roam the park.
   I had planned on hitting the LaChua Trail next, which is located at the northern side of the park, but I was very tired from a long day.  So I headed for home instead. The past two years in January I visited the LaChua Trail and had great success with cranes and and sparrows. I '09 I was lucky to score on the pair of Whooping Cranes that do live on the prairie as they mingled with the thousands of sandhill cranes that were wintering there that winter. The whoopers are a part of the flock of birds being reintroduced as part of a permanent, non-migrating population of cranes in Florida. Was pleasantly suprised to view a flock of Snow Geese fly in to graze with the many cranes.  The snow geese were LIFERS. I later read reports on the these geese and that one was a Ross's Goose.  A review of my photos of the geese shows the Ross's Goose.  A LIFER.  Another lifer found that day was the Harris's Sparrow that was my target for the day. This sparrow was being reported on the Rare Florida postings and was only the second recorded sighting in Alachua County.
   My 2010 visitation was was much less interesting as it was lacking the thousands of cranes. Best birds of that day were probably the long-billed dowitchers, a flock of turkeys and a pair of American bitterns.
   I will return again this next summer in search of the kites.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mystery Hawk - Solved

Mystery Hawk
September 1st

Located this hawk sitting in some snags along Domestic Street in south Lee County, Florida and I am not sure what kind of hawk. This location has been good for locating red-tailed hawks and that was my first assumption bases on size and shape. But the dark coloration is not common to our local red-tails.  Have re- sighted the bird the past three days.
 Besides the dark morphed red-tail, which are western birds, another possibility could be a very early dark-morphed swainsen's hawk. A third possibility would be an endemic dark-morphed short-tailed hawk, but I believe it is too large for a short-tail.

September 4th - I contacted Jeff Bouton for help with the id, for which he is very qualified. Jeff has determinded that the bird is a Dark Red-Tailed Hawk. This is very unusual for our area as these are mostly western birds.  As of this morning the hawk continues to enjoy siting on this same snag for the past four days.  Hope it sticks around for awhile.
Dark Red-tailed Hawk seen in south Lee County, Florida

Yellow-Crowned Nightheron

Bunche Beach
September 2nd

   Checked out Bunche Beach during an afternoon low tide and found a great many birds on hand. Most numerous had to be Sanderlings. Did find numerous Semipalmated and Wilson's PloversBlack-bellied Plovers were present, most still in alternate plumage.  A couple of Piping Plovers as well. There were three Black Terns, a few Least Terns and several Sandwich Terns. The Brown Pelicans and the sandwich terns were busy diving for there supper. I scanned the Short-billed Dowitchers foraging along the waters edge to see if any red knots were present. But none seen today. Had a couple of Marbled Godwits and many Willets. A lone juvenile Yellow-Crowned Nightheron posed nicely for picture.
Enjoyed finding the black terns here today, but missed on the red knots and the long-billed curlew. A report from a couple of days ago had an early dunlin present, but I did not notice any.

Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Nightheron

Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Nightheron

Least Tern

Black Tern

Wlson's Plover

Spotted Sandpiper
My List - (26) Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Reddish Egret, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, Osprey, Black-bellied Plover, Wilson's Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Piping Plover, Spotted Sandpiper, Willet, Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Least Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Black Tern, Sandwich Tern