Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eared Grebe - a Visit to Cockroach Bay Preserve

November 30th

Today was a big-twiching day. Recent postings on Birdbrains introduced several interesting birding opportunities. A female Common Goldeneye and several Buffleheads had returned to a pond on Fruitville Road in Sarasota. And an American Black Duck and an Eared Grebe are reported along Cockroach Bay Road near Ruskin. All are unusual this far south.

Today is also my Dad's 77th birthday, which we celebrated on Sunday. While visiting with them we observed a gathering on the telephone wires outside his home, near lake Placid, of no less than 300 Brown-headed Cowbirds with a few Boat-tailed and Common Grackles mixed in. Tryed scanning for any bronzed or shiny cowbirds with no luck.

But today, I started a big day by waiting for a trio of Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers to exit their nest holes at sun-up at Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area in Charlotte County. As I arrived, meet Rick Greenspun and Bob Jones, who were from the Tampa area looking for lifers for Bob. It was interesting that John was involved with the locating and documenting the black duck and eared grebe. So he gave me assistance on how best to find these birds and I gave them an up date on activities at Harn's Marsh, which was their next stop. So from here I was heading into their territory as they were heading into mine. By 7:10 the woodpeckers had exited their nest holes and had taken off.  Here we split up to explore for brown-headed nuthatches. Did locate several House Wrens, Pine Warblers, Palm Warblers, Eastern Towhees, Eastern Meadowlarks and a Northern Harrier, plus many of the expected birds and a Black Racer, but no nuthatches. My stay here was shortened, due to my extra scheduled stops and by 9:00 am I was heading north of I-75 to Sarasota.

Monk Parakeets

Eurasian Collared Dove

By 9:45 I had arrived at the Fruitville Road exit, were my first stop was the Fruitville Library. I found the Monk Parakeets that live here plus a Belted Kingfisher, Eurasian Collared Doves and a Loggerhead Shrike in the parking lot.
Loggerhead Shrike

Next checked the nearby Ackerman Park and the Celery Fields. The lake at Ackerman Park held a lot of birds including American Coots, Double Crested Cormorants, Pie-billed Grebes, Lesser Scaups, Blue-winged Teal, Ring-necked Ducks, Mottled Ducks, Anhingas, a Lesser Yellowlegs and three Ruddy Ducks.

Only stopped at the Celery Fields briefly were at least ten Sandhill Cranes passed over and several Sanderlings, Lesser Yellowlegs and Greater Yellowlegs were present in the drying pond near the gazebo. The only ducks observed at the time were a dozen Mottled Ducks.  Could add a Roseate Spoonbill several White Ibis and Glossy Ibis and had a Northern Harrier hunting over the wetlands. Palm Warblers and Savannah Sparrows were present at the gazebo area. My list was short of here as I did not stay long. Because next it was time to look for the Common Goldeneye.

Hooded Mergansers at Founder's Club pond on Fruitville Road

A few miles east on Fruitville Road is the Founder's Club pond. Parking is at the church across the street were I met a fellow named John who was leaving after spending a couple of hours scanning for the goldeneye without any luck. So I hoped for the best, but when you travel a long ways to locate a single bird there is the reality of failure. Have experienced this before.
Met a couple of ladies scoping the pond from the sidewalk.  They had a Redhead in the scope and were still hoping to sight the goldeneye.  Well when I moved down the sidewalk for a new vantage point, almost immediately spotted the bird. The female Common Goldeneye would only briefly remain visible before diving for a meal. She remained difficult to relocate and I could not get a photograph. The pond was loaded with birds included FOS Buffleheads, many Hooded Mergansers, Blue-winged Teal, Lesser Scaups, Ring-necked Ducks, Mottled Ducks, Pied-billed Grebes, Anhinga, a couple of Redheads and several waders.

Next stop was at Cockroach Bay Road, off US 41, near Ruskin, in Hillsborough County. Reports stated that an American Black Duck was present in the second mitigation pond.  I stopped at the first mitigation pond were American White Pelicans. Caspian Terns and American Avocets were present. These ponds were loaded with birds including all the waders, Belted Kingfishers, Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitchers, Sanderlings, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, Mallards, Lesser Scaups, Ring-necked Ducks, American Coots, Anhingas, Double-crested Cormorants and more.
American Avocets on Cockroach Bay Road mitigation ponds
At the second pond I met an avid birder named Steve who was looking for the American Black Duck. He, sporting a shirt labeled Bird Nerd, and had already located the Eared Grebe at the nearby Cockroach Bay Preserve and now had a the suspect duck in his scope.  The bad part here was that the lighting was so poor. We both agreed though that we had located the American Black Duck right where reports said to look. Steve reported that he had already found a gadwell, which I failed to relocate.  Would have been nice, but the black duck was the reward.  Hadn't seen one in over thirty years, back when I lived in Illinois.

A terrible photo of the Eared Grebe with a Pied-billed Grebe

Next stop were the ponds at Cockroach Bay Preserve on Gulf City Road.  After checking in at the rangers  office, headed out back to the ponds. Quickly found a Spotted Sandpiper, a flock of Western Sandpipers and a Lesser Yellowlegs.  The ponds had several Anhingas and Double-crested Cormorants. Had to have held sixty plus Hooded Mergansers.  A few Lesser Scaups and Ring-necked Ducks were present.  Found the Eared Grebe, a LIFER,  in the company of three Pied-billed Grebes. Also had a juvenile hawk land in some brush close by.  I originally believed it was a juvenile red-shouldered hawk, but after looking at enlargements of photos I had second thoughts. I now think that it is probably a juvenile coopers hawk.
Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk or a Juvenile Cooper's Hawk
A Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk or a Juvenile Cooper's Hawk
Roseate Spoonbill in flight at Cockroach Bay Preserve
The eared grebe was a nice hit.  Had hoped to add it when I went to Idaho last month, but getting today was satisfying. I was able to recheck on the American Black Duck as I was heading for home. The lighting had improved and was able to relocate the bird.  Then it is time to head home.  It was a good day.

My list for the day (80) -
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, American Black Duck, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Eared Grebe, American White Pelican, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron. Cattle Egret, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-heron, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Sandhill Crane, American Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Lesser Yellowlegs, Sanderling, Western Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson’s Snipe, laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Caspian Tern, Forster’s Tern, Eurasian Collared Dove, Mourning Dove, Monk Parakeet, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Blue Jay, Tree Swallow, House Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Northern Mockingbird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Palm Warbler, Pine Warbler, eastern Towhee, Savannah Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, Eastern Meadowlark, Brown-headed Cowbird

1 comment:

  1. Always entertaining stuff here, Tom. The hawk, based on your images, shows bars in the tail feathers that should confirm the bird as Cooper's.