Friday, December 17, 2010

Snow Bunting - A Rare Bird in Florida

Tuesday December 14th

A Rare Viewing of a Snow Bunting at Palm Coast, Florida

It was a hard decision whether to chase after the sighting of a Florida rare bird, in a Snow Bunting at Palm Coast, Florida, or to head south toward the Everglades, were other intriguing reports are being posted. I had run into an active birder and photographer, Reinhard Geisler and his wife, on my last visit to Harn's Marsh. He was encouraging about going after the bunting and the continuing postings on how this bird has steadily remained on a very small patch of grass and should be an easy tick.
Met Tom and Cheryl Smith at Waterfront Park, who took this photo.  Far superior than what my camera could handle . See Tom's Flicker site
   Well I elected to chase after the snow bunting regardless of the four and a half hour drive to get there and the fact we are in the midst of record cold temperatures.  Left home at 4 am with temperatures in the 30's. The wind chill temperature at Waterfront Park had to be in the teens. Ice had formed on the sidewalk and the landscape plantings were decorated with ice as well. The buntings location was roped-off to provide a safe zone.  Seems the bird had almost been stepped on by the curious and now we have to kept back.  So far back that my photo attempts produced poor shots.  But those with the patience and the correct camera gear could still pervail. Photographers that were here before the barricade could step up to a few short feet for great shots. About seven freezing observers were already on site when I arrived and one nice lady offered looks through her scope. It is a beautiful bird.  But why was it it here so far from its normal territory. An a real irony was a bird from the far north is found in Florida during a record cold spell.
Ice Covered Landscaping.
I planned on stopping at Smyrna Dunes Park to look for resident purple sandpipers, but because of the cold I chose to drive onto Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. But first I did stop at Flagler Beach to check out for any interesting gulls or pelagics. Was able to easily spot and identify Northern Gannets, but most other interesting birds were to far out for my binoculars.  Needed a scope. A large flock of dark duck like birds flew past just above the surf. Again too far out for gathering good details for identification, but my guess were that they were a scoter species.  Maybe white-winged. Other birds included Brown Pelicans, Royal Terns, Forster's Terns, Laughing Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings and Black Skimmers.

Dunlin seen along the Black Point Wildlife Drive on Merritt Island

White Ibis

Roseate Spoonbills and Wood Storks

An unidentified bird over Merritt Island

Roseate Spoobill

Can you see the gator?

American Coots

A Dowitcher species

Got to Merritt Island at noon and spent about three hours on the Black Point Wildlife Drive and on the Lab Beach Road. I found Long-billed Dowitchers, lots of Dunlins and Sanderlings, a few Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs.  And a single Red Knot. Also had large numbers of wading birds like White Ibis, Wood Storks, Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egret, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons and Little Blue Herons. American White Pelicans were plentiful and several Caspian, Royal and Forsters Terns were found. As for raptors I only saw one Osprey, one Northern Harrier and a couple of American Kestrels. No ducks were seen at all on the Black Point drive. Water levels seemed to be too low for them.  Also missed were any avocets, stilts and on the tundra swans reportedly seen earlier in the morning, but seen elsewhere on the refuge.
The Lab Road was very interesting.  Had hoped for another shot at any black-backed gulls or Bonaparte's gulls, but missed.  My best bird on the road was Peregrine Falcon. Was able to find some ducks and tons of American Coots.  The ducks included Ring-necked Ducks and Hooded Mergansers. Also had four warblers - Common Yellowthroat, Palm Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler and a lone Black-and-White warbler. Shore birds include a lot of Western Sandpipers, Dunlins, Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstones. A couple of royal Terns a several Ring-billed Gulls, plus American White and Brown Pelicans were present too. Only spotted a single gator all day, but almost missed It because it was camouflaged with a coating of dried mud. And now time for the lone drive home.
NASA Space Center is located nearby

1 comment:

  1. Man, I love those spoonbills! We too had a Snow Bunting awhile back in southern Washington. Not totally rare, but uncommon for sure- and it came during our coldest temps (and snow) also. He also stayed in pretty much the same spot for a week or so. I'm glad you were able to find yours!