Monday, January 31, 2011

Spotted Sandpiper - A visit to Bunche Beach

Wednesday, January 26th

West Inlet at Bunche Beach
The night before this visit to Bunch Beach we had quite a storm and that can be a good time to get out and do some birding on the beach.  Arrived about eight, with a low tide and found the place to be birdy. Started with a pair of Bald Eagles dining on a dead fish at the tide line. They did not cooperate for a photo and flew off with their breakfast.
Spotted Sandpiper is best located near the west inlet at low tide
Located large numbers of Willets and Marbled Godwits. Least and Western Sandpipers were active and a Spotted Sandpiper was located at the west inlet. Was able to count six Piping Plovers, about a dozen Black-bellied Plovers, a couple of Wilson's Plover and dozens of Semipalmate Plovers.
Black-bellied Plover
Several Red-breasted Mergansers and a Common Loon were spotted in the bay along with Double-crested Cormorants. Looked through the Black Skimmers, Laughing Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls and Royal Terns  for any herring gulls. No herring gulls today.  Did have a lone American White Pelican amongst the Brown Pelicans.  A flight of white pelicans was also seen overhead.

Had large numbers of Dunlins and Sanderlings and a few Ruddy Turnstones, plus a long Short-billed Dowitcher.  Northern Cardinals, Palm Warblers and a House Wren were active back of the beach.

White Ibis

My List -(36)
Red-breasted Merganser, Common Loon, American White Pelican, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Reddish Egret, White Ibis, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Black-bellied Plover, Wilson's Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Piping Plover, Spotted Sandpiper, Willet, Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Royal Tern, Black Skimmer, Mourning Dove, Fish Crow, House Wren, Gray Catbird, Palm Warbler, Northern Cardinal
Bunche Beach is famed for its birding

Brown Pelican
Saturday January 29th
Returned to Bunch Beach on Saturday morning for the Lee County Bird Patrol walk.  Had about a dozen participants and was lead By Charlie Ewell and Walt Winton. The birding  Saturday was close to the experience on Wednesday, but we were able to add a resting Caspian Tern and about six Red Knots.
Charlie was able to photograph a banded Dunlin and a banded Red Knot. The following was a report Charlie recieved on the red knot's history since it was banded.  Thanks Charlie!!!


1/1/2007 11:45:00 AM - Sanibel Island - Bowman's Beach to Blind Pass, Florida, United States - 1172-98035 FLKY4 REKN


1/6/2007 - Fort Myers Beach, Florida, United States - 1172-98035 FLKY4 REKN

1/7/2007 - Sanibel Island- J.N Ding Darling NWR Wildlife Drive, Florida, United States - 1172-98035 FLKY4 REKN

3/12/2007 - Sanibel Island- J.N Ding Darling NWR Wildlife Drive, Florida, United States - 1172-98035 FLKY4 REKN

3/13/2007 - Sanibel Island- J.N Ding Darling NWR Wildlife Drive, Florida, United States - 1172-98035 FLKY4 REKN

9/15/2007 - Bunche Beach, Florida, United States - 1172-98035 FLKY4 REKN

12/18/2007 - Sanibel Island- J.N Ding Darling NWR Wildlife Drive, Florida, United States - 1172-98035 FLKY4 REKN

5/23/2008 - Mispillion Harbor, Delaware, United States - 1172-98035 FLKY4 REKN

5/23/2008 - Mispillion Harbor - Back Beach, Delaware, United States - 1172-98035 FLKY4 REKN

5/23/2008 - Mispillion Harbor - Osprey Point, Delaware, United States - 1172-98035 FLKY4 REKN

10/20/2008 - Fort DeSoto, North Beach, Florida, United States - 1172-98035 FLKY4 REKN

10/27/2008 - Fort DeSoto, North Beach, Florida, United States - 1172-98035 FLKY4 REKN

10/26/2009 - Longboat Key - at Diplomat Resort, Florida, United States - 1172-98035 FLKY4 REKN

3/6/2010 - Sanibel Island- J.N Ding Darling NWR Wildlife Drive, Florida, United States - 1172-98035 FLKY4 REKN

4/14/2010 - Kiawah Island - West, South Carolina, United States - 1172-98035 FLKY4 REKN

1/29/2011 - - 1172-98035 FLKY4 REKN
Charlie Ewell

My List - (34)
Red-breasted Merganser, American White Pelican, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Reddish Egret, White Ibis, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Black-bellied Plover, Wilson's Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Piping Plover, Spotted Sandpiper, Willet, Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Sanderling, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, Black Skimmer, Red-bellied Woodpecker, House Wren

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Animal Farm

From December 25th

Some family friends in eastern Lee County have had an open door for animals in need of a home such as the stray dogs that have found a home here. They are also fond of providing homes for an assortment of farm animals. Which is not always easy as bobcats and poisonous snakes have occasionally troubled them.. Florida panthers have been seen in the area, but so far have not been a problem. Currently they have a small flock of billy goats and a number of ducks and chickens, plus the dogs.

All Photos taken by my daughter Katie Obrock

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Northern Pintail - Cockroach Bay Road

Tuesday January 25th

   My original plans for today was to visit Everglades National Park, Lucky Hammock and other sites in Dade County. Some species I was targeting included Short-tailed Hawks, White-tailed Kites, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Purple Gallinule, Common Myna, White-crown Pigeon and Smooth-billed Ani.  But the timing was not right, needed to stay closer to home. So elected to bird Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area.

Hunting Scoreboard at the check-in at Babcock-Webb
    Got on site at Babcock around 7am.  The place was very quite.  After spending the whole morning birding I missed out on locating the red-cockaded woodpeckers. Other more commonly seen species were missed or only heard including eastern meadowlarks, eastern towhees, house wrens and ibis'. Did get five warblers including large numbers of Yellow-rumped and Pine Warblers.  Also seen were a few Palm Warblers, single looks at a Common Yellowthroat and a Prairie Warbler. A couple of these large mixed flocks also had a few Brown-headed Nuthatches, Eastern Bluebirds and Downy Woodpeckers. Three pairs of Sandhill Cranes were seen and several Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets found throughout the wildlife area. Found my largest flock of American Robins to date with around eighteen foraging in a live oak grove. Found the first River Otter I have ever seen at Babcock-Webb. Also saw a sunning Black Racer and American Alligator.
My List -(36)
Pied-billed Grebe,Wood Stork, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Kestrel, Sandhill Crane, Killdeer, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Blue Jay, Tree Swallow, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pine Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Palm Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Savannah Sparrow,Northern Cardinal, Eastern Meadowlark, Boat-tailed Grackle

   Well the Babcock-Webb trip was okay but not great.  So instead of heading home I chose to extend the trip after all by heading north to Cockroach Bay Road up on Tampa Bay. A recent report had canvasback duck, american pipits and potential american black duck here. Arriving about noon to find heavy winds as a part of an on coming winter storm front. The first mitigation pond appeared empty.  But a quick scan revealed a lot of hunkered down birds. An immature Bald Eagle rose from one of the islands to the discomfort of many of the waterfowl, which also rose into the air. I was able to easily spot a male Northern Pintail along with many Lesser Scaups, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler and American Coots. Further observation revealed a female Canvasback duck, plus was able to add Lesser Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitcher and Ring-billed Gull. The second pond was able to add two American Black Ducks, many Mottled Ducks, two Forster's Terns, several Green-winged Teal, a couple of Mallards and a couple of Gadwell.  The Cockroach Bay Preserve lake further down the road was able to add Ring-necked Duck, Hooded Merganser, Osprey, Northern Harrier, Brown-headed Cowbirds and Roseate Spoonbill. The extended trip to Cockroach Bay, allowed me to add thirteen species of waterfowl, but I did miss on the expected black-bellied whistling duck.
   After my two hour drive home, made a final check on the ponds on Domestic Street were I was able to add the Black-bellied Whistling Duck as a juvenile flew in as I was scoping the coots, lesser scaups and ring-necked ducks present here.

My List (41) -
Northern Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Hooded Merganser, Anhinga, American White Pelican, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Cattle Egret, Glossy Ibis, Gadwall, Mallard, Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal ,Canvasback, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, White Ibis,  Black Vulture, American Kestrel, American Coot, Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitcher, Ring-billed Gull, Forster's Tern, Tree Swallow, Northern Mockingbird, Palm Warbler, Common Grackle, Roseate Spoonbill, Brown-headed Cowbird, Northern Harrier, Osprey, Bald Eagle, American Kestrel, Sandhill Cranes

Friday, January 21, 2011

Whoopers at LaChua Trail

Thursday January 20th

American Bittern along the LaChua Trail
 Held a one day winter birding trip to north Florida. Would have enjoyed a more expanded trip, like I did last year. But you can't always get what you want. Elected to return to the LaChua Trail at Payne's Prairie State Preserve, south of Gainesville. Good location for wintering cranes, sparrows and ducks. Lots of big gators too. After a four hour drive from Ft Myers, arrived about nine o'clock, found the weather to be nice.  Started out cool but comfortable.

One of the features at Paynes Prairie are the free roaming bison and horses present on the preserve. Had a trio of horses at the trail head and found a bison cow and calf trying to rest, some what concealed near the trail. As for birds, it was pretty quite.  The Sandhill Cranes were spread out and my not have number more than a hundred on this day. Luckily I did get to the see the Whooping Cranes. Three of them could be seen from the observation tower at the end of the trail.  Too far out for my photography though. I believe at least four of the whoopers are year round residents and are joined by some additional wintering cranes down from Wisconsin.
Bison - cow and calf resting

One disappointment at the observation tower was that there was virtually no water.  So no ducks.  In the distance something had spooked a concentration of a couple of hundred ducks. Could see them rise and settle back down, but were too far out to see more that silhouettes. The  waterway paralleling the trail was active with a lot of Common Moorhens and a few American Coots and Pied-billed Grebes. Again lots of gators.
Red-shouldered Hawk
Raptors were dominated by Red-shouldered Hawks. An American Kesteral was active at the Big Sink. and a Northern Harrier could be seen hunting the marsh. The sparrows were disappointing only a few Savannah Sparrows, a single White-crowned Sparrow and a Song Sparrow.  Dipped on vespers, swamp and white-throated sparrows.  Heard what could have been american pipets, but were not seen. Found a few Eastern Phoebes and Palm Warblers and all the usuall waders, including a juvenile Black-crowned Nightheron.  American Bitterns are usually an ease find here.
 Had some luck with a mixed flock near the parking lot as I was leaving which included Yellow-rumped Warblers, Blue Jay, White-eyed Vireo, Fish Crow, Tufted Titmouse, Gray Catbird, Carolina Wren and a Carolina Chickadee. Lots of Northern Cardinals

Red-shouldered Hawk at Lust Road
Next was to hit a couple of spots near Zellwood, by Lake Apopka, on the way home. First stop was on Ranch Road in Astatula. Here was one of my nemisis birds.  A Say's Phoebe which has wintered in the pastures located here for several years now. Say's are a rarety to Florida.  But so many people had commented on how easy it was to locate over the years.  Well I have stopped here several times, sometimes a two or three stops in a day without spotting the bird the past two winters. I have only had a brief sighting with all these attempts. Well today, it was sitting right out in the open acting like a flycatcher.  Hopping down to snatch a bug and zip back to its seat. Several Eastern Meadowlarks were present, but did not see any of the eastern bluebirds or scrub jays that are often observed here. I would have to add the I finally located an American Robin as well. My first and only so far for the season.
Western Kingbird on Lust Road
Then it was around the lake to Zellwood to check out the birds on Lust Road.  In the past western kingbirds were an easy find here and ash-throated flycatchers have been reported here as well.  I did luck into a trio of Western Kingbirds, more Savannah Sparrows and three soaring Red-tailed Hawks. Plus a young Red-shouldered Hawk. But no other flycatchers. Getting late, so time to  head for home.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Common Goldeneye - A Visit to the Sarasota Celery Fields and Ft DeSoto

Wednesday January 12th

The day started out cold and windy.  Not always the best conditions as the smaller birds will tend to stay low and in the brush. But I took off anyway with the plans of checking out Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area in Charlotte County.  I would arrive a bit late to catch the red-cockaded woodpeckers at their nest holes. But a couple of hours of birding here would usually provided good results.  However, I should of checked the hunting schedule as I found the entrance blocked to force all visitors to the check-out station. So before paying the entrance fee, I elected to not bird here while hunters are present. 
 So I moved onto my next planned stop for the day with checking out the birding sights in Sarasota along Fruitful Road.
Sandhill Cranes at the Celery Fields 
My goal here were to find ruddy ducks at Ackerman Park, black-bellied whistling ducks at the Celery Fields wetlands and the common goldeneye at the Founders Club pond. The first stop was a drive through of the parking area for the library on Fruitville Road.  Was interesting in finding any monk parakeets here, but with the cold wind they would no doubt be sheltered somewhere less exposed.  Did find a Limpkin  and a Killdeer on the pond to the east of the library.
A Crane making its own observation of the wetlands
The lake at Ackerman Park held a number of Mottled Ducks, Lesser Scaups, Ring-necked Ducks, Pied-billed Grebes and a trio of Ruddy Ducks. A large flock of blackbirds consisting of Red-winged Blackbirds, Starlings, and both grackles were present . As well as lots of Fish Crows and Ring-billed Gulls. 
Then over to the nearby Celery Fields wetlands area. The development of the the wetlands appeared to be very successful. The numbers of wetland avian species was impressive. Sandhill Cranes were very numerous and several were found to be very comfortable to be in close association with the humans visiting here. I experienced a group of five of these birds that came as close as five feet without fear. I suspect that these particular birds were being feed somewhere, which is illegal in Florida. Was tempted to spook the birds to but some fear in them for their own well being, but that would be harassment and is also illegal.
A Lesser Scaup  the Common Goldeye at The Founder's Club pond
   Their had to be a couple of dozen sandhill cranes present and about a dozen Wood Storks.  Did not see any spoonbills at the time but the wetlands held a great many egrets, herons and ibis. Was very pleased to find a couple of Limpkins, a trio of Black-necked Stilts and a lone American Avocet and few Common Moorhen. Lots of shorebirds were present including Killdeer, Least Sandpipers, Dunlins, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and Long-billed Dowitchers. If I had a scope I probably could of identified more of the shorebirds. My first goal here was to find black-belled whistling ducks, but I did not find any, but there were a great many American Coots, Lesser Scaups, Ring-necked Ducks and Mottled Ducks.  Also could add Pied-billed Grebes, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoverlers and Hooded Mergansers. A few Brown Pelicans, American White Pelicans, Anhigna, Double-crested Cormorants, Forster's Terns, Royal Terns, Laughing Gulls and Ring-billed Gulls were Present.  Had an immature Bald Eagle, lots of Vultures, a coule of American Kestrels and an Osprey. Missed were any northern harriers which I have seen here several times before. Also the last time I was here had a cooper's hawk dive onto a killdeer, but missed.

Next was to drive about five miles east on Fruitville road to the pond at the Founder's Club country club. Here I located the female Common Goldeye that has been present this winter. This species is rare south of the Florida panhandle.  The pond also held Lesser Scaup, Coots, Ring-necked Ducks, and Mottled Ducks.  In the past I have seen hooded mergansers and buffleheads here but not today.
A Common Loon seen from the pier at Ft DeSoto Park
The weather continued to be cold and windy.  These winds were very gusty as I later crossed the Tampa Skyline Bridge to reach Ft DeSota park on Mullet Island in Tampa Bay. The tides were very low in the bay as well. The birding was not very good because of the weather. Did see lots of Ring-billed Gulls, laughing Gulls, Brown Pelicans, and American White Pelicans. Located about ten Common Loons at various locations around the park.  A few Red-breasted Mergansers too.  May have had a couple of horned grebes, but they were so far out, I could not be absolutily sure. Had some Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, Double-crested Cormorants, a couple of Reddish Egrets, a lone Wilet, and a  couple of Black-bellied Plovers. Was lucky to find a pair of American Oystercatchers. Because of the low tide I made an stab at locating a Spotted Sandpiper among the exposed mangrove roots and quickly found one, busy hunting for lunch

A Willet trying to stay out the day's strong winds, cold winds

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers & Western Kingbirds - A Road Trip

Tuesday, January 11th

It had been some time since I did a long road trip and after a busy holiday season I finally had some time off to do some birding. This is the time of year to look for painted buntings, scissor-tail flycatchers and western kingbirds among others. So my plan was to leave Ft Myers with stops in Alva, Glades County, Clewiston, and back home through Hendry and Collier Counties, in this search.

Crested Caracara in Glades County
Arrived in Alva, along the Caloosahatchee River,  about 8:00 AM, where the feeder's in the White's front yard were very active.  Mr White came out and visited for awhile and offered additional birding sites to check out in the area. The White's front yard and feeders are very active with many Painted Buntings, Indigo Buntings, American Goldfinches, Northern Cardinal, White-winged Dove, Mourning Doves and a Chipping Sparrow. From here, drove to the Red-headed Woodpecker territory in the pastures at North River Road and Parkinson Road.  Was only able to locate a single woodpecker, but was able to add Red-Shouldered hawk, Northern Harrier, European Starlings, Boat-tailed Grackles, an Eastern Meadowlark, Loggerhead Shrikes, Northern Mockingbirds, Gray Catbird, Eastern Phoebe Cattle Egrets, a Great Blue Heron, and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Several miles east on North River Road
after entering Hendry County was able to locate a Broad-winged Hawk and had a Crested Caracara soaring along the road, perhaps hoping for some roadkill.

Western Kingbird along US 27

In Glades County, I like to check-out CR-74 in search of Florida scrub-jays, sandhill cranes and caracaras.  Was able to find  three Crested Caracaras and a lone Florida Scrub-Jay. Lots of Tree Swallows, American Crows, Wood Storks, Great Egrets and grackles.  Missed on the cranes and wild turkeys.

Next was to take US 27 east toward Clewiston.  Was lucky to spot the long tail of a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher sitting on a wire along side of the highway about a mile west of the intersection with SR-80. So I turned the car around and parked as close as I could maneuver to the birds.  Found an addition flycatcher and five Western Kingbirds.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher found along US 27 in Hendry County
Some of the sugar cane fields around Clewiston are in the process of being harvested, which is evident by the burning fields and falling ash. Stopped for lunch in Clewiston at the picnic area next to the boat launch at Lake Okeechobee.  Was hoping to locate bronzed cowbirds at this location as I had last year.  No bronzed cowbirds today, but had several Brown-headed Cowbirds and Boat-tailed Grackles, plus Palm Warblers in the oak trees. Also had lots of Ring-billed Gulls, a few Laughing Gulls, Double-crested Cormorants, Anhingas and a Royal Tern. Other birds located in the Clewiston area included Tree Swallows, Rock Pigeons, Pied-billed Grebes, Great Egrets, Great Blue Heron, White Ibis, Glosssy Ibis, Northern Harrier, Osprey, American Kestrels, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks and a Copper's Hawk.
Train cars carrying sugar cane to the mill
Time to start heading back to Ft Myers.  Headed south from US 27 on to CR 835.  Expolored the county roads through Hendry and Collier Counties, including Blumberg Road till it ended at the gate at STA-5. Had lots of Red-tailed Hawks and Red-shouldered Hawks in this area including a bird that at first I believed was going to be a short-tailed hawk till the soaring bird's tail was back-lite by the sun to reveal the red of a red-tailed hawk. As it lacked a black belt across its belly, I was assuming that it was a Krider's Red-tailed Hawk. However It did have a hard head, so maybe it could be a Fuentes Red-tailed Hawk.  But you never hear of Fuentes in Florida. Probably was just a white-morphed Eastern Red-tailed Hawk.  Was interesting though.  A quality photo would have helped, but my camera couldn't handled job.

Another Scissor-taile Flycatcher, found along CR-833 in Hendry County

Also found a great many American Kestrels. May of had as many as a hundred of these birds seen in the coarse of this trip. Other birds found in this streach included Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Belted Kingfishers, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Red-winged-blackbirds, more Tree Swallows, two Limpkins, three Snail Kites, a the only Sandhill Cranes today with a pair seen near Immokolee. Had hoped to see some black-bellied whistling ducks, but was very lucky to spot two more Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and eight more Western Flycatchers on the wires along CR-833   

Got home about 4:00 PM to find the neighborhhood engulfed in flocks of hundreds of brown-headed cowbirds, starlings and grackles, all actively pecking the lawns for something to eat.  Was a good trip. Lots of raptors and Florida specilties

Small gator sunning itself along CR-833

Friday, January 7, 2011

Long-billed Curlew - a Visit to Bunche Beach

Friday January 7th
Long-billed Curlew
 I have not been able to get much birding in lately. We have been short-handed at work over the holidays and other more important matters had been keeping me busy. But I elected  to head over to Bunche Beach after a short rest following work this morning. I had been invited to Harn's Marsh by Bob Pelkey, but I was way too tired and headed to bed. So went to Bunche Beach later instead, figuring Bob had already left Harn's Marsh by then.
 Not as much variety at the beach today.  Hundreds of Black Skimmers and a few Royal, Sandwich and Forster's Terns. A dozen or so Ring-billed Gulls and fewer Laughing Gulls, A few Brown Pelicans and a couple of Double-crested Cormorants. Only two Wilson's Plover, six Black-bellied Plovers, four Piping Plovers and one Semipalmanted Plover.  Show no peeps at all aside about fifty Sanderlings.
 The big suprise was finding a very cooperative Long-billed Curlew. I had initially reported in this post that the bird was a whimbrel.  After reviewing my photos with many other photos on the net and in my own collection I have changed my mind on this bird to be a long-billed curlew. On my initial sighting I thought that it was too small for the curlew. But I had also noticed that this bird allowed very close approach, which had been my experience with on other occassions. Whereas any whimbrel I had seen before was always skiddish and did not allow a close approach.
A search for any ducks or loons only found two Red-breasted Mergansers feeding off shore.
A Ring-billed Gull

Piping Plover

Piping Plover