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

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