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

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