Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cranes and Grebes - a Visit to Pasco County

Wednesday February 2nd

a 1958 Postcard of their motel
I could not get up to Pasco County when reports of some interesting birds were coming to light. Missed on the suspected Kelp Gull being observed at Ancolate Gulf County Park in Tarpon Springs. But the white-faced ibis could possibly still be found in New Port Richey. I was also interested in exploring the area as my grandparents moved to New Port Richey back around 1964. They had purchased and operated a small road-side motel on US19. My family would spend vacation time in Florida every year visiting my grandparents here. I recall the area was rather rural and quite, but was growing with developments targeting the retirement population. Many memories include spending days at Hudson Beach getting sunburned, and catching blowfish and sea horses in the rocks, and a deep-sea fishing trip out of Tarpon Springs and the sponge docks there as well. Much of the area was being bulldozed and reshaped for development. A few blocks from grandma's house, one such site, provided me with the only arrowhead I ever found, and still have, just sitting atop the disturbed soil. back in 1969 was the first time I ever saw a Wood Stork and back then the area had a large population of wild Budgies. I remember my Grandma's comments about seeing trees filled with the birds. Currently they maybe be gone. As other exotic bird species have pushed them out. Gone too is the rural, quite settings I remembered.

Large Flock of Sandhill Cranes near Dade City

One location I searched was Autin Road near Dade City. A rural area with pastures, farms and parks. Observed a large flock of Sandhill Cranes that had to contain at least seventy individuals. Other interesting sitings included several Wilson's Snipes, a pair of beautiful Red-Tailed Hawks and Eastern Bluebirds. At the wooded intersection of River Road and Autin Road I was lucky to find a mixed flock of Carolina Chickadees, White-eyed Vireos, Red-belled Woodpeckers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Black-and-White Warblers, Tufted Titmouse and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

Horned Grebe at Anclote Gulf Park in Tarpon Springs

Next headed over to Mitchell Blvd in New Port Richey were a white-faced ibis had been sited for a few weeks.  I checked the location twice, but no white-faced ibis.  In fact I did not see any glossy ibis in the whole county. The ponds had cooperative Mottled Ducks, Pied-billed Grebes, a Sandhill Crane, Palm Warblers and a Savannah Sparrow. At nearby Trinity Blvd. I did locate a trio of Nanday Parakeets.

Next was  Anclote Gulf Park in Tarpon Springs.  Last month the place was all a buzz by the presence of a suspected kelp gull. This gull is native to the southern hemisphere.  So out of curiosity I made my way here.  Sited along the road prior to arriving here I spotted two Bald Eagles, a couple of Ospreys and a Cooper's Hawk. The tide was high on my arrival so no gulls or terns resting on the flats, but several Common Loons were fishing on the north side of the fishing pier.  From the river side of the pier were an Anhinga, several Double-crested Cormorants and at least twenty four Horned Grebes.  The best looks at these I grebes I have had so far.

  From the parking area were large numbers of Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, Ground Doves, Eurasian Collared Doves and a small flock of Monk Parakeets.

Monk Parakeets
 On the way home I made a stop at the Terra Verde ponds north of Ft DeSota park in Pinellis County. Found an American Wigeon, a few Northern Shoveler, hundreds of Redhead, plus Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Pied-billed Grebe, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Egret, Laughing Gull,  and few more Monk Parakeets.  Next made a quick stop at East Beach in Ft DeSota Park were I added Red-breasted Merganser, more Common Loons and Anhingas.

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