Thursday, April 21, 2011

Long-billed Curlew - A Visit to Fort DeSoto Park

Tuesday April 19th

Fort DeSoto Park can be a spring migration magnet. Last year I had a great experience there with rose-breasted grosbeak, indigo bunting, summer tanager, scarlet tanager, blackburian warbler, chestnut-sided warbler, yellow warbler, black-throated green warbler, black-and-white warbler, american redstart, eastern pewee, eastern kingbird, and nesting great horned owls.  But so far, for this migration the weather has been against Florida birders. The winds are pushing the migrants past us.

So when I made a return visit Tuesday I was hopeful but did not really expect anything exceptional.  Met with Bob Pelkey at dawn, who was wrapping up a three day visit to the park. Bob reported the same dismissal migration activity.  So he had concentrated his photography on the shorebirds.

Laughing Gulls in amour
Nesting has already begun here with plovers and oystercatchers and noted seeing Sandwich Terns and Laughing Gulls displaying as they pair off. Also seen was a lone Herring Gull, which Bob had observed just before my arrival, pick up a large clam, fly up and dropped the clam so that it broke open. The gull quickly ate his breakfast.  I had read on Birdbrains about herring gulls  performing this method at Ft DeSoto.
Herring Gull, probably a first cycle
Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plover

Long-billed Curlew and Willet

Long-billed Curlew


American Oystercatcher

Laughing Gulls are still at it

Pair of Willets

Bob Pelkey

Other shore birds seen included Willets, Wilson's Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher, Black-bellied plovers, Least Terns, Royal Terns, Reddish Egrets, Red-breasted Merganser, Brown Pelicans and American Oystercatcher.  We also were successful in locating the resident Whimbrel and Long-billed Curlew. Both visited the lagoon at the same time. Bob finds it important to photograph the birds at eye level, so into the lagoon went, camera and all. He sat there to get the best possible shot.

Before leaving we also added a pair of Nanday Parakeets. And a stop at the Tierra Verde ponds we found Ruddy Duck, Lesser and Greater Scaup and Redheads, plus a couple more Nanday parakeets, several Least Terns, Laughing Gulls and Pied-billed Grebes. A couple of the male ruddy ducks were in breeding plumage with the white cheeks and bright blue bill.  Was surprised at the greater scaups. Spent a long time analysing the head shapes on the two similar species. Bob again went in as far as was safe into the pond for that special shot.
Even though Bob had run out of battery power on his camera he wanted to see black-necked stilts, so we stopped at the Cockroach Bay Road mitigation ponds were we had several Black-necked Stilts, Long-billed Dowitchers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Roseate Spoonbills, Red-winged Blackbirds, Coots, Moorhens, Blue-winged Teal, Mottled Ducks, Lesser Scaup, Pied-billed Grebe, Chimney Swifts, a Red-tailed Hawk and all the expected waders.  Included several Glossy Ibis which we took a bit of time trying to see if any were white-faces ibis.

From here it was time to head for home.  But I made just one more stop, at The Celery Fields in Sarasota, because of a report of a pair of female yellow-headed blackbirds. Did not see the blackbirds but did find most all of the same birds sited earlier with the addition of Western Sandpipers and a couple of Caspian Terns.  Even without the migrants, still had a good day.  By count was 70 plus birds.  can't complain

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