Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Mississippi Kite on a June "Big Day"

Thursday, June 30th

June can be a very slow birding month in Florida.  The wintering birds are gone, the spring migration is over and the early fall migrants don't start showing up till mid-July.  Many of the serious Florida birders conducted a contest on a county basis, just to keep birding interesting during the lull. I think it was pretty close between Pinellis County and Dade County.  I did not really participate, but got a 95 count for Lee County.  My count for June which included my trip to Illinois came to 158. But on the last day of June I elected to have a Big Day.

One goal for the year was to get a tick on a Mississippi Kite. I had figured on going up to Paynes Prairie near Gainesville to look for the kite, acadian flycatchers and summer tanagers.  Needed all of these for my year list.
But reports on described a reliable roost of the kites closer to home in Hernando County near Brooksville. I elected to try the site first and if it failed, keep on going to Paynes Prairie.

A juvenile Black-necked Stilt
Sandhill Crane at The Celery Fields
My actual first stop for the day was an unscheduled visit to The Celery Fields in Sarasota.  Was passing the area about 7:30am and figured I had time to add it on and it was a good idea. The recently planted wetlands was was very active with several good birds including two dozen Sandhill Cranes, and several calling LimpkinsBlack-necked Stilts were nesting and numerous.   Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were active and I was pleased to see a Least Bittern and a Belted Kingfisher. Had all of the waders, plus Anhingas, Ospreys, Common Moorhens, a Black-crowned Night-heron, a Chimney Swift, a trio of Northern Rough-winged Swallow and a Black Skimmer.  After thirty minutes it was time to move on.

The Mississippi Kite
The kite roost was located on Power Line Road which actually is the border between Hernando and Pasco Counties.  Found a lone Mississippi Kite excatly were the reports said they could be found.  It had started raining so I did not stay too long waiting for additional kites to show up.  Also located in the area were Swallow-tailed Kites, Red-tailed Hawks, a Red-shouldered Hawk, Tufted Titmice, Cattle Egrets, White Ibis, Blue Jays, Mourning Doves, both American and Fish Crows, Eastern Bluebirds, Cardinals, Grackles, Eastern Meadowlarks and four Southeastern American Kestrels. Missed on the burrowing owls as I was not sure which pasture they were in.

Had noticed signage for access to Withlocoochee State Forest, which I decided to explorer for any likely birding sites. Quite by accident I came to Rock Lake Road were I was going to turn around. But I noticed a little yellow bird in the live oaks and took the time try and identify it.  I, at first, thought it maybe an orchard oriole, but in fact I had a family of three Summer Tanagers. Then a Red-headed Woodpecker took off from the trees and I thought I had a glimpse of an acadian flycatcher when a small olive green bird with wing bars made a brief appearance, but not really sure.  Would have been a lifer.  In the same tree I found a Yellow-throated Vireo. Also encountered Carolina Wrens, Carolina Chickadees, Eastern Bluebird, and Eastern Towhee, Tufted Titmice, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay and a calling Bobwhite. Not bad for a rest stop.

Black Terns at Gandy Beach

A Black Tern in breeding plumage

Royal Terns at Gandy Beach
Heading back toward home, I stopped at Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa with the idea that I could locate a prothonotary warbler as they do breed there. Trouble was I got soaking wet in a heavy rain storm.  Did not get the warbler, but did add Wild Turkeys, more Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Swallow-tailed Kites, Great Crested Flycatcher, a Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Storks, more Limpkins, Barn Swallows, more Tufted Titmice and Carolina Chickadee.  Also Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, Cardinals, Ospreys and all the waders.
A Black Tern and a Royal Tern

From Lettuce Lake I headed toward St Petersberg to check out Gandy Beach. Here I located the first American Oystercatcher I had seen in some time.  Even better was a flock of about Least Terns, about a dozen Black Terns , several Laughing Gulls and a Sandwich Tern.. Was especially keen on locating the Black Terns. We also had a few Ruddy Turnstones and Semiplamated Plovers. It wasn't too cool when a guy in a big pick-up truck drove through the resting birds. But you are permited to park there.

Least Tern at Gandy Beach
Fort DeSoto Park was nearby so I made it my last stop.  Checked the Terra Verde ponds for anything interesting.  No ducks, but had five Pied-billed Grebes and more Least Terns.  In the park had Brown Pelicans, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Tricolored Herons Yellow-crowned Night-heron, a Red Shouldered Hawk, Gray Kingbird, Marbled Godwit, Black-bellied Plover, Wilson's Plover, Willets, Ruddy Turnstones, Short-billed Dowitchers, Laughing Gulls, Royal Terns, Black Skimmers Loggerhead Shrikes, Fish Crows and Brown-headed Cowbirds. Later while crossing the Sunshine Skyway Bridge sighted a Magnificent Frigatebird.

Got home about six pm, but had to check on the Burrowing Owl family off Lee Road and Domestic Road. Here I added the Burrowing Owls, Eastern Meadowlarks, Anhinga, Mottled ducks, and American Coot. 

My day's count was 80

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