Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Blue-winged Teal at Bunche Beach

Sunday, August 28th

A banded Piping Plover

The Lee County Bird Patrol sponsored today's bird walk at Bunche Beach. Charlie Ewell and Vince McGrath lead the event and was joined by Gayle Schmidt, Bruce, Bob, myself and several other birders.

The walk was scheduled to start at 6pm, but for me I was scheduled for work at 8pm. So I arrived a half hour early as I would have to leave early. Found a great variety of birds on a falling tide. I had headed toward the west end and found many Laughing Gulls and Brown Pelicans.  Semipalmated, FOS Piping, Wilson's and Black-bellied Plovers were present.  One of the Piping Plovers is banded and still in breeding plumage. Willets, Marbled Godwits, Sanderlings, Short-billed Dowitchers, Semipalmated Sandpipers and Least Sandpipers numbers grew as the tide continued falling, exposing the mud flats. Roseate Spoonbills, Little Blue Herons, a Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egrets and White Ibis were moving in as well. Vince helped me to sight the lone American Oystercatcher on hand.  But only a couple of the folks were successful in seeing the Snowy Plover. I missed the plover, but did see a Long-billed Curlew while I was scouting the beach before the walk started.  Sadly for the others it flew off out of sight.

Another good catch by Vince was a FOS Common Tern and a flock of FOS Blue-winged Teal flew over.  A few could be seen feeding in the exposed sea grasses further to the west. Other terns seen was a lone Least Tern, and a few Sandwich and Royal Terns. Plus about a hundred Black Skimmers flewing past. Only a couple of Ruddy Turnstones were seen, but it was a good walk.  As I was rushing home to prep for work I was able to add a Coopers Hawk which had landed in a tree along side US 41.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Barred Owl Photo

The following were  photos taken by a co-worker - Charles Franzese,
of our resident Barred Owl.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Eastern Wood-Pewee at Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve

Sunday, August 21st

Headed out to Six-mile Cypress Preserve this morning with the idea of locating early migrant warblers and vireos. Started out quite, but did notice several gators were present today.  Eventually heard the sounds of a mixed flock of birds.  Started with a couple of Tufted Titmice,  then had appearances from a pair of Hairy Woodpecker, a couple of Northern Parula and FOS appearances for me of a Black-and-White Warbler and a Yellowthroated Warbler. Also added Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Red-bellied Woodpeckers

The boardwalk

A baby gator

One goal for this trip was to find any red-eyed vireos.  With missing on this species, I elected to add a stop at Caloosahatchee Regional Park to to look for the vireo. So as I was driving over I can across Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve on Bayshore Road and decided to add a stop here as well. Turned out to be a good choice.  Because I came upon a nice mixed flock of birds at the picnic area. Had the usual Northern Mockingbirds and Blue jays, but was able to add Eastern Wood-Pewee, an FOS female  American Redstart, Northern Parula, Northern Flickers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Cardinals and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers
Eastern Wood-Pewee

Eastern Wood-Pewee

But still no red-eyed vireos, so onto Caloosahatchee Regional Park.  Again it was really quite and after walking trails for about a half hour finally heard the noise of another mixed flock of birds.Again it was the Tufted Titmice I noticed first, followed by Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Northern Parulas and a couple of Yellowthroated Warblers.  Then came a pair of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and  a pair of White-eyed Vireos.  The park was also busy with dozens of Barn Swallows.  But no red-eyed vireos today.
Scene along trail to the river

Other sightings from the day included Burrowing Owls, Chimney Swift, Eastern Bluebirds, Mottled Ducks, Red-shouldered Hawk, a huge flock of Fish Crows, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Cattle Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Green Heron, Red-headed Woodpwecker, Eurasian Collared Dove, Loggerhead Shrikes, House Sparrows and Mourning Doves.  But no red-eyed vireos.

Found this Southern Toad, later, at work, but at home the huge Bufo Toads have taken over.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sandwich Terns at Bunche Beach

Thursday August 17th


A marbled Godwit

 In a quick stop at Bunche Beach in Lee County, with an idea towards locating any migrating piping plovers, noted a large concentration of Black Skimmers, Sandwich Terns, and Short-billed Dowitchers. The tide was rising, which helps to create this concentration. Had nearly a hundred dowitchers, close to two hundred skimmers and about one hundred and seventy sandwich terns. Also counted twenty-two Marbled Godwits, twenty Sanderlings, six Royal Terns, a lone Least Tern ,about twenty-five Laughing Gulls, a handfull of Semipalmated Sandpipers, three Willets, two Black-bellied Plovers and a lone Semipalmated Plover. But no piping plover. Did scan the scene for any possible red knots and noticed that the numbers of willets, sanderlings and semipalmated plovers were extremely low and there was an  absence of least sandpipers and wilson's plover. A fly over by a pair of bald eagles sent these resting birds into a rising, swirling cloud of blacks and whites as they took to the sky in fear of the predators.  Cool!! But a  loud clap of thundered put an ended to the visit. You never know what you might find..

Semipalmated Plover

Thursday, August 18, 2011

'To Twitch or Not to Twitch' - A visit to Babcock-Webb

Wednesday - August 16th

My debate for where to bird today was to stay local and visit Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area or twitch after the thick-billed vireo in Miami.  Seems my enthusiasm for a long drive to Miami did not exist, especially as the potential of getting a tick on this ABA-4 vireo was a crap shoot.  Lasts week's visit to the Everglades Ag Area took a lot out of me with the heat and humidity of a south Florida summer.  So it was off to Babcock-Webb.

This used to be a common moorhen, but has been renamed as Common Gallinule. 
Seen at the marl pond at the entrance to the refuge.

Arrived just past sunrise and could hear Bachman's Sparrow singing from the pines as I passed the gun range.  Did not stop here yet to glass the sparrows, but headed to the closest Red-cockaded Woodpecker colony. Upon my arrival I could hear that they had already emerged and were calling from trees on the west side of the lane. Was able to sight one high up in a pine.  So within five minutes of arriving I had already found two of the three birding specialities seen here. I would later find a single Brown-headed Nuthatch in the company of a several Pine Warblers.  The only other species of warblers seen today were a pair of Prairie Warbles at the RCW colony site.

Other woodpeckers I found included Northern Flicker, Downy, Hairy and several Red-bellied Woodpeckers. One of the most commonly seen birds on the day were Common Ground Doves, followed by Mourning Doves. Saw and heard several Eastern Towhees and Eastern Bluebirds. An interesting observation was seeing red-bellied woodpeckers, eastern bluebirds and eastern towhees in being agressive toward their fledglings. Apparently it was time for the young to leave home.  Other species seen included Sandhill Cranes,  Green Herons, Great Egrets, Tricolored Herons, Blue-gray, Gnatcatchers, Anhingas, and a young Red-tailed Hawk. Glimpsed a Coopers Hawk in the campgrounds and was surprised to see an Eastern Wood-Pewee near Webb Lake.  Missed today were brown thrasher, northern bobwhite and eastern kingbird.

Burrowing Owl looking for direction
On the way home I stopped by the Florida Scrub Jay site in northern Cape Coral, were I found a lone specimen.  There were a great many Eastern Meadowlarks, Mourning Doves, Common Ground Doves, Loggerhead Shrikes and Northern Mockingbirds present. Also found a Burrowing Owl. Then added Monk Parakeets at the Pelican Boulvard ballfield.  Not a bad day.

Burrowing Owl

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Barn Owls & Upland Plovers - Return to the Everglades Ag Area

Wednesday, August 10th

Made a return visit to the Everglades Agricultural Area in the company of master birders Vince Lucas, who lead the trip, Jose Padilla and wildlife photographer Bob Pelkey. Just a week ago I ventured solo, sans scope, and was rewarded with a a Lifer in Wilson's Phalarope. My personal goals for the day are to add upland sandpiper, barn owl and cliff swallows, which I missed last week.

Vince has birded the EAA many times in the past and would lead our party.  It was a long day, starting at 4:30 am to make the 2 hour plus trip to Palm Beach County. After sunrise, we started adding bird as we passed through Hendry County such as Common Nighthawks, American Crows, Black Vultures, Crested Caracara, Swallow-tailed Kites, Sandhill Cranes, Mourning Doves, Eurasian Collared Doves, Ground Doves, Osprey, Red Shouldered Hawks and Grackles.

The Cedar Stand  owl roost
First stop was the 'Cedar Stand' located along the Miami Canal.  We had already located Barn Swallows, an early Tree Swallow, Purple Martin and Eastern Meadowlarks along the canal and at the stand, Vince found us four Barn Owls, five Black-crowned Nightherons, plus some roosting Black Vultures.  Barn owls have been a nemesis bird for me, which I have dipped on at this location, and elsewhere, several times.  So for me I they were a  Lifer.

We moved onto the King Ranch sod fields along US 27, were Bob caught-up with us.  Here we had four Upland Sandpipers and a few Pectoral Sandpipers and Killdeers.

An extremely active location was a site 1.5 miles east of Duda Road along cr-880. This flooded field had to contain 2,500 plus birds - waders, shorebirds, terns, gulls, swallows etc.. Here we found that good numbers of Wilson's Phalaropes were still present. We counted at least fifteen, which is a good number for Florida. As these birds concentrate their fall migration further west from here. I did have a scope view which initially began with four of the birds doing their spinning, expanding to eight phalaropes in the one view.  Other sighting here included Roseate Spoonbills, American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts, Pectoral Sandpipers, Stilt Sandpipers, Mottled Ducks, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitchers, Black terns, Black Skimmers, Least Tern, Caspian Terns, Forster's Terns and Gull-billed Terns

Bob Pelkey looking for that perfect shot

Sod fields at Six Mile Farms were we located lots of Upland Sandpipers
At the nearby Six Mile Bend Sod Farms, we could spot several Upland Sandpipers, but they were quite distant. Luckily we were given permission to enter the property and were able to get much closer views. Still only Bob's camera rig could possibly get a decent photograph because they are skittish birds and still kept a good distance. Be sure to check-out Bob's blog on this trip and enjoy his photography.  Our Uplands count here were sixteen birds. We also had several Cattle Egrets, some White Ibis, Pectoral Sandpiper, Killdeer, Laughing Gulls and a Spotted Sandpiper.

Vince Lucas and Dr Jose Padilla trying to get the numbers off the spoonbills' leg bands
Also nearby, off the first bridge on Brown's Farm Road was another good flooded field. Had to be 150 Roseate Spoonbills. Vince noted three had leg bands, but we were unable to get any numbers off them. Also seen among the Great Egrets was a Great White Heron ( the white-morph of the great blue heron ). Other birds present included Snowy Egrets, Tricolored Heron, Wood Storks, American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts, a Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Semipalmated Plovers, Pectoral Sandpipers, Long-billed and Short-billed dowitchers, Green Heron, Forster's Tern, Black Terns, Gull-billed Terns, Least Tern, several Semipalmated Sandpipers, a Ruddy Turnstone, lots of Barn Swallows, Bank Swallows, and the Cliff Swallows I wanted to add today.

We wrapped up the EAA trip with stops at Sam Senter and Gladeview Roads. Here we were able to add more Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and had a a few Fulvous Whistling Ducks, including a duckling.  Also had a couple of Black-bellied Plovers and flock of about a hundred Brown-headed Cowbirds

The actual final stop was on Oil Well Road, near Ava Maria University, in Collier County, were Vince had found a flooded spot with lots of birds.  Recent rains have deeped the water level, so most of the shorebirds were absent now, except for Black-necked Stilts, Glossy Ibis, White Ibis and a few dowitchers and Pectoral Sandpipers. Present were most of the waders, about fifty Mottled Ducks and several Wood Ducks. A couple Swallow-tailed Kites were soaring nearby and we were able to add a couple Limpkins on the trip back to Gulf Coast.

It was a great and exhausting trip.  Hit all of my goals on an incredible day of birding.  Thanks to Vince, Jose and Bob for a fun day.

Day's List (73)
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Wood Duck, Mottled Duck, Wood Stork, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great White Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Swallow-tailed Kite, Red-shouldered Hawk, Crested Caracara, Common Gallinule, Sandhill Crane, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Upland Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson's Phalarope, Laughing Gull,  Least Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, Black Tern, Forster's Tern, Black Skimmer, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Barn Owl, Common Nighthawk, Loggerhead Shrike, American Crow, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Bank Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Sparrow

Friday, August 5, 2011

Wilson's Phalarope - A Visit to the Everglades Ag Area

A flooded field off cr-880
Wednesday, August 3rd

This is the time of year that concentrations of migrating shorebirds show up in the sod fields and flooded crop fields in Palm Beach County.  This is an area known as the Everglades Agricultural Area. So with reports coming in that the birds are already present I choose to make the 350 mile round trip on Wednesday. My targets for the day included Upland Sandpipers, Wilson's Phalaropes and Barn Owls.

Common Nighthawks are easily located on the wires
 Arrived at Bolles Canal which runs east-west alongside of cr-827, about 9:30 AM. The county road ends at the Miami Canal, which is a location that has been a popular roosting spot for barn owls. Well the barn owl is one of my nemesis birds and again I failed to find any.  I had been advised to check the back sides of the pumping stations located along this stretch of road to find owls. The first station was under repair and the second came up empty. Another bird I would have liked to have seen was a king rail and last year I did have one standing in the middle of this road. No owl or rail this time, but did have a Least Bittern fly up and disappear into the sugar cane.

Black-necked Stilts in flight
Got to cr-880/ Brown Farm Road area about 10:30 am and did find several good spots (all as reported on the TAS message board).  I don't own a spotting scope, which is a must for birding the area. Almost all of the properties are on private, posted land, so you must bird from the shoulder of the road. But even with just using my binoculars I was able to identify many of the species present.  I dipped on the upland sandpiper, american avocet and was unable to clearly ID many of the peeps present. But I did get my LIFER in a  couple of Wilson's Phalaropes doing there whirly gig spins. Also had several dowitchers which I never heard call, so I am assuming that they are Long-billed dowitchers based on there location.  Had a few Greater Yellowlegs and lots of Lesser Yellowlegs, Stilt Sandpipers, Pectoral Sandpipers and Black-necked Stilts.  Managed to spot a Least Sandpiper out of the crowd. Also present were several Black Terns hawking for a meal at the water's surface.

Lots of waders and at one dry field, which appeared to being prepped for flooding were at least a hundred Wood Storks, dozens of Roseate Spoonbills and a smattering of other waders, plus several Laughing Gulls were lined up along the trough water was filling from a nearby opened water control gate.  Must be a lot of food present   Even had a few Black-necked Stilts fly in to that area to see what all the fuss was about.  .  

This link is to photos taken the same day by Trey Mitchell and posted on the TAS message board

The wires along the road offered dozens of sleeping Common Nighthawks plus lots of Barn Swallows, Bank Swallows, Northern Rough-winged Swallows and a lone Purple Martin. A flock of some forty birds I had inticially thought to be starling turned out to Brown-headed Cowbirds.  Checked them for any shiny or bronzed cowbirds, but only noticed BHCs.

A stretch of Brown Farm Road
As for raptors, only noticed a couple of Red-shouldered Hawks. And as I earlier noted I had a drove of 350 miles across the state and found absolutely zero swallow-tailed kites. Could they all be gone already?