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?


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  2. It was great to meet up with you, Vince Lucas and Jose Padilla at the Everglades Agricultural Area fields 10 August, Tom. I regret not photographing (knowingly at least) a few of the species you've mentioned in this blog entry. Your post was in fact the impetus in devoting my two days off this week to observations there. I'm really looking forward to my Part II (to be published 8/20) wrapping up my documentation of the experience that I found immensely enjoyable. I need to spend a late afternoon in downtown Fort Myers this fall to document the Purple Martins coming in to roost. Meant to do that last year (and the year before). Saw a Swallow-tailed kite flying over Hancock Bridge Parkway in the early evening Monday.