Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Painted Buntings at Corckscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Sunday, January 29th
Painted Buntings at feeder located at the Blair House

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is located in eastern Collier County and is owned and operated by the National Audubon Society.  The sanctuary is home to one of the oldest stand of bald cypress trees left in the U.S. These trees, some several hundred years old, were barely saved from the loggers' axe.  It is a Jewel.
Besides the famed Wood Stork breeding colonies located here in the winter, it also hosts at least one of the few rare Ghost Orchids found in Florida.

Spent a couple of hours today walking the boardwalk. The feeders at the Blair House and at the Bunting House each hosted a pair of Painted Buntings. The Bunting House feeders also is home to a wintering Ovenbird.  Other sightings included a pair of Anhingas in a noisy altercation. Don't know what their problems were. Several Red-shouldered Hawks were active. One was busy consuming a snake and another pair were being very amorous. Had a few warblers, like Black-and White, Palm, Common Yellowthroat and Northern Parula.  Lots of Gray Catbirds and a Barred Owl, White-eyed Vireo and Carolina Wrens were heard. A light-phased short-tailed hawk was seen by several people, but was a miss for me. Other birds included Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Wood Stork, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker and Northern Cardinal.

An unusual visitor to the Blair House was a Rafinesque's Long-eared Bat sleeping near the outside rest rooms.  This is an uncommon bat and an excellent finish to my visit.  Earlier in the day I counted at least eighty Black-bellied Whistling Ducks at a pond on Immokalee Road east of Sanctuary Road.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Gray Catbird

Common Yellowthroat

Red-shouldered Hawk eating a freshly caught snake

Water Moccasin

Rafinesque's Long-eared Bat

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fork-tailed Flycatcher at Cockroach Bay

Thursday, January 26th

Fork-tailed Flycatcher near Cockroach Bay Preserve
I was concerned that I would not be able to twitch after the reported Fork-tailed Flycatcher before it disappeared. A couple of years ago I had been a day two late with getting to Pelican NWR to see the FTFY that had stayed there for several days. But today I was able to finally find one.

The seawall hosting the purple sandpiper
I had arrived at the Lost River Trail road, near Cockroach Bay Preserve in Hillsbough County about 9:30 Am and two minutes too late. As reported by the birders who are now leaving. The flycatcher had just flown off across the pond.  Spent about an hour checking the area, but I left knowing that it would probably return, as usual, in the late afternoon.

Purple Sandpiper

I had two other target birds for the day at Ft DeSoto. The lark sparrow that has settled in near the fort and a newly reported purple sandpiper in the same area. Spent about two hours in the search, plus lunch.  Did find the Purple Sandpiper, which is very uncommon on the Gulf Coast.  But the sparrow had to be out to lunch.

Got back to Lost River Trail about 2:30 pm and waited with four other birders/photographers for the Fork-tailed Flycatcher's return. It was about 3:15 and it did put on a show.  Other birds for the day included American White Pelicans, Redheads, Red-breasted Merganser, Killdeer, Hooded Merganser, Glossy Ibis, Bald Eagles, Sandhill Cranes, Savannah Sparrow, Eastern Phoebe, Royal Terns, American Robins, Prairie Warbler, American Kestrels, Loggerhead Shrikes and Northern Mockingbirds.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Piping Plover at Bunche Beach

Tuesday, January 24th

Spent some time at Bunche Beach with my daughter.  We found the beach active with many snowbirds enjoying the weather. Was kind of surprising that we did manage to get a pretty good list with so many people around.

Piping Plover
A couple of the species I was interested in locating were wilson's and snowy Plovers. Did not get them this time, but had about five Piping Plovers. Also had about sixty Willets, two of which were in a knock-down-dragged-out fight.  Strange behavior.

Also had some luck in spotting one each - Common Loon, Horned Grebe and Red-breasted Merganser - swimming in the surf and the Long-billed Curlew came in for a visit.  Other birds for the day included a Great Blue Heron, Herring Gulls, Laughing Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, Marbled Godwits, Ruddy Turnstones, Black-bellied Plovers, Sanderlings and Black Skimmers.
Great Blue Heron

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ash-throated Flycatcher at Lucky Hammock

Thursday, January 19th

Peacock seen along Hamlin Mills Road in Redlands
A very enlarged photo of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Missed on some of the flycatchers last week in Dade County, well I went back today with better success.

 Also stopped at new venue for me - Castellow Hammock Preserve and Nature Center , near Homestead. As I was searching for the preserve, came across a Peacock along side the road. A very beautiful bird. At Castellow Hammock the butterfly garden featured several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and a Lifer in a Rufous Hummingbird. Other birds seen here included Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, a pair of White-eyed Vireos, Cardinals, White-winged Doves, a Monk Parakeet and Fish Crows.  An unidentified flight of parrots passed overhead as well.

Broad-winged Hawk
Spent the remainder of the day in the Everglades National Park and in the vicinity of Lucky Hammock. Initially I was disappointed with not locating the various flycatchers that have been found near  Lucky Hammock.  Checked the C-111 canal and the hammock site several times before entering the park in search of the specialities.  Eventually I did locate four Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and a Western Kingbird. Was also able to add Eastern Meadowlark, Palm Warblers, House Wrens, a Great Crested Flycatcher, a pair of Swainsen's Hawks, a Northern Harrier and a female Painted Bunting.  But was still missing short-tailed hawk, white-tailed kite, vermilion flycatcher and ash-throated flycatcher.

Stopped at Royal Hammock, in the park, were I ran into a couple of birders from Michigan I first met at Bunche Beach on New Years Day.  They quickly put be onto an American Bittern.  Also found the usual suspects on the Ahinga Trail.
American Bittern

Great Egret

Wood Stork

American Alligator

Other stops in the park included a short walk on the Long Pine Trail to look for nuthatches.  Only got Yellow-rumped Warblers and a calling Eastern Bluebird. Checked the Research Road area for hawks and white-tailed kites, but just got Eastern Meadowlarks, American Kestrels and American Crows. At Paurotis Pond had a couple of flying Roseate Spoonbills. At Mrazek Pond had a lot of activity with feeding Green-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebes and the usual waders. At the Flamingo campgrounds had a few gulls, a pair of Savannah Sparrows and a pair of Great Crested Flycatchers. One of the flycatchers I was questioning could be a brown-crested flycatcher.  Just can't be sure, but one had been reported in the area earlier. Could not get a photo.

Hurried back from Flamingo to try to get back to Lucky Hammock for one more shot at the missed flycatchers before dark. Plus a shot a the reported lesser nighthawks there. Could have stayed at the campgrounds for the nighthawks and maybe for the reported black rails on the nearby coastal trail, but my goal today was the ash-throated flycatcher.

Did make a quick recheck at C-111 canal and yes the Vermilion Flycatcher was waiting. Rechecked the entrance to the Lucky hammock and did see the Western Kingbird and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers  again, but not the Ash-throated Flycatcher. Set up to wait for the nighhawks and met another birder named Julie doing likewise. She had just see the flycatcher and gave me great instructions and the bird was easily, but briefly seen. Two Lifers in one day. As for the nighthawks, they were a no-show on this day.  Did find a Barred Owl though. It was a long and rewarding day.

Several American flamingos have been located in Everglades National Park recently, please review the link to a report by Larry Manfredi.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cinnamon Teal at the Celery Fields

Wednesday January 18th

Today was a hunt for a lifer. The elusive cinnamon teal at The Celery Fields in Sarasota had been seen several times.  I had visited a week or so ago and missed on it, but I heard were several folks including Stan Damen and Vince McGrath had recently seen it. Had to try again.

First stopped at Akerman's Park, hoping for some ruddy ducks.  Just lots of Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler and Lesser Scaup. Plus Great Blue Herons, Anhingas, Double-crested Cormorants, Common Gallinules, Ring-billed Gulls, Cattle Egrets and White Ibis.  Had flock of about twelve Monk Parakeets fly in.
Monk Parakeets at Ackermans Park

At The Celery Fields the Cinnamon Teal was very easy to find because a dozen birders were already on it. Met John Whitehead and his neighbor Bill along with a group lead by a very knowledgeable leader named Owen.  Sure enough we had great views of the teal.  A Lifer!!!  Other birds here included Hooded Mergansers, Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebes, a Wilson's Snipe, lots of cormorants and Anhings.  Had a chance to watch a young Bald Eagle harass an Osprey for its freshly caught fish. Can add a Belted Kingfisher, Red-winged Blackbirds, Wood Storks, Glossy Ibis, White Ibis, a Northern Harrier, Cattle Egrets, Boat-tailed Grackles and Tree Swallows. Spent some time looked for a reported purple gallinule, but missed on it.

Great Egret at Ft DeSoto
Next checked out a pond, I heard about, at a nursery at Fruitville and Tatum Roads were several Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were found.  Then onto the ponds at The Founders Club were I was joined By John and Bill.  Here we successfully located the Common Goldeneye wintering here, but did not see its bufflehead partner.  Other birds here included Hooded Mergansers, Lesser Scaup, Ring-billed Ducks, Grebes, Mottled Ducks and Blue-winged Teal.

Redheads and Lesser Scaups at Tierra Verde ponds
Moved onto Ft DeSoto in Tampa Bay to look for a lark sparrow. But first stopped at the ponds at Tierra Verde were a greater scaup had been reported. There were thousands of birds, mostly Redheads. Picked out Lesser Scaups, Northern Shoveler and floating gulls including a first year Herring Gull.
Spent some time at the fishing pier at Ft DeSoto, were several seabirds including a pair of Forster's Terns, Herring Gulls, Laughing Gulls, Cormorants, Ring-billed Gulls, Brown Pelicans, Red-breasted Mergansers and a Common Loon. Also had a small flock of Nanday Parakeets, large flocks of Brown-headed Cowbirds and European Starlings and a half dozen House Sparrows. Then moved onto the Gulf Pier to look for the lark sparrow, but lightening changed these plans.  So headed for home.
Herring Gull

Brown Pelican

Forster's Tern

Laughing Gull

Nanday Parakeets

Hooded Mergansers at Ollies Pond

Sunday, January 15th
Hooded Mergansers at Ollie Pond

Had a few hours for birding today and chose to check-out a new sight to me in Port Charlotte. I haven't birded much in Charlotte County aside for Babcock-Webb, and the Ollie Pond location sounded interesting. Arrived about 10 am and found lots of waders and waterfowl. Lots of Glossy Ibis, plus all the expected waders like Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets and Little Blue Herons. The most common ducks were Blue-winged Teal and Hooded Mergansers. Did find a few Mottled ducks and one each of Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Gadwall and an American Wigeon

It was interesting when some local kids blew off some fire crackers causing the birds flew up. Some many ducks and ibis.  Other birds seen included a calling Bald Eagle, young Red-shouldered Hawk and a hunting Coopers Hawk. 

Red-shouldered Hawk
Stopped later at Ponce de Leon Park in Punta Gorda. Not much here but Laughing and Ring-billed Gulls. This location also features a small wildlife facility called Peace River Wildlife Center. It is a small facility with a lot of rescued birds. Lots of egrets, a Yellow-crowned Night-heron and a Red-shouldered Hawk were hanging out here too.  Maybe looking for a free lunch.

Stopped at Alva to check the feeders in the White's front yard on my way home.  Found Stan Damen there as he was putting out additional feeders and refilling the others with seed. We spent some time sharing war stories and when the project was over the Painted and Indigo Buntings came out, along with a pair of Tufted Titmice, a Cardinal, several Mourning Doves and a pair of White-winged Doves

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Great Cormorant at Bill Baggs State Park in Miami

Wednesday, January 11th

Lighthouse at Bill Baggs State Park
Headed out to Miami and other sites in Dade County to seek out some rarities to Florida.  An immature Great Cormorant has made a home for itself near the lighthouse at Bill Baggs State Park at Key Biscayne. This guy is way south of its winter range and a rarity here. A LaSagra Flycatcher, a bird from the Bahamas, has also made a home in the park.
Great Cormorant

Almost changed my plans when I checked the weather for the day before leaving home. Afternoon showers were a possibility.  I hit the road anyway. This included attempting to travel through Miami during the morning rush hour. Arrived at Bill Baggs later than I had planned and found it was very windy.  A condition that lasted about all day. A search for the lasagra's flycatcher was unfulfilled and there was almost no bird activity at all, save the beach. Here the Great Cormorant was easily located at its favorite spot on the rock jetty next to the lighthouse.  A LIFER!! Was able to lots of laughing and Ring-billed Gulls, a couple of Semipalmated Plovers, a Piping Plover and a couple of Magnificent Frigatebirds.
Swan Geese

Next checked out Matheson Hammock Park in Coral Gables. It too had virtually no birding activity while I was there. At Kendell Baptist Hospital a flock of about forty or more Mitred Parakeets noisily moved about the campus. The ponds had many Muscovy Ducks and some strange looking duck hybrids, plus many American Coots, White Ibis, Ring-billed Gulls and four Swan Geese. Also observed a Coopers Hawk dive at some prey.

From Kendell headed toward Everglades National Park. There are several interesting birds wintering in the area there. At a pit stop in Florida City , I was able to add a couple of Common Mynas. The windy conditions continues into the afternoon and rain appeared to be more imminent. These conditions spoiled the locating of birds like vermilion flycatchers at C-111 canal and the scissor-tailed and ash-throated flycatchers at Lucky Hammock, just outside of the park entrance. Was able to add American Kestrels, a Northern Harrier and countless , mostly, Black Vultures.

Purple Gallinule at Royal Hammock

Great Blue Heron at Royal Hammock

Entered Everglades National Park and first checked out Research Road for any white-tailed kites.  However only found some American Crows and more Kestrels. Then went to the Anhinga Trail at Royal Hammock and found the expected waders, Anhingas and Double-crested Cormorants. Plus a Purple Gallinule.  Also heard a Barred Owl calling at the Gunbo Limbo Trail.
    Started heading back home, but had to recheck Lucky Hammock and C-111.  As the winds have calmed down, birding did improve. At C-111 I was able to locate one of the male Vermilion Flycatchers and the immature Swainson's Hawk that has been hanging in the area. My attempts to photograph these birds did not come too well, but birder and photographer Trey Mitchell posted beautiful pics on the TAS web site, taken the same day I was there.
The recheck at Lucky hammock still missed the ash-throated and scissor-tailed flycatchers, but did add a Broad-winged Hawk.  From here I could have waited the hour or two for sunset to try for lesser nighthawks, whip-poor-wills and owls, however there was still had a three hour drive home. Got some good ticks today, but missed on more, so I will have to return soon.

Day's Count (60)
Muscovy Duck, Swan Goose, Pied-billed Grebe, Wood Stork, Magnificent Frigatebird, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, Cattle Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, Cooper's Hawk, Swainson's Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Kestrel, Purple Gallinule, Common Gallinule, American Coot, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Piping Plover, Killdeer, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Royal Tern, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Monk Parakeet, Mitred Parakeet, Barred Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe,  Vermilion Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike, American Crow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Common Myna, European Starling, Palm Warbler, Pine Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, House Sparrow

Friday, January 6, 2012

Twiching after Texas Birds

Thursday January 5th
Green-tailed Towhee at Possum Branch Preserve

I am always interested in adding new birds to my life list and at this time of year we get opportunities when migrants from the west, probably Texas, find their way to Florida
  Last month I saw my first vermilion flycatcher just outside of Everglades National Park. The vermilion does migrate into Florida, but usually only up into the panhandle. The same is true of Green-tailed Towhees. But yesterday I was able to observe one of a pair first found during a Christmas Bird Count up in Possum Branch Preserve in Safety Harbor. A lifer for me. The day before, I ventured to The Celery Fields in Sarasota for the reported cinnamon teal.  Another western bird, seldom seen here. And missed on my visit.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - December 2011
There are more western birds to track down. we find western Kingbirds and scissor-tailed flycatchers in various parts of the state. we also get a few ash-throated and brown-crested flycatchers, it seems mostly in Dade County. Tropical and cassin's kingbirds, a say's phoebe and lesser nighthawks have also showed up at times.

Back on Wednesday, I drove up to Sarasota to look for the cinnamon teal.  Spent a couple of hours, but did not locate the bird.  It can easily stay concealed in the marshy areas.  Did find Northern Shovelers, Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal, Hooded Mergansers and Mottled Ducks. Had to be well over a hundred Double-crested Cormorants and lots of Laughing and Ring-billed Gulls. At Ackermans Park got long-distance looks at a pair of Ruddy Ducks along with more Blue-winged Teal and Lesser Scaups. Five Monk Parakeets were resting on the wires. Was able to call out a Marsh Wren and could hear a couple more in the reeds.
Common Ground Dove seen at Honeymonn State Park

On Thursday was my run up through St Pete and Clearwater to seek out the heavily reported on green-tailed towhee.  Had about a twenty minute wait, and was rewarded with a lifer. The hispid cotton rat also made a very brief appearance and the only sparrow I managed to id was a Song Sparrow. I had noticed that Honeymoon State Park was not very far away from Here so I spent about an hour there checking out the gulls for any specialities. Just Ring-billed and laughing Gulls though. Lots of Ruddy Turnstones, a few Common Loons and Horned Grebes and Red-breasted Mergansers were present. I understand that during migration times this is an excellent spot to be birding.

On the way home I checked out the ponds at Tierra Verde in St Pete.  Had to be a thousand birds on the water.  The lighting was bad and the ducks were mostly resting with their heads hidden under their wings, so it was very difficult to id them, but the vast majority were Redheads.  Also found a trio of Nanday Parakeets on the wires.

Common Loon seen from Ft DeSoto pier

It used to be free to use Ft DeSoto Park.  Not any more.  It cost 5 bucks to park now. Nothing was very special at the park today.  More loons, grebes and mergansers. But very few shorebirds aside a few Ruddy Turnstones and Willets. Did manage to find a pair of American Oystercatchers.