Thursday, February 28, 2013

North Florida Birding Trip

Saturday February 23rd
Day One
Bob Pelkey picked me up about three in the morning as we started a three birding trip up to the Florida Panhandle. I've wanted to bird the area for a long time, but logistics had not worked-out till Bob asked if I was interested in visiting St Marks. We expected to visit St Marks, Florida Caverns State Park and Apalachicola National Forest. January and February are the months to visit to search for wintering birds. Winter wrens, golden-crowned kinglets, brown creepers, horned lark, sprague's pipits American black duck snow geese white-faced ibis and rusty blackbirds are some of the wintering species targeted. We also have to leave south Florida to see most of the wintering sparrow species.
White-crowned Sparrow at LaChua Trail
Photo by Bob Pelkey
Our first stop was soon after dawn was in Gainesville. We visited the LaChua Trail in Payne's Prairie and a section of the nearby Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail. A flock of American Goldfinches greeted us as we entered the G-H Trail. We had targeted the Fox Sparrow which has been seen here lately. No doubt it was the same bird that wintered here last year. It wasn't present on our visit, but we did add Chipping Sparrow, Tufted Titmouse, Blue-headed Vireo, House Wren, Carolina Chickadee, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Pileated Woodpecker.
We moved onto the LaChua Trail were we targeted sparrows and the reported Grove-billed Ani. In previous visits I had added Harris's Sparrow,Whooping Crane and Snow Geese. This year we a good looks at White-crowned Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Sora, American Kestrel, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, Mottled Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Anhinga, Sandhill Cranes, American White Pelicans, Northern Harrier, Red-shouldered Hawk, House Wren, Sedge Wren, Glossy Ibis, White Ibis, American Coots, Common Gallinule, American and Fish Crows, American Bitterns, Bald Eagle, Lesser Yellowlegs, Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers. Many very large gators were present but we missed the ani. Even though it had been seen earlier.
By early afternoon we had to leave as we still had several hours of traveling to reach St Marks tonight. The weather reports for the panhandle showed a lot of rain in our way for this trip. We hoped for the best Sunday.
With just a couple of hours left we made a stop at Bald Point State Park at Alligator Point, just west of St Marks. The weather was brisk, the tide was high, the water was choppy and fog obscured our vision out on the bay. Targets included sea ducks, loons and grebes.  Mostly wanted to see if any red-throated loons were present.
Sora found along the LaChua Trail
Photo by Bob Pelkey
Our stop at Sunrise Beach access only produced Willets and the parking lot was better. Here we added Eastern Towhee, American Goldfinch, a pair of FOS Purple Martins, Tufted Titmice, Gray Catbirds, Northern Mockingbirds Pine and Yellow-rumped Warblers. But we found the fishing dock area at the end of the road more fruitful. Here we had a lone Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Red-breasted Mergansers, Bufflehead, Black Scoter and Lesser Scaup. A pair of Bonaparte's Gulls made an appearance along the  usual gulls and terns.  A pair of Clapper Rails were heard in the salt grass and a large concentration of Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitchers, Sanderlings, Western Sandpipers and Ruddy Turnstones were gathered out of the wind. No red-throated loon.

We ended the day's birding here

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to next year's trip to revisit these extremely rewarding venues and more, Tom.