Friday, March 1, 2013

St Marks NWR

Sunday February 24th

Day 2 - North Florida Bird Trip

St Marks Lighthouse
Photo By Bob Pelkey

It was a bit disappointing to hear from the fella we ran into at the pay station at St Marks NWR. Apparently we arrived a bit too late in the season. Our new friend from Georgia advised that  the birds were already thinning out.  Bob Pelkey and I will  just have to see for ourselves.

Song Sparrow seen at Lighthouse
Photo by Bob Pelkey

We began exploring the forest around the visitor center and had four woodpecker species in five minutes. Along with the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Pileated Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker and Red-bellied Woodpecker we had Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Towhee, House Wren, Carolina Wren, American Robins, Yellow-throated Warbler, Eastern Phoebe and Tree Swallows.  

Our scheduled visit at Florida Caverns State Park being dropped due to bad weather was disappointing as I had hoped on seeing brown creeper, golden-crowned kinglet, winter wren and rusty blackbird.  These guys can be seen here at St Marks and we did look for them. But will have to return another time.

Eastern Towhees were plentiful
 Photo by Bob Pelkey

As birdy as our first stop was, they were mostly in the canopy making it difficult for Bob's photography so we moved on. We were able to find a few sparrows - Swamp, Song and Savannah Sparrows, Eastern Towhees, Eastern Bluebirds and the usual waders that would pose for us.

The impoundments were virtually waterfowl free.  In deed the ducks were gone. Had a flock of American White Pelicans and a couple of Lesser Scaup. Our friend Vince McGrath recommended looking for white-faced ibis at Stoney Bayou. Stoney Bayou was empty. No ibis of any kind.  The most numerous bird were Yellow-rumped Warbler, which were found everywhere in the refuge. Did have rail pop-up,  think it was a Virginia Rail.

American Bittern at Headquarters Pond
Photo by Bob Pelkey

Finally at Headquarters Pond we had some activity. Pied-billed Grebes, American Coots, Common Gallinule, a Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Redhead, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets and other waders. Bob was busy photographing a couple of Sora feeding to the right of the observation deck and an American Bittern  on the left. Lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers here plus a Brown-headed Nuthatch, Eastern Towhee and Tufted Titmice.

Finally reached the lighthouse about noon. Lots of Buffleheads in the surf, plus Red-breasted Merganser, Horned Grebe and Common Loon. Tried searching for any scoters or goldeneye in the surf. May of had some present, but needed a spotting scope. The Lighthouse Ponds were productive. Had a lot of Lesser Scaup here. Several Ruddy Ducks were present, a couple of Canvasbacks, at least one Ring-billed Duck and a lone Gadwall. Clapper Rail could be heard in the salt marsh. Searched the salt grass for any sharptail or seaside sparrow, did find Savannah and Song Sparrows instead.
Canvasback at Lighthouse Pond
Photo by Bob Pelkey

From here we retreated from the refuge ahead of the rain and headed to the Atlantic coast and Merritt Island NWR.

1 comment:

  1. Great fun revisiting the trail in your article, Tom. I would not dispute the rail seen as Virginia. He sure was fast and elusive.