Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Back to Payne's Prairie

Thursday July 25th

Today, as I was taking the dogs out for a walk, a trio of Barn Swallows made an appearance above my home. These were the first Barn Swallows to visit us in some time and marked the end of the summer birding doldrums here in southwest Florida. I can also  add several shorebirds - Piping Plover, Marbled Godwits, Least & Western Sandpipers and Spotted Sandpipers -  as recent arrivals  seen this morning at Bunche Beach.

Barn Swallows were a common theme yesterday  as I had been invited to return to Payne's Prairie by noted wildlife photographer Bob Pelkey. Barns were the only swallow species observed on the day with nesting birds seen under I-75 overpasses in Alachua County and dozens seen at Power Line Road.
Black-crowned Night-heron at Alachua Sink. Photo by Bob Pelkey

The day started at three in the morning with our departure from Ft Myers so that we could arrive at the La Chua Trail in Payne's Prairie Preserve when the gates were opened. Our arrival was greeted by lots of bird song and we had a nice mixed flock at the trail head. Here we started with Northern Bobwhite, White-eyed Vireo, Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wrens, Carolina Chickadee, Black-and-White Warbler, Northern Parula, Osprey, American Crow, Black Vultures, Blue jays, Eastern Wood-Pewee (253) and Orchard Oriole.

From here we entered the trail, with our target bird-of-the-day being the Mississippi Kites. t I had dipped on them  my  visit back on the 4th. 

After passing through the horse barn we entered the boardwalk, which curves around  the Alachua Sink. Here we saw their herd of Spanish Horses with Cattle Egrets hitching rides on their backs. Bison and cracker cattle also roam the prairie. Several waders and large alligators were active and Black-crowned Night-herons and Green Herons were observed in flight. Checked the nearby snags for roosting kites, but just found more vultures, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets and Anhingas in the trees. 
Mississippi Kite at Alachua Sink. Photo by Bob Pelkey
As we progressed along the trail we added Blue Grosbeaks (253), Eastern Towhee and Indigo Buntings. Near the observation tower we added a skulking King Rail (254) and Common Moorhens. The whooping cranes have not been reported here for over a month, probably because of rising water from our above-average rainfall, have relocated them. No sandhill cranes seen as well.

By ten o'clock the day was heating up and we finally caught sight of the soaring birds we had been searching for. We had our Mississippi Kites (255) which put on a very nice show. We actually had eight of them soaring overhead with a single Swallow-tailed Kite in their company. Also had a surprise here when a hummingbird zoomed past us as we watched the kites.

Back at the trail head we relocated the mixed flock seen earlier. Here we added a posing Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Downy Woodpeckers to our list. 
Swallow-tailed Kite at Power Line Road. Photo by Bob Pelkey
Heading back toward  home we added a stop at Power Line road near Brooksville.  This location had been good for Mississippi and swallow-tailed kites, but the Mississippi kites have not been using the area lately. We did see several Swallow-tailed Kites including a family of four, which Bob was able to photograph an adult feeding a frog to a juvenile.  We also had the Barn Swallows, Redheaded Woodpeckers, Eastern Meadowlarks, American Kestrels, Mourning Doves and a lone juvenile Brown-headed Cowbird.
Redheaded Woodpecker seen at Power Line Road. Photo By Bob Pelkey
Lastly we stopped at Ft DeSoto in Tampa Bay to try to photograph the Brown Booby that has been observed here lately. Bob had tried for it a couple of days ago and  had dipped on it then, just  as we did today. we did see most of the expected shorebirds and waders, Some of these included Western, Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Marbled Godwits, Short-billed Dowitchers, Laughing Gulls, Willets, Ruddy Turnstones Cormorants, Brown Pelicans, Sanderlings, Sandwich Terns, Royal Terns, Foster's tern, Least Terns and a suspected common tern. We also added another juvenile Brown-headed Cowbird.
On the way out of the park we made a stop at the Terra Verdi ponds were we saw the pair of Redhead ducks that has been summering here. Also lots of Magnificent  Frigatebirds overhead, Fish Crows, Rock Pigeons, White Ibis, Cormorants, Laughing Gulls, and a pair of Nanday Parakeets.

In all it was a hot, exhausting day with some very good results. Bob got some great shots and I got some good counts and we tally about 80 birds for the day. 

Day's List - (81)

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Redhead, Northern Bobwhite, Wild Turkey,   Wood Stork, Magnificent Frigatebird, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Great Blue 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, Mississippi Kite,  Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, King Rail, Common Gallinule, Black-bellied Plover, Wilson's Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Willet,  Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling,  Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher,  Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Forster's Tern, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern,  Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove,  Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, American Kestrel, Nanday Parakeet, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Loggerhead Shrike, White-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Black-and-white Warbler, Northern Parula, Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Orchard Oriole
Reptiles - American Alligator, Water Moccasin, Black Racer, Peninsula Mole Skink, Green Anole


  1. A very productive outing with some great species!

  2. This was a very enjoyable trip while already looking forward to a repeat next year.