Wednesday July 31st
Last year, almost to the day, several of us birded the agricultural area south of Belle Glade for a great day exploring the sod farms, flooded sugar cane fields and rice fields for migrant birds. We had a lot of success with a count of about eighteen upland plovers and a great many other shorebirds, peeps, terns, whistling ducks and swallows.
So far, this year the migrants have been slower relocating here, them we say in 2012. But, in the company of Stan Damen, we left Ft Myers by six in the morning to see what was available. Experiencing very light traffic we arrived at 6-Mile Bend Sod Farm on Rt 880 south of Belle Glade. We scanned the sod fields and could only come up with Killdeer, Grackles, a calling Common Yellowthroat and Barn Swallows. Tom Smith stopped by as he was birding the area as well. Tom gave us some in sights to current conditions, which did not seem very promising.
Next was to check for any flooded fields along nearby Brown's Farm Road. Our info was that there was only one productive field so far. We find it about three mile south and found a nice variety and a few hits for Florida Challenge. We started with a family of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and single Fulvous Whistling Duck. There was alone American White Pelican, lots of Mottled Ducks, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis and a couple of Roseate Spoonbills. Had at least 25 Black-necked Stilts, a hand-full of Stilt Sandpipers (256), Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, several Dowitchers and Killdeer. Was able to identify a single Semipalmated Plover as well. A single Laughing Gull, Black Tern and Gull-billed Tern (257) showed up too. Barn Swallows were seen everywhere and a single Northern Rough-winged Swallow and several early Tree Swallows were seen near a pumping station. Many Common Nighthawks were encountered resting on open ground and atop telephone lines.
We rechecked the 6-Mile Sod Farm and again found only Killdeer, but Stan did locate a single Uplands Sandpiper (258) a couple of fields away using his scope. We felt lucky to get the uplands as the sod fields were so barren of birds. This fact was true was we checked out the Kings Ranch Sod Farm on Rt 27. Last year we a lot of success here, but the birds were not here yet, except we did get a few Cliff Swallows (259).
Probably the most productive flooded field we checked on was along CR 827, west of Rt 27 and on the other side of the Boles Canal from were we could make observations. It was just too far away to identify the smaller shorebirds. But we found dozens of Spoonbills, a couple of Wood Storks, several American White Pelicans and all of the expected waders. Yellowlegs and Dowitchers could be seen, but most of the other shorebirds were, frustratingly, too distant to. Hundreds of Brown-headed Cowbirds also seen today.
Plan on returning in two weeks expecting more grass 'pipers and other migrants. Will need to return in early September to look for any buff-breasted sandpipers, which are not too commonly seen here and would be a lifer too, Wilson's phalaropes should be found by then as well.
Bird Count for the Day - (61)
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Mottled Duck, Wood Stork, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, American White Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Coopers Hawk, Swallow-tailed Kite, Red-shouldered Hawk, Common Gallinule, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Stilt Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Long-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Black Tern, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Common Nighthawk, Crested Caracara, Loggerhead Shrike, Fish Crow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Common Yellowthroat, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird