Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bar-tailed Godwit

Monday, January 6th

Had an awesome day birding with friends. Was invited to join with Stan Damon, Vince McGrath and Dr Jose Padilla to head up to Tarpon Springs today to twitch after the Bar-tailed Godwit.
Bar-Tailed Godwit at Fred Howard Park - Tarpon Springs, Florida
Photo Courtesy of Dr Jose Padilla

We started out very early on a cold, foggy morning to reach Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs by low tide, about 9:30 am. I did not know if I'd get a chance to sight the rare to Florida bird. So with the invitation to join the guys, I had high hopes for success. 
The Bar-tailed Godwit should be no where close to Florida, or even in North America this time of years. It is a species of renown migratory feats. Alaskan birds were tracked flying non-stop from breeding grounds in Alaska to New Zealand in just nine days, covering 7,145 miles. The species breeds across  arctic regions of Europe, Asia and Western Alaska. The Eurasian birds winter along the Western coasts Europe and Africa. The Siberian and Alaskan birds travel across the Pacific Ocean to Australia and New Zealand. So were did this godwit come from? 
We did arrive on time for the low tide and started exploring the park. Hopes of locating the target early on were unfulfilled. We settled in for a stack-out of the mud flats. Here we observed many Pied-billed and Horned Grebes, Common Loons, Laughing and Ring-billed Gulls, Double-Crested Cormorants, Brown Pelicans, Willets, Sanderlings, Dunlins, Semipalmated Plovers, Black-bellied Plovers Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, Fish Crows and Red-breasted Mergansers. As we waited the weather deteriorated with dropping temperatures and gusting winds. As the stack-out continued we observed a Merlin, then a Bald Eagle flush the resting birds into flight. A couple of large flocks of Lesser Scaups passed over head.  Other ducks observed included Buffleheads, Hooded Merganser, Mottled Duck, and a Mallard-Mottled Duck hybrid drake. Wilson's and Piping Plovers appeared along with a very unhappy Reddish Egret, an American Oystercatcher.
We were purposefully tracking arriving Marbled Godwits with the understanding that the Bar-tailed Godwit  would also in their company.  Then at 12:30 pm, another observer, Alex Harper, made the first sighting of the bird. A smaller, paler version of the Marbled Godwits began to actively feed just yards away from our location. Hundreds of photos were taken before we were satisfied to move on, especially as the weather was not improving.

We opted to continue the day with birding in eastern Pasco County along Auton Road. Here, we were immediately greeted by several  Vesper and Savannah Sparrows, Eastern Phoebe and Palm Warblers. One farm field at least a hundred American Pipits, plus scores of Killdeer, Brown-headed Cowbirds and four Sandhill Cranes.  Nearby Withlachoochee River Park yielded a nice mixed flock consisting of Pine, Black-and-White, Northern Parula and Yellow-throated Warblers, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Blue-headed and White-eyed Vireos and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. 

From here we headed back home very satisfied.

Group Trip List ( 91 ) 
Mottled Duck, Mallard x Mottled Duck (hybrid), Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead,  Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Brown Pelican, White Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Reddish Egret,  Cattle Egret, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture,  Osprey, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Common Gallinule, American Coot, Sandhill Crane, American Oystercatcher, Black-bellied Plover, Wilson's Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Piping Plover, Killdeer, Willet, Bar-tailed Godwit, Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull,  Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Caspian Tern, Forster's Tern, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Black Skimmer, Mourning Dove, Eurasian Collared Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, American Kestrel, Merlin, Eastern Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Blue-headed Vireo, White-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Tree Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, House Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin,  Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, American Pipit, Black-and-white Warbler, Northern Parula, Palm Warbler, Pine Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler,  Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow

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