Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Looking For Sprague's Pipit

Wednesday December 10th
Day Four - North Florida trip

Today was to be a travel day.  But our first leg was to head south through the Apalachicola National Forest to reach the Apalachicola Municipal Airport to search for Sprague's Pipit. Then onward to Lake Apopka
Site of  the former Ft Gadsden

Bob Pelkey and I traveled along the Big Bend Scenic Byway through the national forest making frequent stops in search of any thing of interest. One stop was at a the National Historic site of Ft Gadsden situated at prospect bluff along the Apalachicola River. The site was originally constructed by the British during the War of 1812 and was the scene of a horrific battle between American forces and free-Blacks and Native Americans in 1816. I sense the Ft Gadsden is probably a haunted place.

Another stop made at the intersection of BBSB and Bloody Bluff Road, in what is the Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area (WEA), we found to be quite birdy. We immediately found several sparrows here, but could only identify Swamp Sparrows. As we searched the brush for more birds the sounds of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers could be heard and were quickly found. A trio of the woodpeckers hung around for a while and were joined by another trio of Brown-headed Nuthatches. Red-shouldered Hawks and Eastern Towhees were also added here.
A view of the Apalachicola River from the historic fort location

Another stop along Sandy Beach Road brought us out onto a fish pier on the river were a Clapper Rail was briefly seen and refused to be coaxed out to get its picture taken.

We arrived shortly after noon at the Apalachicola airport.  The young man on duty was very friendly and helpful, giving us permission to enter the airport property in our search for Sprague's Pipit . This small song bird is a rare bird to Florida were just a few can usually be located at this airport in the winter.  It is a bird of the short grass plains of the northern United States and Canada, and migrates in the fall to similar habitats in south-central United States and northern Mexico. So those wintering in the Florida panhandle are on the extreme eastern edge of their range.

We were warned that the airport had three one-mile long air stripes and this would amount to a lot of territory to search for one or two tiny birds. Bob and I tried.  Things seemed promising as we quickly were investigating a flock of Savannah Sparrows. But after two hours we had run out of time and had only found Meadowlarks and Killdeers. Maybe someday we can try again or perhaps just search for them in Texas or Minnesota.

From here we retraced our travels through the village of Apalachicola, without taking time to sit down to a meal of fresh caught seafood, and along the shoreline of the northern Gulf of

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

White-tailed Deer at Bloody Bluff Road
Mexico. As the trip to Lake Apopka was expected to take four hours we also dropped a stop at Alligator Point, were a search of the waters should have revealed all three species of scoters, common golden-eye, common loon and is the most reliable location to find any red-throated loons in Florida. So from Apalachicola we headed directly to Lake Apopka, were Grove-billed Anis were reported.

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