Monday, April 25, 2016

Fort Myers Beach

Reddish Egret

Monday April 25th

American Oystercatcher

Yesterday I did some birding on Bunche Beach, so this morning I checked out Fort Myers Beach. I had a few target birds and wasn't disappointed. Started by parking at the Lovers Key State Park entrance,  on the south side of Big carlos Pass,were I'm greeted by an out of place American Crow. Parking is basically unavailable to access the beach at this end of Estero Island (Fort Myers Beach). While walking across the draw bridge spanning Big Carlos Pass the first of many Least Terns and a late Common Loon

The south end of Estero Island is called Carlos Point and here several struggling, beach nesting species of birds find government sponsored accommodations and are protected from human interference. Hundreds of Least Terns are starting to arrive and are pairing off for nesting. American Oystercatchers, Wilson's Plovers and Snowy Plovers are also nesting. Later hundreds more Black Skimmers will take over the nesting grounds as the Least Terns chicks are fledged. Efforts are succeeding in enticing the Terns away from Carlos Point, which is mostly private property to sanctuary at Lovers Key State Park. Meg Rousher, a local birder and a summer staffer for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service stated that at least three hundred of the Terns are using Lovers Key this season. She also advised that the Black and Surf Scoters were still on the beach. Speculation is that the birds have been suffering from recent health issues. Meg also reporting sighting a white-rumped sandpiper earlier in the morning. So I set off looking for it.
Romance among the Least Terns

Least Tern at Carlos Point

It was a good walk.  Sighted numbers of Snowy and Wilson's Plovers, Reddish Egrets, a pair of American Oystercatchers, the Scoters and a flyby of a pair of Gull-billed Terns.

Black Scoters

Male Black Scoter

Male Black Scoter

Surf Scoter with a Black Scoter
A Peregrine Falcon was spotted atop the tallest condo building surveying all that lay about him. Never did see the white-rumped sandpiper.
Snowy Plover

Wilson's Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Least Sandpipers
Reddish Egret

Marsh Rabbit on the beach

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bunche Beach

Sunday April 24th


The shorebirds visiting Bunche Beach  are beginning to sport their breeding colors before heading north toward their nesting grounds.


Black-bellied Plover

Least Sandpipers

A Little Blue Heron having difficulties consuming this Blowfish

Monday, April 18, 2016

Chasing a Lifer

Sunday, April 17th

Its amazing how the computer age has made the twitching after a rare or vagrant bird so much easier. At your finger tips is so much up-to-the-minute information. Today, because of eBird, rare bird reports, text messaging, cell phone communications and digital photography, we were able to successfully locate a, possible first ever to be reported in Florida, vagrant Pacific Golden-Plover.

A Peregrine Falcon at the Sem-Chi Rice Mill

For a week now, a Pacific Golden-Plover has been found, in association with Black-bellied Plovers on a sod farm in the Everglades Ag Area south of Belle Glade. The exact location has been on the Six Mile Bend Sod Farm on CR-880, adjacent to Browns Farm Road, in western Palm Beach County. Bob Pelkey and I arrived on site just after dawn and spent about a half hour in our search before finding the bird. It was quite obviously smaller and darker than its Black-belled cousins. Bob was able to get a few photos before the birds wandered farther away into the sod field. A scope is a diffident must today. By now our friends Stan Damen, Dr Jose Padilla and master birder Vince McGrath arrived to share in enjoying this unusual visitor to south Florida.

See a eBird report and photos of the Pacific Golden-Plover by Coray Callaghan

All five of us then proceeded to the nearby Sem-Chi Rice Mill to get photographs of the Yellow-headed Blackbirds being seen there. We counted around thirty of these birds, with the males displaying a striking yellow head and throat. A Peregrine Hawk was found to be keeping a close watch on activities at the mill.

Also nearby was Stormwater Treatment Area 1W. Best sighting from there included two pairs of Black-necked Stilts, a Black Skimmer and a pair of Purple Gallinules.

Bob and I also made a stop at The White's home in Alva to try to get photos of the buntings still active about the feeders. A pair of Painted Buntings were still present, as were a few American Goldfinches. About a dozen beautiful Indigo Buntings were also seen here. Plus a calling Northern Parula was foraging overhead and Bob caught sight of a hummingbird too.

This was a very pleasant and rewarding trip today.

Day List (45)
Pacific Golden-Plover , Pied-billed Grebe, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Black Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite, Bald Eagle, Purple Gallinule, Common Gallinule, Black-necked Stilt, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Ruddy Turnstone, Laughing Gull, Forster's Tern, Black Skimmer, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, White-winged Dove, Mourning Dove, Common Nighthawk, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Crested Caracara, Peregrine Falcon, White-eyed Vireo, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Fish Crow, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, Red-winged Blackbird, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Boat-tailed Grackle, Common Grackle, Painted Bunting, Indigo Bunting, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow

Sunday, April 17, 2016

On the Gulf of Mexico

Thursday, April 14th

Several Magnificent Frigatebirds were seen resting on the riggings of moored shrimp boats
Today, Dave and Tammy McQuade were kind enough to invite me along on their first pelagic birding trip out on the Gulf of Mexico for this year.  Very little pelagic birding gets reported from Southwest Florida, primarily because of low expectations of finding any serious activity. However, Dave and Tammy have been running off-shore pelagic birding trips with some very interesting results. In the past year they successfully found an unexpected Red-footed Booby, plus Audubon's Shearwater, all three Storm-Petrels, Masked and Brown Boobies, Red-necked Phalaropes, Sooty, Bridled and Rosette Terns, both Jaegers and migrating Neotropicals.

So today, our contingent consisting of hosts Dave and Tammy, plus Dave and Alicia Lusk, Dave Alpier and myself, set off at dawn from Punta Rassa, with high expectations. The weather was outstanding and the seas were very calm, but the birds seemed to be missing. Dave piloted his boat off-shore, visiting various wreck sites and was surprised at how empty of birds the Gulf seemed to be. They had never dipped on Sooty and Bridled Terns before. Even the communications tower off Marco Island was devoid of any bird activity. Not really sure why.

We did find some birds. Common Loons, Royal Terns, Laughing Gulls, a Common Tern, Magnificent Frigatebirds and several immature Northern Gannets. There were a couple of sightings of White-winged Scoters racing north and at least eighteen Great Egrets heading north, miles off-shore.  As for neo-tropicals in migration, we spotted a flock of Blue Grosbeaks and a couple of Barn Swallows. A Leach's Storm-Petrel, a Pomarine Jaeger and a Parasitic Jaeger were our only real pelagic sightings 

Bottlenose and Atlantic Spotted Dolphins were entertaining as they would swim along the boat.

I'd like to again thank Dave and Tammy for a most interesting day on the water.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ft DeSoto Park

Tuesday April 12th

Ft DeSoto Park, in April, is very popular with birders, because it is an important migrant magnet for neotropical birds crossing the Gulf of Mexico to reach the Florida peninsula.
A view of Tampa Bay

Today Bob Pelkey and I traveled up to Tampa Bay to visit Ft DeSoto. Not a tremendous number of birds but a very nice variety. At the mulberry trees we found lots of Cedar Waxwings, plus Gray Catbirds, a Wood Thrush, Summer Tanagers, a Scarlet Tanager, Orchard Orioles, Indigo Buntings and even Fish Crows dining on the berries.

In the woods we had mostly single counts of Prairie, Blackpoll, Prothonotary, Tennessee and Hooded Warblers.  We also had multiple counts on Palm, Black-and-White and American Redstart Warblers. Ospreys are nesting throughout the park and we were able to see a lone Great Horned Owl.
A Wood Thrush seen beneath a Mulberry Tree

Summer Tanager

Mulberries were popular with the tanagers

White-eyed Vireo
Great Horned Owl

Throughout the park the sounds of shrieking Nanday Parakeets could be heard.

Romance is in the Air

Common Loon
On the beaches we saw several Common Loons, a Reddish Egret and a lone Red-breasted Merganser.  There were also large numbers of shorebirds including Willets, Black-bellied Plovers, Semipalmated Plovers, Short-billed Dowitchers, Dunlins, Least Sandpipers, a Killdeer, a Piping Plover, Black Skimmers, Ruddy Turnstones and a Marbled Godwit.

Reddish Egret


Least Sandpiper

Laughing Gull

Piping Plover

A Scrum of Short-billed Dowitchers

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Birding in Early April

Sunday April 10th

Eastern Screech Owl seen at Six-Mile Cypress Slough
So far birding in early April hasn't been very exciting. We're seeing a smattering of migration activity at local hotspots, such as at Sanibel Lighthouse and Six-Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. 

So far I've been able to see FOS Gray Kingbird, Least Terns, Scarlet Tanager, Worm-eating Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler and Red-eyed Vireos.  Other sightings have included Swallow-tailed KitesNorthern Parulas, Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue-headed Vireos, Magnolia Warblers.

Other migrants being reported, but are yet to be in my line-of-sight include Cliff and Cave Swallows, Chimney Swifts, Eastern Kingbirds, Hooded Warblers, Swainson's Warbler, Blue Grosbeak. Many wintering species have definitely pulled-out already including Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Kestrels, Belted Kingfishers and Eastern Phoebes. Any day now, Common Nighthawks will show-up for the summer as well.
Cedar Waxwing 

Currently, a flock of Cedar Waxwings are being seen daily just outside my door. They will probably hang around for a couple more weeks, till they begin to follow Spring as it expands northward.