Monday, November 28, 2016

Ding Darling

Monday November 28th

Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Last February we had a surprise visitor hanging out with the American White Pelicans at  the Wildlife Drive at Ding Darling on Sanibel Island. For two or three day a Great White Pelican, a native from the Old World, was a star attraction.  I don't believe that its provenance has been determined yet or were it went off to, but it did draw a lot of attention.

Back in January, 2010 we experienced a terrible cold spell which resulted it a great deal of damage to agriculture and to wildlife. We had major fish kills, which decimated the local snook population and had even effected larger cold sensitive animals such as sharks, sea turtles and manatees. Even iguanas fell frozen from the trees. And at Ding Darling the cold is suspected in the death of Wilma, an old, rare, female American Crocodile. She was another star attraction at Ding, as she was the only American Crocodile found on the Gulf Coast. Today, her bones are on display at the visitor center.

In the Spring we come out to Ding in search of Mangrove Cuckoos, Black-whiskered Vireos and migrating songbirds. The last couple of year we had another star attraction with a lone White-Crowned Pigeon taking advantage of the Tropical Hardwood Hammock found along the Shell Mound Trail. 

Right now we are seeing some interesting waterfowl making rare appearances at Ding. Last Saturday a lone Long-tailed Duck was photographed along the Wildlife Drive and last weak we have a report of a Brant.  Both appear to be one day wonders. I didn't expect to find anything unusual today, but you never know. 

I arrived at low tide, which is very important for your best wildlife observation experience. We had hundreds of wading birds - White Ibis, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Reddish Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Yellow-Crowned Night-herons, Little Blue Herons, Roseate Spoonbills, and Wood Storks. There were dozens of American White Pelicans, Brown Pelicans, Double-Crested Cormorants, Pied-billed Grebes and Blue-winged Teal.  We also had Anhinga, Osprey, Magnificent Frigatebird, Vultures, Laughing Gulls, a Ring-billed Gull, Willets, Greater Yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstones, Semipalmated Plovers, Black-bellied Plovers, Dunlin and  Least Sandpipers . E-Bird Report
Great Egret

 Also saw a lot of Mullets, Both living and dead.  As the tide was moving in a large number of dead and blotted mullets came into the lagoons. This speaks of a fish kill from a recent Red Tide incident in the waters around Sanibel.

An American White and a Brown Pelican

An Immature Little Blue Heron

Reddish Egret Sporting a Tracking Radio

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Looking for Birds

Wednesday November 23rd

Well it seems that I am not a very good birder.  Through out the year I've  chased after many interesting birds.  Many I was able to see, but those misses can be so disappointing and annoying.
American White Pelicans
Yesterday, I toured birding venues around Pasco County were so many interesting birds are being reported.  Started out at Hudson Beach Park. I hadn't been here since I was kid back in the 60s. Back then, my family took our yearly  vacation to visit my Grandparents, who lived in New Port Ricky. We spent a lot of time at Hudson Beach. That was before much of anything had been developed out there. The beach was really just a rocky shoreline, where we caught tiny blowfish and sea horses. There was a cinder block snack shop on site and there was very little shade. Our sunburns were terrible.

I arrived at Hudson Beach at seven-thirty to a much more modern beach setting. The air was cool and Monk Parakeets were squeaking nearby. Was hoping to be successful in adding my name to the list of birders who have sighted a rare-to-Florida Red-necked Grebe. Well after an hour of scanning, it appeared that I had dipped. There was a grebe, but it seemed to me to be a Horned Grebe. A trio of Buffleheads (first of the season for me), a pair of Bald Eagles perched together on  signage in the channel and some Mallards were present.
American Bittern
From here I went twelve mile north to Bayport Park and Jenkins Creek Park for the female Brewer's Blackbird. This lone Brewers has been a reliable winter visitor to this location for a few years now always in the company of Boat-tail Grackles. Back in February, Bob Pelkey and I dipped on this bird, and now I dipped on it again. Several birders reported seeing it at Bayport on the same day as my visit. Interesting birds seen here included an American Bittern at Bayport and a huge flock of American Pelicans soaring southward over Jenkins Creek.
Wood Storks
Plus a flock of resting Wood Storks at nearby Linda Pedersen Park

Next stop was Key Vista Nature Park in Holiday. Made a second stop at Hudson Beach Park first, were results were not better. Arrived at Key Vista Park a bit after eleven where I did, finally, see one of my target birds in a Red-breasted Nuthatch of maybe two. Not a Lifer for me , but the a first for me in Florida. Normally this species doesn't venture this far south in the winter, but several have now been reported in Alachua, Pasco and Pinellas Counties. Tried to get pics before they moved out of sight, but they were much to active. Another species that shouldn't be this far south was a confirmed Winter Wren.  I couldn't get a photo of the wren either but heard it several times close to the parking lot. Other interesting birds seen here included  a FOS Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Tufted Titmice.

Next stop was Philippe County Park in Safety Harbor. I've never been there before but it was quite nice. Came here to look for Brown Boobies know to seen resting on the power line towers located off-shore. Needed to use my scope, but could pick out at least three boobies among the scores of Double-crested Cormorants and Brown Pelicans on the furthest tower. Other interesting birds included Ospreys and a Bald Eagle.
Northern Harrier
A final stop was to look for the yellow-headed blackbird at Ackerman Park in Sarasota. It was supposed to be easy. Others had seen it that day. But I dipped. Interesting birds present included Brown-headed Cowbirds, a Northern Harrier and a few Northern Shovelers.
Brown-headed Cowbird
In reflection, it wasn't a bad trip.  But the most annoying thing about missing some of the birds, and you never get all of them, is that you can build up expectations based on all the successful results others have reported.

Just this past Monday I entered the Winkler Point section of Estero Bay Buffer State Park in Ft Myers. This is always a tough hike. Its usually wet and mucky, subject to hordes of mosquitoes and exposure to the elements can be draining. But the salt marshes here can host some very good birds.

Elected to give it try, based on some great, recent reports by friends on the bird activity here. The weather was good that day, cool with a light breeze, and there was no insect activity. But I could not replicate my friends list. Did see the hundred-plus American Avocets in the bay and a few Blue-winged Teal, a Green-winged Teal, Cooper's Hawk and heard a Clapper Rail,  but that was about all.

So, its actual quite unimportant, to fall a little short. Look for satisfaction in what you have accomplished. 
So What Kind of Grebe IS This?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Some of the Faces at Six-Mile Cypress

Wednesday, November 9th

Gray Squirrel
Today I spent about an hour at the Six-Mile Cypress Slough boardwalk. Basically was interested in a bit of walking and a bit of photography. The weather was nice, the light was good and the parking lot was quite full.

Double-Crested Cormorant


Carolina Wren

Red-Bellied Woodpecker dining on Dahoon Holly berries

Downy Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

A Napping Black-Crowned Night-Heron

Florida Banded Watersnake

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Tuesday November 1st

Sometimes, for fun, I like to spend a day on a Birding Blitz. Today the weather was nice, so spent about eight hours hitting venues around Lee County. Set a goal of sighting one hundred species and did find a few interesting ones, but only tallied seventy-five.
Sandhill Cranes at Harns Marsh

Purple Gallinule at Harns Marsh
Several of the venues were not very birdy, and actually dipped on some common species, like Blue Jays and Catbirds. Some other birds I expected to find, but missed included Ruddy Turnstone, Wilson's Plover, Reddish Egret, Common Ground-Dove, Red-headed Woodpecker and Eastern Meadowlarks. 

Gray-headed Swamphen at Harns Marsh

Red-Shouldered Hawk in Lehigh Acres
Some of the good sightings included Florida Scrub Jays in Lehigh Acres, a Coopers Hawk at the Wellington Road Red-headed Woodpecker Colony (no woodpeckers were present though.), Marsh Wren, Gray-headed Swamphen and Purple Gallinule at Harns Marsh, first-of-the season Dunlins at Bunche Beach and the Peregrine Falcon at the Pink Shell Resort on Ft Myers Beach.

Might repeat this event around the end of the month. More wintering species will be present. Maybe I could exceed the century mark

Today's List
Dunlin at Bunche Beach
Ring-necked Ducks at Harns Marsh

Mottled Duck at Harns Marsh
Short-billed Dowitcher