Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fort DeSoto Birds

Tuesday, January 17th

Ft DeSoto Park, in Tampa Bay, is a Go-To place to bird, especially during migration. Currently, though we have a couple of special birds there making it worthwhile for a day trip.

Smooth-billed Ani
We currently have a lone Smooth-billed Ani wintering on the island. This species comes into  Florida from populations in  Cuba. They have historically been uncommon in Florida, but there was a big increase in their population in the southern half of the state in the mid 20th century. However, starting in the 1970's their population has crashed and are now considered to be very uncommon today. So today, with my daughter Katie, come to Ft DeSoto to see the Ani.

Another uncommon species to spend the winter in Florida is the Lark Sparrow. A single bird is wintering on the island in the company of Palm Warblers. We did not see the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers that are being seen the campground entrance.

Besides the Ani and the Sparrow , we had some good looks at Red-breasted Mergansers and Nanday Parakeets.
Nanday Parakeets

Red-breasted Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
American White Pelican
Ospreys are extremely common here

Monday, January 16, 2017

Bunche Beach

Saturday, January 14th

Live Atlantic Giant Cockles were exposed today during an 
exceptionally low tide at Bunche Beach

A report of the sighting of a long-billed curlew, yesterday, led me to return to Bunche Beach today. Arriving just before dawn, I wasn't alone. Peter Hawrylyshyn and Meg Rousher have also arrived, as well as a couple of ladies here, taking advantage of an extremely low tide, to do some shelling.

As the day brightened, the low, low tide was exposing a lot of live 'shells'.  Primarily giant cockles and lightening welks. One lightening welk that the ladies found was at least a foot long and was involved in consuming a clam. These live 'shells' can not be collected. It is unlawful to collect live shells silver dollars or starfish in most south Florida waters

A pair of Brantley, rare to Florida, have taken 
up residency at Bunche Beach

The pair of rare-to-Florida Brants continue to be found at Bunche and can often be very tolerant of of observers and photographers. Hopefully they'll be hanging around for awhile.

Reddish Egret, note the antennae attached to this birds back 
and its leg band 

Common Tern
Ring-billed Gull
Wintering shorebirds, gulls, terns, American White Pelicans have been quite numerous.  A few Common and Caspian Terns have been reported, along with many Piping Plovers, Semipalmated and Black-bellied Plovers. Occasional a lone Bonaparte's Gull has show-up.  The same with Lesser and Greater Black-backed Gulls.

 Least Sandpipers and Red Knots can be seen on the exposed sea grasses and the exposed mud flats attract Black Skimmers, Laughing and Ring-billed Gulls, Royal, Sandwich and Forster's Terns, Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, Short-billed Dowitchers, Dunlins, spotted Sandpipers and Western Sandpipers. In the shallow waters we see Marbled Godwits, Willets, Reddish, Snowy and Little Blue Egrets, Tricolor Herons, Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibis and Brown Pelicans. In deeper water  a couple of Common Loons, a Horned Grebe and a half a dozen Black Scouters can sometimes be seen.  In the skies watch for Ospreys and Magnificent Frigatebirds as well as large flotillas of American White Pelicans. 

In the mangroves look for Yellow-crowned Night-herons and Belted Kingfishers. Palm Warblers Gnatcatchers are also present in the mangroves. Plus an Orange-crowned Warbler has been seen on a regular basis. I've made six attempts on sighting this small bird. 

Sandwich Terns

Red Knots

Piping Plover


Brown Pelican

Common Loon

Foster's Tern

Looking for Buffleheads

Monday January 16th

Yesterday, got an invitation from Dave McQuaid to join him and Tammy to look for  a pair of Buffleheads reported at Matlacha Pass. So Today, at about mid-morning we set out from the marina to explore the waters of Lee County in search of any sea ducks and other birds.
Herring Gulls
Spent about five hours on the water and it was evident that this there are far fewer sea ducks winter in Lee County. Only spotted  some  Lesser Scaups and about 29 Redheads. In previous seasons, we had rafts of these birds counting into the hundreds.  Don't know what is happening, perhaps their food sources have been diminished due to our recent water quality issues.
Common Loon
We counted sixteen Common Loons on the day and about the same number of Horned Grebes and Red-breasted Mergansers. Other expected species seen included American Oystercatchers, American White Pelicans, Brown Pelicans, Cormorants, Herring Gulls, Laughing Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, Caspian Terns, Royal Terns, White Ibis and lastly a juvenile Northern Gannet. Total misses included the Buffleheads, Scoters and Frigatebirds.

Caspian Tern with Ring-billed Gulls and Royal Terns

It was fun.  Thanks Dave and Tammy.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Lee County Blitz

Monday, January 2nd

Started a long day at day break from the parking area at Harn's Marsh Preserve.  Its a new year. A time for renewal.  A time to start a new list. Today will be a Lee County Blitz or a Big Day, to count as many bird species as possible in a day.  I did mine solo, which probably cost me a few ticks.
Ring-necked Duck
But at Harns Marsh, I ran into Meg Rouse, China Bont and Dick the photographer and together we had some good sightings. Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Purple Gallinules, Gray-headed Swamphens, Swamp Sparrow.
Florida Scrub Jay
From here I left the group and sought out the Florida Scrub Jays that can be found at 47th Street West in Lehigh Acres.

Then onto the pond on Homestead Road in Lehigh, were I added a Crested Caracara, Roseate Spoonbill, Least Sandpipers a Greater and a Lesser Yellowlegs.

Next was the Red-headed Woodpecker colony on Wellington Road in Lehigh, but I haven't spotted any of the woodpeckers here for some time. But I did find a  Sharp-shinned Hawk.
Sharp-Shinned Hawk

The White's feeders in Alva can be a great spot to find buntings, goldfinches and White-winged Doves. But not for me today. And the nearby Red-headed Woodpecker colony on Parkinson Road only revealed an American Kestrel.  No woodpeckers.

Maybe at the Caloosahatchee Regional Park there'll be a Red-headed Woodpecker or maybe a White-eyed Vireo.  Nope.  Moving on

Then I tried the Caloosahatchee Creek Park and again no woodpeckers or any thing else.

Finally at Pop Ash Creek Preserve there was a Red-headed Woodpecker.  Not much else.

Onto Cape Coral were I made a stop to see Bald Eagles at the Famous Pritchett Eagles Nest, as seen on the national news. Then to the Great Horned Owls nest on SW 22th Ct and the Monk Parakeet nests at the ball fields on Pelican Boulevard. But all through Cape Coral I never spotted a Burrowing Owl, which is unusual.
Great Horned Owl

Onto Ft Myers and found several Nanday Parakeets on Tufts Street. Then onto a spot along the river to look for any scaups. No ducks though.

Its starting to get late and I've missed the low tide, but headed over to Bunche Beach anyway.  The place was packed with folks enjoying a holiday outing. No point in even trying this venue. Missed a lot of birds by being late here.

Wrapped up the day with a walk on the board walk at Six-mileCypress Slough Preserve.  Again not many birds on hand. A long trying day with too many miles on the car. Looks like I hit on 79 birds. Short of the 100 count goal for the day.  My friends Dave and Eary were far more aggressive and managed a Lee County Big Day count of 134 species.
Nanday Parakeets

Day's Bird List (79) -

Black-crowned Night-heron
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Muscovy Duck, Wood Duck, Mottled Duck, Mallard x Mottled Duck (hybrid), Blue-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Wood Stork,  Magnificent Frigatebird, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Least Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Cattle Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Black Vulture,  Turkey Vulture,  Osprey,  Snail Kite,  Northern Harrier,  Sharp-shinned Hawk,  Bald Eagle,  Red-shouldered Hawk,  Purple Gallinule,  Gray-headed Swamphen,   Common Gallinule, American Coot, Limpkin, Sandhill Crane,  Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Great Horned Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, Monk Parakeet, Nanday Parakeet, Eastern Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Blue Jay, Florida Scrub-Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Tree Swallow,  Carolina Wren,  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Common Yellowthroat, Palm Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird and House Sparrow