Friday, September 29, 2017

Seven Islands State Birding Park

Friday September 29th

Monarch Butterflies are everywhere

Seven Islands State Birding Park

On my second day birding in Eastern Tennessee I had to stop at a venue named as a State Birding Park. Seven Islands is located in Kodak, just east of Knoxville. 

The fields are planted in native warm season grasses and were ablaze in wildflowers. Blooming flowers are everywhere as are the  Monarch and other butterflies that rely on these plants.

Field Sparrow

Brown Thrasher 
Walked about five and a half miles of the trails and saw dozens of Indigo Buntings, American Goldfinches, Field Sparrows. Plus American Kestrels, Eastern Phoebes, Cooper's Hawk, Turkeys, Chimney Swifts, Eastern Bluebirds, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees, Brown Thrashers, House Wrens, Gray Catbirds, Mockingbirds, Blue Grosbeak,  Common Yellow-throats, American Redstarts, and a lone Magnolia Warblers.

Again, for the second day in a row, migrants were not very evident.  But the birds, butterflies and wildflowers made for a enjoyable mornings walk.

Some of the Wildflowers at Seven Island

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Roan Mountain

Tuesday September  26th

Today I was able to step onto the Appalachian Trail.

I've  walked sections of the trail in my younger days. Been on the AT in Shenandoah Valley National Park, The Delaware Water Gap and in Eastern Tennessee. And today I've returned to the Tennessee-North Carolina border.

 The trail crosses the Balds of Roan Mountain and can be accessed at Carver's Gap in the Cherokee National Forest. The attraction for birders to visit here is that the high elevations in the Southern Appalachians features eco-systems more commonly found in more northerly latitudes. Above 5000 feet of elevation the eco-system can be described as the Canadian Zone.  Birders, visiting in September, can be treated to Juncos, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Ravens and Kinglets, plus migrating song birds and raptors passing through the Gap. Northern Saw-whet Owls can be found (heard) here in early summer.

As the elevations rise, from entering the Roan Mountain State Park to the summit, the variety of birdlife changes.

See Tennessee Watchable Wildlife web site for a excellent description on when and were to locate birds of interest on Roan Mountain. June is probably the best time of year to do some birding for species like nesting Golden-winged Warblers Adler and Willow Flycatchers and the Northern Saw-whet Owl. Hopefully I can return next June.
The Trail up Roan Mountain
Juncos were very common atop Roan Mountain
Hiked to the top of the closed Bald from Carver's Gap an encountered a few of those resident northern species such as Common Raven, Dark-eyed Juncos, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Eastern Towhee and Golden-crowned Kinglets. Migrants were strikingly absent today. Only encountered a sole Chimney Swift, a single Broad-winged Hawk, several Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a couple of Blue-headed Vireos and a couple of Palm Warblers.

A View from Atop the Round Bald on Roan Mountain
A View from Carver's Gap
Roan Mountain Visitor Center

 Roan Mountain State Park

Took some time in the afternoon to do some additional birding in the state park. Not much in the way of any migrants, but did find Eastern Phoebe, Carolina Chickadees, Carolina Wrens, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Tufted Titmice, American Crow Blue-headed Vireo and Downy Woodpecker.

In 1870, General John T Wilder purchased this property and would establish the Peg Leg Mine. 
Used a similar water Wheel, along the Doe River, to crush the mined iron ore

Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park

Reconstructed Fort Watauga at Sycamore Shoals

 Made a final stop for the day at Sycamore Shoals State Park in nearby Elizabethton, Tennessee. The park is the sight for the reconstruction of Fort Watauga where local patriot militias, known as the 'Overmoutian Men' assembled to defend against British troops in the American Revolution. They would meet the British later on Kings Mountain, North Carolina for a short but bloody victory.

Again the birding wasn't that great but did add Canada Geese and a Song Sparrow down at the Watauga River

Canada Goose

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Harn's Marsh

Thursday September 21st

Needed to get my daily birding done, but so many venues are closed to the public. Ended up
spending an hour at Harn's Marsh.

Greetings from a Boat-tailed Grackle
It has dried some and the waters are still high, but there were birds.

Had my FOS Palm Warbler and pair of Tree Swallows. A Gray-headed Swamphen heard calling, but saw no water fowl. Had some Moorhens, Sandhill Cranes, Pied-billed Grebe, Belted Kingfisher and Waders

White Ibis

A Turkey Vulture

Florida Sandhill Crane

There is speculation that this Sandhill Crane is actually
a Lesser Sandhill Crane. 
A sub-species not expected here.
We see the non-migratory Florida sub-species and
wintering Greater Sandhills, from the Midwest

Little Blue Heron

Probably a Marl Pennant Dragonfly 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Storm

Sunday September 17th 

Not My Car
Hurricane Irma made direct contact  on SW Florida, with the eye of the storm passing right through my neighborhood. The resulting damage in our communities came from flooding, storm surge and high winds. It could have been far worse if Irma hadn't lost strength as it made landfall. The once powerful catagory 5 storm had slowed to a still strong catagory 3.

After the winds had died down we could assess our troubles. The scope of Irma's path of destruction through Florida left millions of people without electrical power.  Ours was out for a week. No air conditioning, no not water, no hot food, no laundry, very limited communications., Limited access to groceries, water and fuel. So many folks lost homes and business, moreso from the flooding, than from the wind. We never lost our water service, but without electrical power or a generator, those on private wells did not fare as well. Another problem seen with the lose of power was that the waste water lift stations were unable to pump waste water to the WW plants and the backing up of the sewer lines was an added issue. But everyday the problems were being chiseled away and normalcy has been returning. The thousands of residents that fled out of the path of the storm are returning as well.

Birding venues, such as Six-Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, are closed because of the extreme damage. So many trees were stripped of foliage, limbs ripped away and mighty trees have toppled. The beach venues opened more quickly after the flooded abated. But the timing of the damage to  birding migrant hotspots is almost as frustrating as having been thrown off the electrical grid.

Was able to check out Bunche Beach shortly after the storm and found many of our expected species. Had hoped that a pelagic species or two were to seen. Maybe next time.

Our Juvenile Wilson's Phalarope
Photo courtesy of Dave McQuade

One very nice surprise was finding a juvenile Wilson's Phalarope in a flooded field off of Alico Road in San Carlos Park. This is a very rare find in Lee County

Ruddy Turnstone Seen At Bunche Beach
The Mute Swans at Coconut Point Mall in Estero survived the storm

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Lull Before The Storm

Friday September 8th

Hurricane Irma is bearing down on Florida. This is totally up-ending life in
Foster's Tern
paradise. Runs on gas and hurricane supplies. Even saw a long line of cars for folks trying to drop their pets off for boarding. Businesses are closed, storm shutters and plywood are decorating homes everywhere and residents are heading north out of the state by the thousands.  So with all of this action going on, I went birding.

Spent two hours at Bunche Beach.  Tried Six-mile Cypress Slough Preserve first but it was closed.

Black-bellied Plover

The beach was empty of people, just a few strollers. Ran into Meg Rousher though. The tide was low, the water was calm and lots of birds were present. Started with a FOS Peregrine Falcon flying by. Lots of wading birds - Reddish Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Yellow-crowned Night-herons, White Ibis, Snowy and Greater Egrets, Tri-colored, little Blue and Great Blue Herons. Add to this Least, Forster's, Caspian and Sandwich Terns, Brown Pelicans, Cormorants, Laughing Gulls, Mottled Ducks, a Belted Kingbird, Piping, Semipalmated Wilson's and Black-bellied Plovers, Western, Spotted and Least Sandpipers, Willets, Short-billed Dowitchers Marbled Godwits and Sanderlings.

What will happen to them?


A Banded Piping Plover

Least Sandpiper

Western Sandpiper

A Young Least Tern

This pair of Black-bellied Plover were inseparable

Reddish Egret

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Carlos Point

Tuesday September 2nd

Reddish Egret
While Hurricane Harvey was tearing up Texas, we had our own rain soaking event. Much of the low lying areas in Cape Coral and Island Park have been flooded for days. The flooding has shut down access to Six-mile Cypress Slough, which is are local hot spot to encounter fall migrants. Other local sights to watch is include Rotary Park in cape Coral and Kiwanis Park in Port Charlotte

One effect of recent storm action

Was able to access the beach though and I chose to visit Carlos Point on Ft Myers Beach which did offer some good birding.  Didn't see any of the Least Terns and Black Skimmers that had been using Carlos Point as a nesting colony.  But did encounter lots of American Oystercatchers, a Whimbrel, Marbled Godwits, Willets, Black Bellied Plovers, Wilson's Plovers, Semipalmated Plovers, Sanderlings, Snowy Plovers  and Western Sandpipers


Fosters Tern

Black Bellied Plover

American Oystercatcher


A Spider Crab washed up on the beach.
Note the fly checking it out

Snowy Plover

Royal Tern


Marbled Godwit

Whimbrel and a Sanderling