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Posts Tagged ‘American Oystercatcher’

Osprey at Honeymoon Island

Osprey at Honeymoon Island

Thanksgiving week started early with Nate Dias’ Curlew / Marsh Sparrow boat trip in the Cape Romain NWR on November 18.  My goal was to get a good look at a Saltmarsh Sparrow, which would be a life bird for me.  I stopped at Huntington Beach State Park on my way down where I missed all three marsh sparrows which were seen before I arrived.  I was disappointed, but I had good looks at four individual Clapper Rails – swimming, walking, and bathing.

As we left the dock in McClellanville the next morning, duck hunters were returning saying that the weather was too bad for them!  It was very cold and windy and it rained most of the day.  Nate reported the most marsh sparrows in a couple of miles that he had ever seen, including “12-13 firmly identified Saltmarsh Sparrows.”  However, I did not get a good enough view of any to count as a lifer.  It was fun to put faces with familiar names from the Carolinabirds listserv, though, and it was a good trip in spite of the weather.

On Monday, I birded Altamaha WMA with Sandy Beasley, whom I had met in January at the Georgia Ornithological Society meeting.  I had birded Altamaha before, but did not know the area at all well.  Sandy showed me new areas on the west side of the road and we had a very nice day.  Now I know where to find birds as well as where to go for a great lunch!

Quinn

Quinn enjoying a beautiful Thanksgiving day in Jim & Debbie’s yard

Acacia and Casey

Granddaughter Acacia (Debbie’s oldest) holding Casey (Liz’ youngest)

Thanksgiving with my stepdaughters Debbie and Liz was wonderful.  Debbie’s significant other, Jim, and I birded together again this year.  He took me to Watermelon Pond, a place where he has fished for 20 years.  Jim had not been there lately, though, and was surprised to discover that the lake was dry and the area is now an official Wildlife and Environmental Area.  I was thrilled to discover this wonderful place that focuses on preserving several Florida Threatened species including Southeastern American Kestrel and Gopher Tortoise.  We saw Kestrels and I also had my best look ever at a gorgeous adult male Northern Harrier at Watermelon Pond.

The highlight of Thanksgiving was not birds, though, but seeing the wonderful progress that Liz’ autistic two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Quinn, is making.  I visited in August, just before she started ABA therapy (Applied Behavioral Analysis).  The difference in her behavior and interactions with people in just three months is remarkable.  Her progress includes a little eye contact now, a huge step for an autistic child.

Limpkin

Limpkin at Kapok Park

American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher on Courtney Campbell Causeway

I headed to Dunedin the day after Thanksgiving to spend the weekend with good friends David and Val.  David and I birded our favorite spots on Friday afternoon and talked about Quinn in between birds.  Her therapists were using an iPad with her so I wanted to get a tablet that Liz could use with her, too.  We considered options and compared Android devices to the Apple iPad for a couple of hours before deciding upon an iPad.  David, ever smart and creative, devised a plan that would allow us to bird all the way to the Apple store.  We saw some of our favorite birds along the way – Limpkins at Kapok Park and American Oystercatchers on the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

John Hood, President of Clearwater Audubon, and I had met in August at the Hog Island Audubon camp in Maine.  On Saturday, David and I birded with John.  We learned where to park for the Tierra Verde “duck ponds” and finally got to see the hundreds of Redheads that winter there.

At Fort De Soto, John easily found the Long-billed Curlew that has been there for two years.  David and I had been unable to find it on my last visit.  We enjoyed John’s company and learned a lot about birding in Pinellas County due to his local expertise.

Least Sandpiper, Sanderling,a nd Dunlin at Fort De Soto

Least Sandpiper, Sanderling, and Dunlins at Fort De Soto

"My frog is still wiggling"

“My frog is still wiggling.”

"Maybe if I squeeze real hard"

“Maybe if I squeeze real hard.”

"Shaking is good, but I'm getting weeds on my frog"

“Shaking is good, but I’m getting weeds on my frog.”

"He's subdued now, but I still can't get it down"

“He’s subdued now, but I still can’t get it down.”

"I'll try scrunching it up into one big bite."

“I’ll try scrunching it up into one big bite.”

On Sunday, David and I headed to Honeymoon Island where we enjoyed the “usual suspects” including many Ospreys. We are fascinated with herons attempting to eat large prey and watched a juvenile Little Blue Heron struggle with a large frog.  Before we could see how this story would end, a biker came along and the heron flew off with his frog.  We hoped that the frog made a good lunch.

It was time to head home on Monday morning, but my adventures were not quite yet over.  My plan was to stay in Hardeeville and bird at Savannah NWR on Tuesday morning.  As I passed the turn-off for Tybee Island, I impulsively decided try for the Saltmarsh Sparrow at Ft. Pulaski.  I called Sandy Beasley that evening and she gave me very detailed directions to where she had seen the sparrows earlier in the month.  There would be a high tide at 6:41 AM, so I decided to go for it.

I arrived at 7:30 AM and was disappointed to find much vegetation visible in the marsh.  The birds could be anywhere and I was afraid that I had missed them.  With a little patience, though, I did find the birds and got a great look at one Saltmarsh Sparrow only a foot from the log that Sandy had described.  I was thrilled to get a life bird, but greedy for more birds, continued on to Savannah NWR.

Savannah NWR is one of my favorite places and I stayed from 9:30 AM until after 3:00 PM.  I “should” have left for home much earlier, but by staying so late my last bird of the trip was a really good one – a White-winged Scoter near the end of the Laurel Hill drive.  A check of eBird records when I got home revealed only one other sighting in Savannah NWR and it was over six years ago.

 

I arrived safely home, very tired but grateful for the wonderful birds that I had seen and especially thankful for my loving family and friends.

White-winged Scoter

White-winged Scoter – Savannah NWR Laurel Hill drive

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American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher at the Dunedin Causeway

“Shelley, look, there’s your Oystershucker!” I fondly remembered finding my life American Oystercatcher with my friend, David, in St. Pete as I flew there on March 2. David and I had a day and a half to bird together before he would drive me to meet my son-in-law, Jeff. David is not a real birder and that’s why I love birding with him. We once watched a Great Blue Heron try to eat a fish for half an hour. If I had been with a “real birder”, I’d have been embarrassed to pay so much attention to a common bird. This time we watched three Mourning Doves for 15 minutes. While field guides don’t show differences between males and females, we were sure that the grayer bird was a male and the browner ones were females. The male showed a patch of glowing iridescence on the side of his neck as he puffed himself up and strutted towards the females. We thought that they would mate right in front of us and prove who was who, but picking for food in the grass won their interest. A little research after the trip revealed that there IS a difference between male and female Mourning Doves which Bill Hilton describes and illustrates with gorgeous photos MOURNING DOVE: EXTERNAL ATTRIBUTES OF A FAVORITE GAME BIRD.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Saturday we visited Kapok Park, where we saw both Great Horned owlets and mom. The owlets were big “branchers” now and out of the nest, fuzzy and adorable. Great Horned Owls have nested at Kapok for several years. The photo at left was taken by David in 2009.

Sunday dawned so windy that we had to change our plans for morning birding. Instead of looking for Marsh and Sedge Wrens, we decided to drive the Dunedin causeway to look at shorebirds (much to David’s relief, I suspect). We enjoyed quite a few birds including our favorite Oystercatcher, but I was most excited to realize that I could confidently identify winter-plumaged Red Knots. All the shorebird study was paying off!

On Monday, Jeff and I drove to Miami to look for White-crowned Pigeons and countable exotics. We headed to a location in the middle of Miami where two pigeons had been reported on utility wires. Sure enough, we surveyed the area for 15 minutes and a White-crowned Pigeon appeared right in front of us just as we here about to leave. Life bird #1 for the trip!

Jeff’s friend, Tom Trotta, joined us for a day in the Everglades on Tuesday. Tom is President of Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge and Jeff is a volunteer with this wonderful organization. Our target bird was Short-tailed Hawk, which we failed to find, but it was a pleasant day that started with a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and produced another White-crowned Pigeon. It was much more satisfying to find a pigeon hidden in a clump of trees eating pigeon berries than to see one on a utility wire. The shy bird was well hidden, but we clearly saw was its face, white iris, and white crown. This was how birding should be.

Another highlight was finding Stilt Sandpipers. I immediately suspected that’s what we had when I saw two birds the size of Lesser Yellowlegs completely submerging their heads under water while feeding. Close scope views confirmed the field marks – a long black bill slightly drooped at the tip, the prominent white eyebrow. It was a life bird for Jeff and Tom and I was thrilled that I could make the ID. I could be the poster child for Doug and Bob’s Shorebird Workshop. “Shelley attended our workshop and now she can identify a winter-plumaged Stilt Sandpiper. You, too, can learn this birding feat!”

After another couple of pleasant days birding, it was time to head back to the St. Pete airport. We had time for one quick stop on my last day and we decided to try for the Short-tailed Hawk at St. Pete’s Sawgrass Lake Park, where they have bred in previous years. Before we reached the first observation area, a man called us over to see a Limpkin that has just eaten a snail. While watching the Limpkin, an Osprey plunged into the water 20 feet in front of us and flew off with the fish he caught. We looked up and saw a Short-tailed Hawk circling with nesting material. Life bird #2! It was a great week, but I have more birds to find in Florida. I remembered my late husband’s advice to “save something for next time.”

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