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Posts Tagged ‘Osprey’

It was crazy to do this trip. I am going to Alaska in June and I had promised Myrna that I would visit her in California. I really didn’t need to cram in another spring trip. It all started when Kitty Jensen was telling me about her Everglades trip with the National Park Conservation Association. “I’ll just fly Allegiant to Punta Gorda,” she began. I interrupted with “No, you won’t. Allegiant no longer flies there from Greensboro. It would be easier for me to just drive you down.” As usual, I blurted this out without first engaging my brain. But, it would give me a chance to look for Mangrove Cuckoo and other South Florida specialties while Kitty was doing her Everglades trip. The cuckoo was a bird that I really wanted. I had been waiting for a chance to go to Florida in April since Jeff and I missed the cuckoo in 2011. So, when Myrna asked me to visit the first week in April, everything fell into place.

Wood Storks, Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge

Wood Storks, Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge

Kitty and I decided to slowly drive down and back, with lots of stops along the way. We left late on the morning of April 9 and got to South Carolina in time for a quick spin through Savannah National Wildlife Refuge’s Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive before dark. The next morning we enjoyed the wildlife drive at Harris Neck NWR and then drove through the Osceola National Forest on our way to Gainesville, Florida, where we spent the night.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

On Saturday morning, we went to one of my favorite birding spots in Florida, Lake Panasoffkee Wildlife Management Area. On our way there, I listed all the birds that we could see – Loggerhead Shrike, American Kestrel, Eastern Meadowlark, Red-headed Woodpecker. For the first time that I visited the site, other birders were there. As we left, the group was assembled under the Kestrel nest box where a Florida Fish & Wildlife officer was speaking. We were sure that he was talking about the Southeastern subspecies of American Kestrel, which is threatened in Florida. Just before we exited onto the main road, we saw a Kestrel perched in a tree on the other side of an open field. We had seen every single species that I’d mentioned, plus a Northern Bobwhite for a bonus!

We finished the day by driving to Naples, where I dropped Kitty off for her Everglades trip.

Eurasian Collared-Dove

I continued on to Florida City, where I met a friend who lives in Florida. We had a great day on Sunday driving through the Florida Keys. We didn’t have time for normal birding, so we enjoyed this very tame Eurasian Collared-Dove who pecked at bread crumbs right at our feet while we had lunch in Key West.

We made time to look for Key Deer on our way back.  Feeding the deer is legally prohibited, but people must do it anyway as the deer are very tame.

Key Deer on No Name Key

Key Deer on No Name Key

We spent the next day in the Everglades, slowly driving from Florida City to Flamingo. We started just outside the park entrance and found five Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. I think of the flycatcher as a Texas bird, but they frequently winter in Florida.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

We always enjoy watching common birds and that day the Black Vultures held our attention. At Paurotis Pond, we watched this “couple” preen each other, or do what would have been preening if there had been any feather on their heads. They allowed us very close, but we backed off to give them some privacy. Before anything really exciting could happen with the vultures, a couple from Sweden pulled in. It was their first trip to Florida and they were looking for Roseate Spoonbills. We pointed out where the birds were and enjoyed chatting with them for a while. I’m sure that they would have found the birds without us, but they were very grateful for our help. Before they left, the man said, “I’ve got to give you something” and ran over to his car. He came back with a pen from the company that he works for and gave it to me.

Black Vultures, Everglades National Park

Black Vultures, Everglades National Park

We continued our drive towards Flamingo enjoying the typical Everglades sights – Red-shouldered Hawks, Swallow-tailed Kites, Woodstorks. At Eco Pond, we found a flock of 26 Black-necked Stilts. Near the amphitheater at the Flamingo Visitor Center, we found an Osprey nest with three large juveniles who looked like they were ready to fledge at any moment.

Osprey, Everglades National Park

Osprey, Everglades National Park

We returned to Florida City just before dark and easily found a Common Myna in its natural Florida City habitat – the drive-thru at Long John Silver’s!

Common Myna

Common Myna

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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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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