Seventeen! – yes, seventeen bird folks enjoyed a great early morning out at the Beach in Crystal River. Two of the notable species at a recent visit there (see below) were absent. The rare Purple Sandpiper is likely working its way up the Atlantic coast. Its most likely destination is the Canadian high arctic. Royal Terns were not present either. But there were other nice birds to entertain us.
One of the cooperating species was the Least Sandpiper. One of them is shown here. The wide dark band between its eye and bill may be its most obvious field mark.
Another member of the small group of shore birds on the beach was the Sanderling. One is shown here. Right after this shot was taken, it plunged its bill down through the water to grab a morsel.
Other species of note included Common Loon, Bufflehead Duck, Horned Grebe, Clapper Rail, and Seaside Sparrow. In all, thirty-seven species were identified. .Rey Wells
I have been a birder in Citrus County since 1986. In 1988 the first Citrus County Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was held after Betty Smyth and I submitted our Audubon Chapter’s paperwork. During this first CBC we found 4 BUOW. In 1989 there were 6 BUOW. In 1990 there were 2 BUOW. None were found in 1991. In 1992 there were 2 BUOW. In 1993 there was 1 BUOW found. 1993 was the last year a BUOW was found on a Citrus County Audubon’s CBC. A few BUOW may have been seen outside the CBC area and were talked about in the mid 1990’s but since this was before e-bird, the stories are anecdotal and not documented. These birds were located on 491 near W. Cardinal Drive and on Stage Coach Trail near Sugarmill Woods. There was also a reported BUOW on 486 near Brentwood. A lone BUOW was seen on N. Annapolis Ave. in Citrus Hills. All of these sightings were in the mid 1990’s. I visited all these sites and verified the sightings. I have not heard of a BUOW report in the last 20 years or more; that was until December 2020 when Jon Hoch and Tyson Miracle found a BUOW in a cow pasture adjacent to the new Oak Park North unit of the Withlacoochee State Forest. This cow pasture is near the M & B Dairy and can be reached following the blue blaze trail starting at the Cowpen Trailhead off 491 for about 1.5 miles. I have always suspected that Citrus Count still had BUOW and those that existed were probably found on ranch lands that were inaccessible to birders. It was only a matter of time before BUOW were again reported in Citrus County. The property that Jon and Tyson were surveying when they found the owl is to the north of a past BUOW sighting off Stage Coach Trail near Sugarmill Woods. Thanks to Jon and Tyson and after three trips to this area and many miles walked, on March 13, 2021 I found a BUOW in this cow pasture where it was first reported in 2020. Ken Spilios
No reservations were received for this outing. It was pretty quiet at the Crystal River Archeological Site. So, Ken Spilios and Rey Wells migrated out to Fort Island Beach. A rare bird had been continuing there and was usually seen on the rock jetty at the right end of the beach.
When we arrived (at high tide) and approached the water, a number of small shorebirds were at the shoreline. There was one darker bird that was stationary and facing toward the water. We repositioned for a better look. It turned out to be the rare bird, a Purple Sandpiper. According to reports, this is the only one to EVER be seen on the west coast of Florida! While some have been seen on the east coast of Florida, most winter further north than any other shorebird. They breed in the high Canadian arctic and along the coasts of Greenland. As for the name, light purple can be seen in the photo. It spreads and deepens somewhat for breeding season. Also, the base of the bill becomes much yellower as breeding season approaches. Photos of non-breeding adults on allaboutbirds.org show much more yellow at the base of the bill than this bird exhibits. This one might be an immature.
In another area of the shore, there were many larger shorebirds together. They including Laughing and Ring-billed Gulls, Royal Terns, and Black Skimmers. Here’s one of the Skimmers with its bill in skimming/fishing configuration.
A few Common Loons were well out from shore. Shortly before leaving, we spotted this female Bufflehead Duck that was just outside the rock jetty. It’s keeping an eye on us while swimming away in a hurry. In all, twenty-six species were identified at Fort Island Beach.