WOW!! Where to start??? I guess the beginning. Why, yes that's a great place to start. The first activity I observed was a pair of nesting Red-shouldered Hawks in the tree near the pavilion who were feeding young. My first feeling was that this was going to be a good bird day.
The edge of the lake and flying about in the trees produced 15 or so Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. They were doing their aerial antics and also others were feeding on the mosses high above the pavilion all the while whistling their high pitched tunes (if you can call them that?) There were 8 or 9 who were up for a trek around the lake. There is a trail at the back of the pavilion that leads through some hickory and other scrub. We heard and saw many Northern Parulas.
There were several acrobatic Black & White Warblers busily eating their breakfasts underneath and around top of the branches. There were Red-eyed Vireos call. The Great Crested Flycatchers seemed to be everywhere.
There is a field that we bird as we travel through the trail that can have views of Kestrels. We heard, but did not see the Kestrel. We were rewarded with another display of 5 Swallow-tailed Kites who were bombarding a tall pine in the back portion of the field. Upon closer observation the object of their attack was a Red-shouldered Hawk on the top who probably was disturbing the nest of one of the kites.
It was nearing 10:00 AM but on consensus we decided to go farther along the road. As luck would have it, this was a superb decision. We came to a place in the road that had been littered with Mulberries. The first sound I heard was that of a Summer Tanager. The male was chasing or merely flying back and forth with a flock of Cedar Wax Wings. They were all eating the Mulberries. I don't think any of us knew the Mulberry tree was there for the many years we have birded McKethan.
The best bird of the day was yet to come. We crossed over the bridge and back to the road. Eileen Riccio spotted a Waterthrush in a tangle of brush overhanging the water. Many of the group got great shots and the throat with no markings gave the determination that it was a Northern Waterthrush. (It was later reported by Jim Meyer that he rewarded Eileen with a sip of his Rum & Coke for her sharp eye.) Nancy Kost and Betsy Frank joined us and reported an Ovenbird that they heard plainly as it called out its signature, "Teacher, Teacher, Teacher."
It was time to go eat a delicious and plentiful lunch that was provided by CCAS and members present. Thanks to Libby who did the organizing.
There was still one more surprise to end this fantastic day. Leave it to Effie Smith who had observed a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher flying into a tall oak branch. The BGGN was building its nest.
Photos supplied by Bob Ross, Ken Spilios, Jim Meyer, and Effie Smith.
There were 8 Citrus County Audubon members that showed up for the Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve field trip and we were not disappointed. After birding the area around the Nature Center and finding Marsh Wrens, Clapper Rails and a Hummingbird which was most likely a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, we headed out to the tower. (David Chapman took this photo) Once up on the tower we scanned the horizon and spotted a Bald Eagle. Being above the tree tops offered us a great view of the salt marsh where we spotted - you guessed it – a Spotted Sandpiper, one of 6 seen that day. In the tree tops below us, we saw a gorgeous Palm Warbler in full breeding plumage.
Behind us at quite a distance, I saw two birds. After we discussed all the possibilities, a photo confirmed one to be an Eastern Kingbird and the other a Belted Kingfisher. Both just ten feet apart in the same snag. The EAKI was the first of the season for me and one of our best birds for the day.
Someone then asked me, “what hawk has a yellow belly?” Since it was April 1, I figured that this was a joke. Upon looking in that direction I did see “a hawk with a yellow belly”. Turns out it was a Red-shouldered Hawk with a very yellow bird in its talons; after considering all the possibilities, I think it was a male Goldfinch in breeding plumage. There were not many warbles to be found but we still managed to see 47 species when we added birds that we saw at the Yankeetown boat ramp.