It was April 13th and the first really nice morning in several days. Thirteen bird folks met at the Shell Mound. Among the species seen there were Black-bellied Plover and Roseate Spoonbill. Ken had arrived at 7:30 and spotted an Avocet, Black-Crowned Night heron, and Marbled Godwit. From there we caravanned to a number of locations to discover as many resident and migrant species as possible. These photos courtesy of Bonnie Schirmers
At the museum, a number of migrants were seen, including Indigo Bunting, Prairie Warbler, American Redstart, and Summer Tanager. These two photos courtesy of Karen Bender
Here is an immature Orchard Oriole that was there and seen by most. Phot by Rey Wells
This spot is at the Purple Martin house on the way to the Cemetery where we did see the martins and House Sparrows. Courtesy Rey Wells
After visiting several other hot spots, we ended the morning ended at the cemetery. We took the boardwalk out through the marsh and encountered a friendly Clapper Rail that was preening. It was only about ten feet away and cared not about our presence.As we were working our way back toward the road, an Osprey flew up onto a branch with a foot long fish. The fish appears be a Sea Trout. Here’s a photo of the Osprey preparing to dine. Photo By Ken Spilios
Clapper Rail by Fred Hileman Osprey by Rey wells
The highlight for many was a life bird A Gray Kingbird was photographed by Fred Hileman at the fishing pier which is on the way to the cemetery. The trip totaled 70 species. Great way to end the season.
This turned out to be a great morning of birding with 54 species detected by several experienced bird folks. It started auspiciously with a King Rail calling from a small marsh just left of the entrance drive. Carol Yarnell and her friend got that. It was warm, still, and humid (ugh) when the eight of us arrived at the parking area. Sand fleas were there in great numbers. After deeting up, we spent a bit of non-productive time behind the building and then headed for the tower.
The tower was awesome. It was breezy up on top. The bugs vanished, leaving us very comfortable to scan the thousands of acres of water, marsh, and hammocks that lay before us. A number of species were seen including Northern Harrier, Spotted Sandpiper, and Clapper Rail. Here is a shot of a Snowy Egret and a Tri-colored Heron that hunted their way up a channel below us.
Rey After enjoying an hour on the tower, we decided to skip the warm, woodsy, buggy, too-late-for-warblers loop hike and head for the coast instead. We stopped at the salt water bridge on the way out and bagged some additional species. They included many white pelicans and this Common Loon, which sports some breeding season plumage. This would have been a much better photo had the bird been north of the bridge instead of south. We parked at the beach and scanned the Gulf. We watched a Forster’s Tern dive many times. An oystercatcher was foraging on a tiny oyster bar that was about to be submerged by the rising tide. While most of us enjoyed the breeze in the shade of a small pavilion, Paul Smyth went into the woods and emerged with a Palm Warbler that we didn’t have. Carol and her friend walked out to the boat ramp. They added three eagles and a skimmer to the list. It seemed that a fine time was had by all. Rey Wells
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.
This a feel good story provided by CCAS members Effie & Mike Smith. They both have been monitoring Bluebird boxes in many locations since 1998. They have monitored the fledging of more than 5000 Bluebirds! They are still going strong with 3 routes.. 2 Mile Prairie We went to 2 mile prairie this morning. This beautiful bluebird was on our 1st box. They were building a nest. We had several nests started. Box 12 was run over last year and as we were deciding whether to put up a new box a bluebird kept flying over the spot. I guess she said, “Here comes the landlords, maybe we’d better let them know our house is gone”. We put one up and didn’t even get the car door shut and the male was on the box and inside the box. Made our day.
You know the adage, "Let sleeping Bats lie." Oh, maybe that's another adage we can adopt. This little guy was in Box 9. We let him sleep.
The field trip had been scheduled for Friday which was the first day after duck season was over that driving in was allowed. The inclement weather took precedence. But to not be outdone, four hardy bird folks were treated to a great Saturday morning at Emeralda. The number of species (thirty-seven) could have been higher with calmer winds and more eyes. But some of the species seen were uncommon and a joy to behold. A Snail Kite in the air was initially mistaken for a male Northern Harrier. Both have a white patch at the base of the tail. A bird photographer at that stop told us that a male and female Snail Kite are there.
At the same stop we watched a Caspian Tern diving for fish. Not far from the tern, a raft of sixty American White Pelicans entertained us. What a sight with the sun at our backs! Then some of them took to the air in small groups. One rode the thermals and circled over the lake with about eight Ospreys.
Other species of note were Marsh Wren, Northern Parula, and Song Sparrow.
A group of seven dodged a weather bullet by one day. Our day was clear, still chilly, and still breezy, but nothing like the day before. We have seen more birds in the past here, but there were enough to be very interesting. Thanks, in part, to Ken Spilios having scouted there the previous morning, we tallied fifty species.
The Yellow-rumped Warbler shown here was nice enough to leave its rump uncovered by its wings. This spotted Sandpiper exhibited some new spots. Although it was only early February, both of those species showed some progress toward gaining breeding season plumage.
It’s always nice to get two species in the same photo. Here are a Common Gallinule and what is likely an immature Purple Gallinule. .
Other good gets included Prairie Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, Northern Flicker, Sora, and Wood Duck. The biggest miss of the day was probably a Blue Jay. Rey Wells
It was a picture perfect morning at the Halfmoon Wildlife Management Area. Jim Meyer and Eileen Riccio came over from the space coast to be with another seven bird folks. Since they knew the property better than any of the rest of us, they led our caravan of vehicles to the locations for stops. Walkie talkies kept folks informed of sightings as we slowly motored along between stops.
An early great sighting while moving along the main road was this Barred Owl that was well off into the woods. Even though it was a ways off, it did not suffer our presence long and departed.
At the WMA headquarters, a Black and White Warbler and a Blue-headed Vireo were spotted in close proximity in the large oaks there. Later, while the group hiked to a boardwalk over a creek in a beautiful bottom land forest, one of us stayed behind and sat. An Eastern Towee and a Downy Woodpecker were added to the list. The sitter was entertained by this male Red-bellied Woodpecker that alternately trilled and drilled into a potential new nest hole for a half hour straight. Unfortunately, that hole is out of view. When the group of eight returned, they reported just one new bird. But they enjoyed a great nature walk and good company.
On their way out of the WMA, Jim and Eileen bagged Savannah Sparrows and the best bird of the day, Northern Bobwhite. The total for the morning was 42 species. Rey Wells