What began as a dud birding day turned out entirely different at the end. Our group of 21 met at the Archeological Mounds site. The tides should have been better, but they did not favor us. We travelled to the mud flats with no better luck. Our next trip was out to the Museum and still it was not great. The same held for the museum. It appeared to be hopeless. We just opted for lunch. Many in this group were not to be deterred and went back to some of the earlier spots and viola. They all seemed to score. The museum gave up some warblers and others scored with additional sightings. The tally for the day was 50 species. Photo courtesy of Bob Ross.
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.
On March 19, 10 birders participated in the monthly Pepper Creek bird walk. The weather was good and we were able to identify 29 species. Some highlights were a flock of cedar waxwings in a nearby tree so everyone got a good look. Also we heard Red eyed and Yellow throated vireos singing although they were not close enough to get binoculars on them. A real treat for everyone was a Barred Owl sitting on a bare branch only 15 to 20 feet off the trail. He sat there for a few minutes and allowed everyone to get awesome looks at him. The next Pepper Creek Walk will be April 23.
It was a beautiful March morning. Thirteen bird folks scoured the meadows and trees near the caretaker’s cottage. Northern Parulas serenaded us continually from the nearby oaks. One showed itself briefly for some of us.
But the star of the show there was a prolific male Yellow-throated Warbler that included the tree in front of the cottage as part of its territory. Effie Smith captured a superb photo of this beautiful bird.
Moving down the hill, Fred Hileman spotted a small bright yellow bird in a sun-drenched oak tree. While it was not close and did not sing, it was most likely a Prairie Warbler. Effie Smith did get a photo of another one. We did hear others singing later.
We also heard several Yellow-throated Vireos and a Red-eyed Vireo. Several White-eyed Vireos sang for us. One gave us a good look at it. Bob Ross captured this photo of a White-eyed Vireo.
As we worked the trail along the edge of Red-headed Woodpecker habitat, this Coral Snake was spotted just off the trail. Maybe this encounter played into Ken Spilios’ decision not to beat the bushes for Bobwhites as he has on at least one occasion in the past.
We heard a number of Red-bellied Woodpeckers calling and trilling. But the Red-heads were rather quiet. We did see three of them, however. One finally landed on a high snag that was close enough for several of us to photograph it.
Other notable sightings included a Brown Thrasher in the brush, a mature Bald Eagle flying high above and a pair of Swallow-tailed Kites hunting on the wing. It was a most enjoyable morning.
A fairly tired group resting after the climb back to the top.
Other photos taken by different members of birds, butterflies and plants seen . Top to bottom: Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Rain Lily, Swallow-tailed Kite, Red-shouldered hawk, Gulf Fritillary and the group.
And finally, but not least our two hosts at Ahhochee Hill Sanctuary.
On February 19th we had 22 people participate in the monthly Pepper Creek Bird walk. It was a very enthusiastic group and included visitors from Maine, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and New Jersey in addition to locals. We were able to identify 29 bird species. Highlights were Blue Headed Vireo, Northern Perula Warbler (just arriving from Winter HQs), Black and White Warbler, 4 woodpecker species, and the beautiful Wood Ducks.
The Red-tailed Hawk shown here “greeted” us as we approached the gate. Actually, it was in position to watch for prey moving in the grasslands below.
Eleven bird folks then made their way along the one lane limestone road. Each car was equipped with a 2-way radio. The field on the right that consistently produced a kestrel in years past had been plowed recently in preparation for planting. The elimination of prey habitat likely caused this raptor to be missing. (Afternote: The Kestrel was sighted by 3 members of the group as they were exiting. The Kestrel did not disappoint. )
The ranger station area was more productive. Several folks had a good look at a Yellow-throated Warbler. This warbler is unusual in that the female looks nearly identical to the male. The best way to distinguish one in the field is by the song. If it sings, it’s a male. Here is an awesome observation: The female cardinal is one of the few female birds that is known to sing. We were all intrigued by this tiny green frog. It did not measure more than an inch.
At the end of a side road, everyone except Rey Wells made the trek to the glade that a spring creek runs through. Rey attempted to get a photo of a singing Yellow-throated Warbler whose territory included the parking area. The only sighting of the bird was when it flew across a fire road that separated two stands of pines. Next, we visited the newish board walk and elevated platform that overlooks a many acre wetland. Sightings there included Pied-billed Grebes, a Little Blue Heron that sported some breeding plumage, and a pair of Great Egrets that were moving around quite a bit together in the distance. They might have been competing males, or they may have been male and female in courtship mode. From there, at the suggestion of Chris Green, the manager of the property, we drove a bit and then walked to a stand of pines where Brown-headed Nuthatches were known to be. Given that it was late morning, a recording was played in an effort to activate one. None appeared, but two experienced birders reported that they heard a reply. It was a picture perfect morning to be out in nature with others who share a common interest. 40 species were tallied for the morning.
Walkie Talkies were passed out to drivers in our auto caravan. This enabled leader Fred Hileman, or anyone else, to report a sighting of interest to the others. In all, seventeen bird folks proceeded in autos and, sometimes on foot, along the several miles of the one lane road through the Marsh. At the first stop three Wood Ducks were spotted along with a Purple Gallinule. The gallinule had been feeding upright among the lily pads as they typically do. It then swam across about 75 feet of open water to the other side of the channel. It’s a bit unusual to see that from this species. It is much more typical of its close cousin, the Common Gallinule.
The middle portion of the drive is mostly woods. It was somewhat quiet. As we approached the final watery section, a mixed flock of songbirds were encountered in the last patch of woods. Several Northern Parula Warblers were there, the first of the season for some of us. Orange-crowned Warblers were seen, also. A flock of Cedar Waxwings flew in and entertained from the tree tops.
At the next watery spot an immature Bald Eagle and a Redtail Hawk soared overhead. A number of Glossy Ibis took flight in a seeming reaction to the overhead presence of the predators. A bit further along, a Northern Harrier was hunting just above the reed tops.
A bit further along, a Northern Harrier was hunting just above the reed tops.
Elaine Roche and her companion(s) were last to reach the boat ramp area as they had lingered to try for more warblers. They were rewarded as the rumored Snail Kite showed up near the boat ramp. It was not there when the rest of us stopped at that spot. As usual, timing can be everything. It was a fine morning in one of our favorite natural areas.
Credits: Kite and Harrier by Gabriel Harrison Shovelers by several photographers Anhinga by Bob Ross
A diminished pandemic and a beautiful morning brought out eighteen bird folks to one of our favorite venues. A number of great sightings included Snail Kite, Northern Harrier, and Sora. Seen here in Gabriel Harrison’s photos.The northern most pool features a sluiceway at one end of a pond and a dam at the other end. Several good sightings occurred there. A Greater Yellowlegs rested on one leg near the sluiceway. This pair of Northern Shovelers was “shot” by several folks at close range.
A pair of Spotted Sandpipers were active there. This Anhinga surfaced with a large fish and managed to get it down after quite a tussle. This photo was taken by Bob Ross. Just before leaving this spot, a flock of Cedar Waxwings was spotted across the pond. Here is part of our group looking at them as they (the birds) rested in a Long Leaf Pine.
Normally thousands of Sandhill Cranes on Paynes Prairie leave around Valentine’s Day. This year they seem to be leaving two weeks early. We heard the unmistakable loud rattling bugle call of the Sandhill Crane. Their call can be heard for miles. Then someone said look over the tree line. In the sky over Paynes Prairie, circling to gain height were hundreds of Sandhill Cranes. They rose in the thermal, bugling all the way, until they gained enough height and formed up in large V’s to head north. We all hoped that they have a safe journey to the North and not get caught by a sudden winter storm. It was a most enjoyable and productive morning. In all, 60 species were recorded.
The weatherman warned of an incoming cold front for Saturday. Possible rain in the early morning hours. Sometimes that’s not all that bad. After all, we have not seen many migrants from up north. There were only a few Robins and some Cedar Waxwings on our Christmas Bird Count on January 4 somaybe this front could bring something good. Well, while I slept Friday night the front came through with some clouds and rain. The worst would be a northern wind predicted to be at 10 miles per hour. When I woke at 5:30 it was cold and blustery, just as predicted. But I was the field trip leader, so I felt obligated to be there.
During the drive to Ocala things did not improve. On the way I got a text from one of the field trip participants. Was it a warning when he said he couldn’t make it? But what if others showed up and I wasn’t there to greet them? “Duty Calls”. 8:00 a.m. and on time. Still an overcast day, cold and a bit windy. With the temperature at 42, I said to myself that this is still a great birding spot. Since no one showed up I took off to find what I could find. Turns out the day was not as bad as it seemed. The few birds that did venture out didn’t seem to mind the “bad birding conditions”
Right away I heard the scratchy/raspy call of a Red-headed Woodpecker, one of 6 that I saw that day. Then the striking tuxedoed bird flew by. The first pool ahead had drained due to a sinkhole opening but in the moist mud there was a Killdeer and about 25 female Red-winged Blackbirds. In a far snag sat a Red-tailed Hawk. On the ground many Palm Warblers bobbed their tails while looking for something to eat. In the next pool a male Hooded Merganser showed himself while accompanied by a female. Then a Pied-billed Grebe popped up. Although vocal, the Common Gallinules were hunkered down in the reeds, while an immature, Red-shouldered Hawk sat in a nearby snag watching them. Yah, it wasn’t the best day to go birding, but I knew this newest of birding spots would not disappoint.