Citrus County Audubon’s Pepper Creek Birdwalk finale was conducted on the Ides of April 2023 at Homosassa Wildlife State Park, with Elaine Roche and Bob Ross leading. Only three other birders participated (more commonly a dozen), but the five of us had a great time along the trail. A few new seasonal neotropical migrants were added to the list of monthly recorded winter residents, including Swallow-tailed Kite, Great-crested Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, Nashville Warbler, and N. Parula (warbler). In all 24 species were recorded. Photos of the Great-crested Flycatcher and N. Parula were obtained by Bob (see photos here), with these and more found in the eBird report submitted by Elaine. A beautiful photo was obtained and submitted of a male Wood Duck near its wooden nest box (see photo and eBird). In addition the group was rewarded by a river otter crossing the trail (see photo here). Thanks to Elaine and Joyce Lewis for their loyal participation and leadership every winter at Pepper Creek. Many community birders (with varying degrees of experience) are enriched by these organized monthly birdwalks at Homosassa State Park.
This was Michele Kline's day at the Baby Bird Shower that Citrus County and Hernando Audubon's hosted at Chinsegut Conservation Center. Michele brought ambassador Spencer Barred Owl and a new ambassador, White-winged Dove. She gave good advice about when not to bother baby birds that seemed to be without parents. There were tables of items for sale and the monies received were all turned over to Michele so that she can continue to do the awesome work she is so good at.
Prior to Michele's presentation, Bev Hansen led 20 interested birds on a brief tour around the premises. Red-headed Woodpeckers were in abundance, several species of Warblers, male and female Summer Tanager, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireos were seen to name a few. The excitement for the day was the Blue Grosbeak.
One consolation of the wind blowing was that the "no-see-ums" were at bay for the 13 birders. Morning started overcast, but that did not deter the Clapper Rails that were calling back and forth in the marsh. This one just sat up on the top of the reeds for the longest time and gave us all opportunities for photos. Marsh Wrens, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, Parulas, and Pine Warbler were a few of our sightings. We spotted a flying bird that took some identifying. Thanks to Effie Smith who helped with the ID. At first with the long tail, it seemed to be a Mississippi Kite, but after checking the photo on computer, it was determined to be a migrating Northern Harrier. Then out to the boat ramp we added a few more with the Willets all in a row. Here is the eBird link to the 33 species seen. https://ebird.org/checklist/S133601118
12 members were present for Cedar Key. Tim & i arrived about 7:30 and when we got out of the car, we were nearly devoured by the "no-See-ums." The two different sprays all over did not deter them. Tide was extremely low which made them more active, I suppose. We had 16 species including one of the several Clapper Rails. There were 3 Black Skimmers patrolling the low water pockets for their morning breakfast.
We left the Mounds and along the way out several members spotted a Florida Scrub Jay. The mud flats afforded several species to add. There was a Black-crowned Night Heron out foraging. Off in the distance we could see a large flock of White Pelicans. We were hoping to travel farther down the road and get a better look at them, but an airboat dashed that hope.
The best views for the trip were of the Great-horned Owls. Mom and babies gave us some good photo ops. It has been several years since we have seen them. It was good to have them back. This was one of the best specie tallies we have had in some time. This was without the migration. The tally for the trip was a whopping 67 species!! Congratulations to some great birders. Thanks to Bob Ross for the bird photos. The ebird link is here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S132765436 Fred Hileman
8 birders joined in a beautiful morning of birding. Weather was perfect. One of the most interesting and not a bird were the 3 Sherman Fox Squirrels that gave us plenty of photo ops. It just seemed strange to find them in the openness of the wetlands. One was quite acrobatic with a frolocking , tumbling and jumping up and down display that kept us all mesmerized for several minutes.
The best bird surprise was to see 2 Black backed Stilts in a retention pond next to the park along with a Lesser Yellowlegs. This was a great distance from our vantage point, but the photo is rather odd. It seems as if the Stilt is drowning the Yellowlegs.
There were three raptors. An American Kestrel, Red-shouldered Hawk and a Red-tailed Hawk were seen. Great-crested Flycatcher, Parula, Pine & Palm Warbler, many Red-headed Woodpeckers as well as Red-bellied, Downy, & Pileated were seen through-out the trek.
The surprise was being photo-bombed by the Canada Goose on the right of the group photo. Here's a close -up. We tallied 38 species for sure, but Merlin picked up Painted Bunting, and several others we could not verify. The eBird list is here at this link. . https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S131689146 Fred Hileman Photos by Fred Hileman
9 birders trekked some of the trails at Circle B. Tim and I arrived about 7:15 and by the time the rest of the group had arrived; we had already tallied 21 species. It is a good lesson for being there at or near dawn. I saw my first of the season Great Crested Flycatcher. That is always a thrill. There were several Great Blue nests that were active. The tally for the the morning was 51 species. https://ebird.org/checklist/S130978913 Here is the ebird link.
Tim and I travelled down on Wednesday and checked out Lake Mirror and Lake Morten. The Mute swans were very pretty.
A four-car caravan set off with walkie talkies on February 17th, opening day of the wildlife drive this year. As with our previous outing at Lake Apopka, we lucked out with a warm breezy day that preceded a showery cold front overnight. We parked the cars and went for a couple of short walks on mowed trails. A highlight was two kingfishers chattering and interacting in the air for several seconds near us. Later, at the first of several ponds, Bob Ross took this long-range photo of a Snail Kite. Note the orange feet. At the main pond, many Ring-necked Ducks and hundreds of coots entertained us. As we left for lunch, three American White Pelicans flew over. We enjoyed a waterfront window lunch at Ski Beach Bar and Grill in Leesburg. Here are eight of the nine participants. Your reporter is the photographer.
Three folks had to forego Venetian Gardens. The rest of us took the short walk from the restaurant parking lot to the Gardens. A slow stroll along Lake Harris and over the several bridges of the Gardens produced close-up photo opportunities of several species, including Little Blue Herons and Great Egrets. The stars of the show, as usual there, were the Purple Gallinules. They were numerous. Toward the end of our stroll, this pair of Purple Gallinules were photographed while fulfilling their mission in life. Forty nine species were tallied by Bob Ross at Emeralda. An additional five were spotted at Venetian Gardens. Rey wells
4 members who could not go on the event day, went the following week. We tallied 53 species. They were similar but not the same species. The striking difference was the 53 Ring-necked ducks the first week and our tally of 300+ .
The morning of February 10th was warm and breezy. 23 bird folks gathered at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive for a day of fun. Missing from the group photo are Mike and Effie Smith, Virginia Hall, Julie Appleget, Eileen Riccio, Jim Meyer, Will and Kathy Carter, Bonnie Schirmers and Jan Doudna. A female Painted Bunting, Swamp Sparrow, Common Yellow Throat showed up at the entrance along with loads of Yellow-rumped Warblers. Northern Harriers flew over the marshes in several locations along the way. Northern Flicker and Grey Headed Swamphen were two more sightings . The exciting find were the Black-necked Stilts that were at a good distance away, but Jim Meyer got a decent photo. There seemed to be an abundance of Black-crowned Night Herons.
Just a few weeks ago, there was an abundance of Fulvous Whistling Ducks. This day provided a sighting of two. It was the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks that amazed us. There had to be well over 3oo hundred lining the banks of the canal on our way out of the drive.
There were several snipes in one location and this Wilson's was the closest I have ever been to one. It was no more than 10 feet away. Fred Hileman
Overall, there seemed to be fewer birds still in residence than when we were there last year. Not that it wasn’t active enough. It was. We tallied 52 species.
Red-wing Blackbird, Shoveler
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks
Fulvous Whitling Duck
Blog by Rey Wells & Fred Hileman. Photos by Rey Wells, Jim Meyer and Fred Hileman
After a great dinner at Dixie-Crossroads and night’s sleep, we met at Parrish Park in Titusville. We had some bad news when one of our group heard that Black Point Dr. was closed! We decided to check at the Visitor’s Center but first we drove W. Gator Rd. and picked up A. Avocets, a cooperative Reddish Egret flew in and gave us a good view, and one White Pelican, along with many waders. It was good to see our friend, Reesa Fassett, who has moved away, but was with her local chapter.
We then drove to the Visitor’s Center and sure enough Black Point Drive was closed for some repair to the Cruickshank trail berm that had been washed out. So we regrouped and enjoyed the Painted Bunting pair at the feeder!
We then headed to the Canaveral National Seashore but saw hardly any ducks along the way to the beach! At the beach, Ken Spilios saw a M. Frigatebird flying high above us and we also got a few gulls and a Ruddy Turnstone, but no Gannets this time. Upon leaving, Eileen broke out the cookies and chocolate brownies which were gobbled up! When we got near the entrance, we pulled over after seeing several FL Scrub Jays and ended up spotting six or more!
One more stop on CNS, so we drove down Bio-lab Rd. until we got to the Birds! What a collection in one end of a wetland-many White Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills, a few White and Glossy Ibis, a Great Egret and a Wood Stork!
We then drove to the Pumphouse Rd. and on the way we saw an A. Kestrel and Belted Kingfisher on the wires. Then, walking into the Pumphouse Rd., the ducks appeared on both sides by the 100s! We Immediately saw the Redheads and Canvasbacks, with many Blue-winged Teals, Scaup species, and A. Wigeons, with some Ring-necks, N. Shovelers, and Mottled Ducks. I didn’t mentioned A. Coots and C. Gallinules but they were well represented just about in ever body of water we saw! We then walked to the large lagoons, the East one was full of birds along the North eastern corner but the only species I could make out was Black Skimmers.
Photos courtesy of Fred Hileman, Jim Meyer. Article by Jim Meyer & Eileen Riccio.
Black Point was scheduled to reopen on Friday. Four of our group decided to stay in order to ride the bus through Black Point. The trip lasted about 2 hours. We had good views of 6 Wilson's Snipes at the entrance plus many other species along the way. For the two days, we spotted a combined 83 species. 51 from OW and 62 Merritt. Thank you Jim & Eileen for another memorable trip. Fred Hileman