I’m Back………and so are the birds!

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat


It was an amazing first day out birding since I returned home. It was like an endless flow of new year birds. I birded the Bashakill with Scott Baldinger this morning and Gumaer Falls and McDonald Roads this afternoon. I then returned to the Bashakill, finding more good birds and eventually being joined by Scott, Lance Verderame, Arlene Borko and Steve Altman. It was great afternoon. Highlights of the 28 new species I added for the year today were Sora, Cape May Warbler, Nashville Warblers, Eastern Kingbird, Woodthrush and Veery, Green Heron, Common Gallinule, Blue-headed, Yellow-throated and Warbling Vireos, Baltimore Oriole and many more. I hope tomorrow brings many more new birds!

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Florida Wrap Up

I will be traveling home this weekend and wanted to make a few comments about my spring trip. This, for me, was one for the record books. I usually have a pretty good trip birding wise, but this one excelled. I was able to add 10 new species to my Florida list. This brings me quite close to 300 for the state (not sure, left my total list home). Of the ten species, 3 were new ABA birds, CUBAN VIREO (lifer), MANGROVE CUCKOO and PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER! One of the biggest highlights of the trip besides those birds was spending an entire day with two SWAINSON’S WARBLERS! The next highlight after that was seeing more CAPE MAY and BLACKPOLL WARBERS than I have ever seen! It was a truly great trip, one I will never forget. For anyone who might be interested, I have created a new page “Florida Spring ’16 Photos” These are photos that didn’t make it into any previous post. Just click on that title in the above list of pages, Enjoy! See you at home!

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Little Estero Island Critical Wildlife Area

Snowy Plovers on Ft. Meyers Beach.

Snowy Plovers on Ft. Meyers Beach.


This morning I birded the above area on Ft. Meyers Beach. This is always a hot spot and I can get some good birds there. Once again, it proves to be quite different in the spring than the fall. The highlight of the area today were 400 breeding Least Terns. I think the area set aside for them is about ten acres. Also present are breeding Wilson’s and Snowy Plovers. The waders also put on quite a show with all the regulars occurring. The highlight there were 12 Reddish Egrets, all the red variety. A breeding plumage Little Blue Heron is quite a sight. Magnificent Frigatebirds soared overhead. I nice four mile walk with lots of birds!
Magnificent Frigatebird

Magnificent Frigatebird

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Harns Marsh and Bonita Beach

My FOS Wilson's Plover on Bonita Beach

My FOS Wilson’s Plover on Bonita Beach


Birding has been a bit on the quiet side the last couple of days. I spent the morning at Harn’s Marsh yesterday. My goal was to finally get a good shot of Gray-headed Swamphen. That didn’t happen. I searched and searched for them, about to give up when I spotted a pair of Otter’s cavorting in a dry area of the marsh. They knew I was there and made photos difficult (what I got looks like two brown balls). I watched them at length until they worked their way far into the marsh. Once they out of sight, and the direction they went in, two Gray-headed Swamphens took off, flying well across the marsh and landing deep in the vegetation about fifty feet from each other. It was neat to see, but if not for the Otters I would have missed them entirely. The highlight of a nice morning was a total of five LEAST BITTERNS! Three of them were in one stand of Alligator Flag, calling, and eventually getting into a tussle. They chased each other around for several minutes, coming in and out of the vegetation in several spots. The aggressor seemed to have the upper hand, eventually chasing one out of the spot entirely. That left two, I assume a pair, to themselves. Further down the trail, I flushed what was my fifth LB of the morning, this one held still for a couple of minutes allowing some distant shots. Back at Bonita Beach this morning, a walk to the point yielded my first Sandwich Terns here this trip and my first Wilson’s Plover of the trip as well.
A distant shot of one of the Least Bitterns at Harns Marsh.

A distant shot of one of the Least Bitterns at Harns Marsh.

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A Relaxing Day

Three Manatees pass by the condo this morning.

Three Manatees pass by the condo this morning.


I found myself enjoying a little R and R today. It made for few birds, but wasn’t without its interesting moments. We spent quite a bit of time on the beach, finally got in the water, and enjoyed the local denizens there. The nicest surprise was having three Manatees swim by. I was hoping they would come into the tiny lagoon formed by a sandbar just off our beach, but they didn’t. It would have made for some awesome shots. Instead, I got my usual heads up for air shots, but it was fun seeing them none the less. I don’t think we have ever missed them at the condo on our spring trips. A Gopher Tortoise in a feeding frenzy was also nice. He would chomp on a sprig of weeds, chew it up and move to the next one much faster than you would think a tortoise would move. The birds were typical with Least Terns, Laughing Gulls and Magnificent Frigatebirds being the most numerous.
The Gopher Tortoise chowing down.

The Gopher Tortoise chowing down.


Least Terns are the most common bird on our beach right now.

Least Terns are the most common bird on our beach right now.

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Pacific Golden-plover !!

The Pacific Golden-plover on the right with a Black-bellied Plover.

The Pacific Golden-plover on the right with a Black-bellied Plover.

About ten days ago, a PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER was found in the sod farm area just south of Belle Glade. It is a first state record for Florida. I had been busy chasing other birds but was going to go for this bird when, the reports dried up. I thought It must be gone, but two days ago the bird was reported again. After getting a good nights sleep, I awoke at 5:30 am and immediately decided to head east. I already had a busy day planned as we were having company and had to do some shopping before they arrived. I zoomed the 115 miles over to East Canal Road, hopping for the best. I easily found the bird among 19 Black-bellied Plovers and 2 Pectoral Sandpipers. It was easily identified by its small size, small bill, different stance, overall buffy appearance (really quite golden plumage that looked buffy at a distance). I was pleased to get this bird because even though I have seen many Pacific Golden-plovers, they have all been in Hawaii. This is my first ABA bird. I have included my very distant shots of the bird simply as documentation that I saw it.

Pacific Golden-plover, while not really identifiable as such in this shot, this is a photo of the bird.

Pacific Golden-plover, while not really identifiable as such in this shot, this is a photo of the bird.

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Sanibel Island – MANGROVE CUCKOO!

I met Jim Schlickenreider this morning and we headed off to J.N.”Ding” Darling NWR. We had a goal in mind, to finally get a MANGROVE CUCKOO! We had all the latest information on where people have been seeing and photographing them. We entered the Wildlife Drive upon opening at 7 am. We very slowly worked our way around the drive, parking and walking for intervals and spending the most time in the best areas. By 10 am we had covered it all without success. We decided to do the Shell Mound Trail and then start all over. We had some decent birds, Indigo Bunting, Hooded Warbler, Magnificent Frigatebirds etc. We went back to the beginning, stopping at the best spots, and ultimately mile marker 1.5, where the man at the gate recommended this morning. We began walking up the drive when suddenly, a cuckoo came from behind me and banked right in front of me. I immediately felt it was the Mangrove Cuckoo because as it banked and spread its wings to land in Mangroves, I noted there was no rufous in the birds wings. (Yellow-billed Cuckoo has extensive rufous). I saw where the bird landed and we tried to get on it. I found a spot we could see through and there was the bird perched. Its head was obscured by foliage, but it sat with its wings drooped in the sun, further confirming no rufous in the primaries. We were joined by another birder, also wanting to see the bird. Just as I got Jim on the bird, it flew to the left. Again, I spotted it perched. Again its head was partially obscured. The difference this time was that the birds bill and lores could be seen. The uppper bill was black and the lower yellow. Again the primaries were seen to have no rufous. I knew at that point there was no question that it was a Mangrove Cuckoo. The bird then flew again and we lost it. We knew approximately where it landed but couldn’t spot it. As we moved up road, the cuckoo flew out of the Mangroves, once again crossing the road. Jim and the other bird saw It pass behind me. The other birder confirmed the buffy belly of the bird as it passed. We couldn’t find it again, so no photos and we sure had to work for the bird, but it was worth finally getting it for the ABA area.

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