As is so typical of the north end of Bonita Beach, gulls and terns flock there daily to roost, bathe and otherwise socialize. Today there was a nice gathering of gulls and terns. I first spotted a FORSTER’S TERN among the many Sandwich and Royals. It was soon joined by a second. The Laughing Gull flock was increasing the longer I remained. As mid day arrives, more and more birds come in. I first noticed a couple of Ring-billed Gulls and then a Herring Gull. As I scanned the flocks, I noticed a very black-headed gull fly in. I got on it as soon as it landed and after checking off several field marks was thrilled to have my first FRANKLIN’S GULL of the trip! This bird can be separated from the Laughing Gulls by its more extensive black helmet, bold white eye arcs, smaller thinner bill, pale nape and upper back, and smaller rounder head. It is a smaller gull altogether as well. Hopefully I will find more of these sought after birds and some other gull species as well. There are more terns likely to show up as well. Every walk to the point along our beach brings new finds as birds move in and out continually. This morning I also added my first MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRDS here on the beach as well as my first WESTERN SANDPIPER of the trip. Just a great place to bird!
I headed out at 4 am this morning with the goal of an early arrival at Boot Key two thirds of the way down the Florida Keys. I arrived a bit late @ 8:45. I hadn’t figured that rush hour in Homestead and Key Largo would be as involved as it was. My goal was to find the ANTILLEAN PALM SWIFT (life bird #873) that has become the celebrity bird North America over the last several weeks. When I arrived, I spotted a gentlemen out in the middle of the defunct part of the golf course. I sought him out and he informed me the bird had just been located at Hole 8 where it has been frequenting lately. We went right over and met John who informed us he hadn’t seen the bird in about ten minutes. Lucky me, I scanned for just a moment and found the bird. We all got right on it and viewed it over the next forty minutes. Photos were difficult (at least for me) as the bird was often quite high and flew so fast it was too hard for me to keep up with it. Also lucky for me, out of my sixty shots, six actually had the bird in them and two were actually clear enough to identify! There were quite a few birds in the area, so I searched around to make a decent list. I then headed back north. I decided to take rt. 41 home as it would be more birdy. As I went along, I remembered that last week I had seen a report of an immature male VERMILION FLYCATCHER at the Big Cypress Bend visitors center.(below) I hadn’t heard anything more about it, but decided to try anyway. I pulled into the parking lot to find the bird sitting on the fence right in front of me. I took a bunch of photos of this most cooperative young bird. I finally made it back to Bonita Beach late this afternoon, exhausted again, but happy for a great day!
Over the weekend, Eddie and I traveled to southwest Florida. It was a bumpy ride down, but we finally got in late in the afternoon on Sunday. We had just enough time to settle in and watch the beautiful sunset from our deck.(above) Today, I was out birding. I walked the beach from Salty Surf to the north tip of Bonita three times today. Each time I found many birds and really enjoyed my day. The beach, especially the north tip is a real draw for gulls, shorebirds, terns and waders. I had many of all. I really enjoy sifting through the abundance of birds for something special. I had nothing really exciting, but for a guy from the mountains of New York this was a nice selection of birds for November. This is our 30th year staying here on Bonita Beach, and I’ve stayed in the area (Sanibel Island) since 1975! (how old am I?). At any rate, the gulls provided the most interest for me today. These birds are constantly moving onto and off the point. I ended up with hundreds of Laughing Gulls, 4 Ring-billed Gulls, a single Herring Gull, and one of my favorites, 2 LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS!(below) I had a great first day overall and look forward to what tomorrow will bring. I am traveling to the keys tomorrow hoping for my first life bird in two years. I’m keeping my finger crossed and will keep you posted.
I headed out around the county this morning, checking the water. I had four Pied-billed Grebe on Kiamesha Lake and my FOS Hooded Mergansers at Morningside Park. I had little else until I reached Swan Lake. There I had an abundance of birds! My list included 72 Common Mergansers, 38 Bufflehead, 14 Ring-billed Gulls, 8 Hooded Mergansers, 8 Ruddy Duck, 4 Ring-necked Duck, 2 Bonaparte’s Gulls and a single female CANVASBACK! (distant shot above) This is only the third time in 27 years that I’ve had Canvasback in the fall. I moved on to the Bashakill, hoping to add American Coot to the list for the second period of November. It didn’t happen. I think with the intense northwest winds overnight that many birds departed the Bashakill. The most notable passerines at the Bashakill were about a dozen Fox Sparrows, 65 Rusty Blackbirds and several Hermit Thrush. When I got back to Yankee Lake I checked for birds. It was so rough when I left in the morning, I didn’t even try. This afternoon I was pleased to find a single drake BLACK SCOTER! That’s a pretty good day overall!
There hasn’t been a lot to report since my last post. The best bird I’ve had since that time is a flock of American Coot off the Birch Trail at the Bashakill. They number at least 50 birds, but can be difficult to see. When an eagle flushes them all is your best opportunity to see just how many are out the among the bushes and Cattails. I was really glad to see this species as it was my first of the entire year. Rusty Blackbirds and Winter Wrens seem to be everywhere, and Fox Sparrows are picking up as well. Ducks and geese are picking up in the area, but hunting at the Bashakill keeps their numbers down. Orange County is actually getting some good stuff. Cackling Geese and Greater White-fronted Geese have been being seen. Bufflehead and Ruddy Ducks are the most numerous waterfowl on the up county lakes. That’s about it.
The end of the month has arrived and we have made the switch to searching for waterfowl over birds of the woods and fields. Warblers and sparrows are mostly gone now and ducks are picking up nicely. We’ve had all three species of scoter in the last ten days, and hopefully there are more to come. I had a good day today covering most of the lakes and reservoirs and ending at the Bashakill. Here is the list of the water birds I had. Another good day!
Canada Goose, Mallard, Black Duck, Wood Duck, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Blue-winged Teal, Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, Common Loon and American Coot. I also had a few Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Common Yellowthroat and many Rusty Blackbirds. I also had fifty American Pipit on the Neversink Reservoir Dam. Can’t wait to see what the weekend holds with a change of winds to the northwest.
This morning I started off at the Bashakill Deli Fields. There were lots of hunters, so I decided to move on. I went to the Main Boat Launch to take the Birch Trail east in hopes of finding some American Coot. It is right at this time each year they begin to arrive and I haven’t had one anywhere the entire year. I wasn’t disappointed! When I reached the tower, after a very birdy walk out the trail, I spotted at least 22 AMERICAN COOT in the marsh. Other birds of interest included four Green-winged Teal, 10 Wood Duck, a couple of Mallard and 6 GADWALL! The Gadwall were the first of the fall and we had none at the Bashakill this past spring, which is unusual. I was happy to see all of these birds. I had Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers as well as a single Common Yellowthroat on Haven Road. There was a flock of 79 Rusty Blackbirds on the trail between the Nature Trail and Horseshoe Parking area. White-throated, Song and Swamp were the only sparrows I could find this morning but they were all plentiful! Another great morning!!