Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Snow Birds? Nope! Lots O Birds

I guess you can call us Snow Birds, having escaped Canada for Florida, but the only thing I was interested in was finding new birds. And the Gulf Coast of Florida has been a veritable smorgasbord of birding. An bountiful bird buffet.

Even before we left I subscribed to FLARBA, the Florida Rare Bird Alert and quickly learned about a Green-tailed Towhee very close by and a Fork-tailed Flycatcher, within easy driving distance.

The real Birding started very close by at Honeymoon Island and although we were looking for a Great-horned Owl, that was all we would be doing, when it came to the owl, was look and look and backtrack and bake in the sun and circle around and just leave it for another day. The owl should have been an easy find, instead it was the Osprey and Yellow-rumped Warblers that were in great supply that day. Not to mention the shrieking Cat Birds. Oh, and backtracking, metaphorically, to the Great-horned Owl, the reason it should have been an easy find was the sign below the tree it nests in, with a large arrow pointing up, that says, "Owl Nest." No one said birding would be easy, I guess.

The birding began as we were barely out of the car and saw a tree full of White Ibis, which was quite a sight as those are mostly seen on the ground. I guess they spend their nights perching in trees for safety and we were early enough to catch them before they went off on their Ibis-y duties. And there were Gray-Cat Birds and a Broad-winged Hawk before we even hit the trail.

The real find, however, was at the end of the path where the Bald Eagle had set up home to raise its two younglings. That was amazing. I needed to use my scope to get a really good look and a few good photos, but the long walk and wait for mom to come back and feed them was worth it. Not to mention the long walk just to find the nest. Ironic in that we didn't even know about the Eagle's neat going in and yet, couldn't find a well marked Owl.

Along the way were a good number of Big Year birds and Lifers. Amongst them were the Broad-winged Hawk, Black and White Warbler, and a Tri-colored Heron and, of course, the endless and relentless number of Osprey and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

It was then on to Caladisi Island and a few more good birds after a hike to Cat's Eye Pond, including a Blue-winged Teal. The ferry ride back was like a mini-pelagic and it netted a Royal Turn. Of course Sue was instrumental in most of the identifications. I did spot the Black and White Sparrow and Hawk on my own.

The next stop on our birding buffet was Possum Branch Preserve, where no Possums were seen, but the cutest little Hispid Cotton Rat was spied while we searched for a eastern rarity, the Green-Tailed Towhee. This little bird was on the FLRBA email and was found in some bushes around a pond in the preserve. I spotted it and it was quite a big thing to see a bird in Florida that normally winter's in Mexico and is only seen in summer in the western US.

Along with the rare bird, Possum Branch was full of many other great Year birds, including Lincoln's and Grasshopper Sparrows, Eastern Phoebe, Prairie and Palm Warblers and a Forster's Turn. Even the grass Outside the preserve was home to some Cattle Egret, bringing my Big Year to 145 as we prepared to set off in search of another bird hot off the FLARBA hotline, the Fork-tailed Fly-catcher.

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