Well, for Elliot that is! Glad I could return the favor after all he did just find my county Willet 3 days ago. I’ve now seen 63 White-faced Ibis in Florida! 60 of them have been at St. Marks NWR. They aren’t really a rarity anymore are they? Today’s find was only the 3rd record for Leon County but I’m sure by the end of this decade that number will have increased significantly. Looking forward to some more stellar birding at the Mom & Dad’s Ponds…gonna have to try the food at the Italian restaurant the ponds are named after.
JUUUUUST ONE MOOOOORE WHITE-FACED IBIS, GIVE IT TOOOO MEEEEEE, BLOODY PLEGADIS IN TALLAHASSEEEEEEEE! ONE MOOOORE AND IT’LL DO MYYYYYY HEAD IN……….JUST ONE MOOOOORRRRE WHITE-FACED IBIS……IN TALLAHASSSEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeee! Yeah, bonkers mate!
“Quaaaack, quaaaack, quaaaack, quaaaack, quaaaack!”
When I hear that, there is a good chance there is a rare bird in Tallahassee. It’s the tone for an Elliot text.
While watching the Willet, a Caspian Tern flew in! A county lifer for Elliot hence the all caps. It would be my 5th for the county. The Willet was my 273rd Leon County lifer and, the 298th species to be recorded on eBird for the county too. Willet is not a rare bird in Florida but very few are found away from the coast. I’ve had two in Jackson County so I knew it was only a matter of time before we got one in Leon. It was a ‘Western’ Willet, which are more commonly found in this part of the state during migration and winter. Caspian Terns are also rare away from the coast especially in the Panhandle. A stellar morning for Leon County birders.
I wonder what my 274th Leon County lifer will be? Rather hoping for an Upland Sandpiper.
One of the 12DBY competitors, and friend, Jim Eager called me for gen on where to go birding in the Tallahassee area for his July big day. A quick text to the missus for permission to go birding with Jim followed and the date was set. Elliot’s folks were visiting from Illinois so he had a day pass to join us. Jim hadn’t birded up here much before and was unfamiliar with the lay of the land so Elliot and I were more than happy to help him find his target birds. It was a great day despite the crap weather and Jim added a bunch of new birds to his big year total as well as 2 state lifers! I managed a few pictures when it was bucketing down with rain.
Florida’s first record of RED-NECKED STINT, a Siberian shorebird, has been found today on Boca Chica Key in the Florida Keys by Viktor Nilsson who is visiting Florida from Sweden. What a great find Viktor!
Directions: Take Overseas Hwy (US-1) to Boca Chica Key near Key West, approx mile marker 8. Look for Boca Chica Rd as you enter the key. There is a Circle K at the intersection. Turn south and continue on Boca Chica Road until it ends. Walk about 1/2 mile until you see a large telephone pole on the right that looks like a cross. Stint was feeding on the shore across from this pole.
Here is Viktor’s picture of said bird, a beautiful adult still in alternate plumage
I wasn’t really that enthused to embark on another epic twitch for my July day and as I still needed to add a few locally common species it was an easy decision to take it easy today. So easy, I was done by noon!
I started off along Forest Rd 309 in Apalachicola National Forest on the Leon/Wakulla county line, a go to Swainson’s Warbler hotspot I’ve been birding since 2005. This has been one of my most reliable spots for Swainson’s and it came up trumps again. Within a minute of getting out of the van I could hear one singing close to the road. I got brief views of him and then saw another very briefly, a newly fledged juvenile, it took off after the male. I then encountered a family of Northern Parula and a family of Prothonotary Warblers. The juveniles were chasing their parents around begging for food. A White-eyed Vireo scolded them! It was carrying food also. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo suddenly appeared and started to sing. Well, gurgle!
With 2 new birds for my 12DBY in the bag I headed back north to the Munson Sandhills, I scored a hen Wild Turkey and a couple of Mississippi Kites en-route. I love birding the sandhills, there are always lots of birds to see there. The Red-cockaded Woodpecker family were foraging close to their cluster trees. The juveniles were very curious and came over for a look see. They still had red on their crown. I got a picture of a male’s cockade too.
There were several Bachman’s Sparrows singing and I had both Red-headed and Hairy Woodpeckers, the latter has become a tough bird to find in Leon County. There were lots of juvenile birds flying around chasing their parents. A male Eastern Towhee seemed like he had no fatherly duties though and sang alone from a trail side perch.
There were tons of butterflies along the trail but I only saw a single Zebra Swallowtail.
Rhoden Cove beckoned. I didn’t even have to get out of the car to add Limpkin to my list. At least 2 were wailing out on the lake. It was hot as balls and it was only going to get hotter so I headed to Tall Timbers, my final stop of the morning. I had a very pleasant stroll along the Henry Stevenson trail. I had at least a half dozen Yellow-breasted Chats, 2 White-breasted Nuthatches, singing Northern Bobwhite, Bachman’s Sparrow, Indigo Buntings….very nice. I ended phase I of my big day with 12 new species, which brings my overall total for the competition to 264. If the weather is fine this evening I’ll probably head south and try and pick up a couple more species.
There were two more places on our list for us to visit during our trip to Maine; Schoodic Head, which is a more remote part of Acadia National Park and the Blueberry Barrens of Washington County. Schoodic head was first on the agenda. We saw very few birds but the scenery, fresh air and peacefulness made it a very enjoyable experience. We did get great looks at a marauding Common Raven and had at least 2 Red Crossbills (an ABA lifer) flyover us. We got more great looks at Black-throated Green Warblers, Alder Flycatchers, Red-breasted Nuthatches and there were Black Scoters, Common Eiders and Black Guillemots from every oceanic vantage point.
The best wildlife encounter we had though was with a couple of young Red Foxes.
After eating our lunch on Blueberry Hill, (where we enjoyed a Bald Eagle terrorizing Herring Gulls!) we headed inland to the blueberry barrens to search for Julie’s nemesis bird. After scanning lots of promising looking fields we finally spotted our target bird. Julie was so thrilled! We got out of the car to watch it and to my amazement another one was running around right in front of us.
There was a male singing from atop of a big boulder and two more chased each other around. Seeing this awesome shorebird on its breeding grounds was second only to the Spruce Grouse experience we’d had on Huber Road. We ended up seeing 6 Uppies in total.
Last time I had as good looks of this species was 15 years ago on St. Marys airfield, Isles of Scilly.
We headed back towards our cottage stopping at a tidal estuary on the way so we could explore tidal pools with Maisie. The haunting song of a Common Loon was a fitting end to a terrific day.
We’d had a fabulous time in Maine, one of the best vacations we’ve had. I got 11 ABA lifers all told, which was great. We saw Spruce Grouse, which was one of my all-time birding highlights AND amazing views of Humpback Whales. Maine is a beautiful place….where to next? Scotland in 2015!
When you go on a family vacation you have to realize, accept and embrace the fact that you won’t be birding every waking hour. There is only so much absolute birding the rest of your family can take so I poured over the internet prior to our trip, planning non-birding activities. Now, that’s not to say that Maisie and Julie don’t enjoy birding BUT, they enjoy lots of other things too; mostly nature based but some more traditional touristy tuff too. Bar Harbor Whale Watching Co. had taken such great care of us during the Whale Watching pelagic that I knew the Lobster Fishing and Seal Watching trip we’d signed up with them for was going to be fun.
Lobster fishing is a major part of Maine’s culture, thousands of people depend on it to make a living. Maine would be a very different place without it. Going on a real lobster boat and learning about the industry, what they have done to sustain it, and learning about the amazing lobster was a real treat.
Lobster fishermen in Maine can only keep lobsters that have a carapace between 3 1/4 and 5 inches in length. It’s the big ones that are important, especially the females. A 1 pound female can lay about 1,000 eggs, while a 9 pound female can lay 10 times that number! Maine has been very successful at not only sustaining lobsters but increasing the population through sound research and sensible regulations. And, the best thing? The lobster fishermen were the ones who recognized stricter measures needed to be implemented.
We got to catch a whole bunch of lobsters, all were returned. We all got to hold them, study them…it was pretty cool!
After having fun with lobsters, the skipper turned the boat towards Egg Rock for an encounter with one of the cutest creatures on earth…the Harbor Seal.
We did see some birds. mostly gulls, a few eiders and we had awesome looks at Black Guillemots and a Bald Eagle.
It was a fun 2 hour trip.