Erna Nixon Park was at one time a green jewel in the middle of Melbourne’s suburban spread and light industrial areas near the airport. When I first moved to the Space Coast, I would often stop there before work each morning and walk the 1/2 mile or so boardwalk. If I was there before the joggers, I’d often have to dodge a few spiderwebs, but it usually made for a great start of the day. There were usually birds around, including Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, American Redstarts, Common Yellowthroats, Blue-headed Vireos, and many others. It’s listed as a hot spot on the Great Florida Birding Trail.
Of late, though, it’s become very much changed. Even during the spring and fall migrations, bird-life has been very sparse and spotty. This year, I did see some hummers and warblers (as well as the ubiquitous Blue Jays, Carolina Wrens and Northern Cardinals0, but overall it has been quieter than Turkey Creek Sanctuary was this fall. Whether this is a symptom of the park, the neighborhood or the birds themselves, I don’t know.
I decided to take an hour or so to walk the boardwalk this morning and see what the winter resident situation was. True to form, it was eerily quiet in the park. The most noticible noise was from the various aircraft taking off and landing at the airport, the commercial contruction down the road adjacent to the airport, and the traffic along the main road. And yet it still seemed to spooky.
I saw no birds at all, and only heard a single Blue-grey Gnatcatcher for most of the boardwalk. I took the loop “backwards” today – that is, I ended up passing the various “vista” points along the walk in reverse numbered order. As I paused near “Vista I” I did finally catch some movement in the brush below, and saw a small grouping of warlbers. While I did get some very good binocular views, I was unable to get the camera to take any decent photographs through the dense brush. Here’s the list:
- Worm-eating Warbler (a first!)
- Yellow-rumped Warbler (with decidedly un-yellow rumps. All the other field marks match up, though, so I might have to chalk that up to a trick of the light)
- Palm Warbler
So, not a totally unproductive walk, as far as birding goes. It started spooky and sad, but ended up pretty sweet. At least there was some action. I think it might be a little odd to see a Worm-eating warbler here this time of year, but there are always stragglers after the main migration (or migration is much more spread out and running later now?). It was the bird I got the best look at, and it’s always exciting to see a new “lifer.” At least I’m still an inexperienced enough birder to have many of those opportunities left.