Pin The Tail On The Ducky

Today is (likely) the last birding adventure and blog update for 2013. I’ve done the final species audit and researched what unidentified birds I had notes on. 

I decided to make my last concerted birding effort at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Specifically, I drove the Black Point Drive loop. I have mixed feelings about Black Point. On the one hand, it is a very handy way to see birds. On the other, it’s about 40 minutes to an hour of slow driving, buring gasoline all the way, unless you turn off the engine for longer observing periods.

In any case, I drove the loop around 8:30am and managed to gain 5 new species for the 2013 count (* denotes new life-lister):

  1. Northern Pintail (they were there by the dozens!)* 
  2. Greater Scaup*
  3. Reddish Egret
  4. Bufflehead*
  5. Red-breasted Merganser*

photo pintails1.jpg
Northern Pintail males.

I was excited to see the Northern Pintails. They are very distictive and something I had hoped to see in an earlier trip to Pine Island. Of all the ducks I have seen, the pintails seemed to be the most synchronized in their foraging, so quite a few of my photographs show all the pintails with their heads underwater at the same time.

photo pintails2.jpg
Female and male Northern Pintails.

I don’t have very many good photographs, as the birds tended to stay far away, and the lighting was bad due to a very thick and low overcast. Most of what I took was for me to use later for verifying identification.

photo greater-yellowlegs.jpg
Greater Yellowlegs.

Here are some photographs of herons that came out looking pretty good, though. Interstingly (to me) I did not see a single Great Blue Heron this morning.

photo reddish-egret1.jpgphoto reddish-egret2.jpg
Two different Reddish Egrets.

photo tri-colored-heron.jpg
Tri-colored Heron lunging for food.

In addtion to the five birds listed above, I also saw the following:

  • Greater Black-backed Gull
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Willet (possibly the western subspecies)
  • Greater Yellowlegs
  • White Pelican
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Black Vulture
  • Tri-colored Heron
  • Little Blue Heron
  • Green Heron
  • Snowy Egret
  • Glossy Ibis
  • White Ibis
  • Double Crested Cormorant
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Boat-tailed Grackle
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Fish Crow
  • Osprey

There were large flocks of sandpipers as well (hundreds), but they were too far away to ID even by binoculars.

photo sandpipers.jpg
Mystery Sandpipers!

The White Pelicans were numerous both in the air and rafting quietly on the water. Their size always amazes me. As with their cousins, the Brown Pelicans, White Pelican are surprsingly graceful on the wing.

photo white-pelicans.jpg
White Pelicans soar above Merritt Island.

The (likely) final 2013 species count is 149. While it’s certainly possible I might see a new bird for this year some time tomorrow thus rounding off the count to 150, I’m not counting on it (no pun intended, ha ha).

Happy, healthy and birdy New Years to all of you. Thanks for sharing in my birding adventures this year. Things will heat up pretty quick for 2014 at the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival near the end of January.

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