SCBWF January 23, 2014: Birding with Laura Erickson

My first field trip for the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival was a leisurely walk at the Blue Heron Wetlands Park in Titusville. This park is part of the city’s water treatment and reclamation efforts. It is similar to the Ritch Grissom Wetlands at Viera in that regard.

It was nice to see Laura again, freshly (or pehaps not so) back from her Conservation Big Year. The other co-leader for this trip was Corey Finger from the 10,000 birds blog. Corey is an engaging fellow and an accomplished birder as well.

I rode along with a nice couple from Palm Bay, who have been around the country and the world, birding and enjoying their retirements.

It was a cold morning, and this was evident in the flock of low flying Tree Swallows over the water. The temperature near the surface of the water would be warmer than the air. This not only would help the birds stay warm, but would be the most likely place for any insects the birds prey on to be active and available.

photo tree-swallow-bhw.jpg
Tree Swallow in flight over a reclamation pond.

American Coots and Common Gallinules were present in high numbers. We had hoped to see a Purple Gallinule, but one never appeared for us.

Another species that was quite numerous was the American Robin. Winter is the only time these birds are in central Florida, but when they are here, the flocks are quite large. We saw hundreds fly over during the course of the morning. Occasionally a few would perch in the trees nearby, but these birds are a bit more shy than the front lawn varieties I remember as a child in Massachusetts.

photo american-robin-bhw.jpg
Holy Turdus migratorius, Batman!

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were plentiful as well. I learned that the population of these ducks is increasing in Florida, even as those of the Mottled Duck and Mallard decline. There is no consensus on why it is happening yet.

photo black-bellied-whistling-duck-bhw.jpg
When asked why their cousin Mottled Ducks and Mallards were leaving the state, these birds ducked the answer…

At another point along the water, we heard what at first sounded like a Limpkin, but turned out after closer inspection to be a Sora, which we caught glimpses of through the reeds. This was a lifer for me, and I spotted it first, which was satisfying.

We saw other birds as well. Among the dozens of Palm and Yellow-rumped (affectionately referred to as “butter butts”) warblers, we saw a Prairie Warbler and a few Common Yellowthroats.

photo prairie-bhw.jpg
A Prairie Warbler Companion.

As the morning warmed up, the Tree Swallows followed their prey source higher in the air, and we saw some vultures, hawks and a Bald Eagle starting their day, searching for thermals.

My species list for this field trip:

  • American Robin
  • Palm Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Common Gallinule
  • American Coot
  • Tree Swallow
  • Boat-tailed Grackle
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Anhinga
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Little Blue Heron
  • Glossy Ibis
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Black-bellied Whistling Duck
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Sora [lifer]
  • Osprey
  • Mourning Dove
  • Bald Eagle
  • Double Crested Cormorant
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Prairie Warbler
  • Snowy Egret
  • White Ibis
  • Killdeer
  • Green Heron
  • Tri-colored Heron
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Wood Stork
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow (one among the Tree Swallows)

After the trip, I had lunch with Laura and Corey at Dixie Crossroads, a local restaurant and major Festival supporter. Although some of the people and places Laura and Corey know and talked about were at times over my head, the conversation reaffirmed my belief that the “everyman” or “everywoman” can make major contributions to birding and ornithology.

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