SCBWF January 24, 2014: Charles H. Bronson State Forest

The morning of Friday the 24th was windy and freezing. Luckily the field trip consisted of mostly driving in a van from hot-spot to hot-spot through the relatively new Charles H. Bronson State Forest.

We did see a fair amount of bird species; however, many were somewhat distant or obscured by vegetation.

Among the more interesting sightings were simultaneous views of eastern and western type Palm Warblers together. Based on what Corey told me later in the festival, western Palm Warblers are paler and browner, overall than their more yellow eastern cousins. This would seem to indicate that the majority of the Palm Warblers I have seen this winter are, in fact, western birds.

photo eastern-v-western-palm-warbler.jpg
Eastern (left) vs. western (right) Palm Warbler (the eastern bird was photographed at the state forest, the western bird at the Marl Bed Flats later in the festival).

The parts of the state forest we drove and walked through were devoted, in large part, to ranching rather than forests, with lots of wet meadow areas and drainage ditches. This made for a rich combination of upland and wetland species in close proximity.

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This image was posted before, but here it is in context. Immature White Ibis and Tri-colored Heron photobombed by a Killdeer.

We flushed at least one Wilson’s Snipe and had some good views of Wood Storks and various egrets and herons. When things warmed up a bit more, we had some raptors over head, including a Bald Eagle and some vultures.

Songbirds were scarce for the most part (it was cold and windy), but along one wooded segment of a path we hit a mixed flock of warblers and other small birds and managed to see a Black-and-white Warbler, a Tufted Titmouse and some Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, among others.

The ponds and ditches also gave up Least Sandpipers, Dunlins and other shorebirds. Nearby we had a good amount of Eastern Meadowlarks, sweetly singing.

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Eastern Meadowlark.

We finished up the trip after heading to the St. Johns River. Among the Greater Yellowlegs and other shore birds we saw some Bald Eagles and a few sparrows. There were cattle to our north, not far from a native burial mound (which, for some reason I didn’t think to take a picture of).

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St. Johns River plain looking (and feeling!) a little tundra-like.

This is my species list for the field trip (33):

  • Wild Turkey
  • American Robin
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • American Kestrel
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Wood Stork
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • White Ibis
  • Great Egret
  • Lesser Yellowlegs
  • Eastern Meadowlark
  • Dunlin
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Killdeer
  • Palm Warbler
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Cattle Egret
  • Song Sparrow
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Coopers Hawk
  • Tri-colored Heron
  • Little Blue Heron
  • Bald Eagle
  • Least Sandpiper
  • Greater Yellowlegs
  • Long-billed Dowitcher
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet

After driving out from the state forest, I explored a little around the Christmas,FL area and attempted to drive to the Orlando Wetlands Park. Unfortunately, that park is closed until February 1st. I also located the entrance to the Tosahatchee Wildnerness area, but did not park or go in (I just wanted to see where it was in relation to the main road). I headed back to EFSC to prepare for the evening’s Black Rail trip.

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