Today I tried heading off to somewhere other than Turkey Creek. Since I normally only go on a birding trip once a week, it can be difficult to balance repeat observations at one location (like Turkey Creek Sanctuary) and trying out different places for variety and seeing how other places are faring.
I decided to head to Fay Lake Wilderness Park. It’s a bit of a misnomer, as the entire park was created around an artificial pond, but it does border the St. Johns National Wildlife Refuge, and they manage most of the land by burning, rather than by tilling under the vegetation.
The park has a variety of trails. There are paved walkways and boardwalk overlooks for the more pedestrian visitors. There are also wide dirt paths (frequented by ATVs and dirt-bikes on one side of the park) and some more “primitive” paths through the mostly naturalized vegetation.
There were still a good number of “winter” and resident birds in the park, but I did have a few FOY birds, including some Blue Grosbeaks and a Northern Flicker (red-shafted variety, based on my brief glance at its red “moustache” mark).
The first birds I encountered were some rambunctious Carolina Wrens, singing out in the open and chasing each other either for territorial or mating reasons (or both!). I don’t think I’ve seen as high a concentration of these birds anywhere before. There were at times 6 within close earshot (and several more in the background).
The Eastern Towhees were quite active and vocal, preferring to sing on exposed perches even as I drew near.
The stretch of paths along the St. Johns Wildlife Refuge had a nice mix of Gray Catbirds, Common Yellowthroats, White-eyed Vireos, and as I mentioned, Blue Grosbeaks. The arrangement of habitat was quite good for all these species, ordered, from my right to my left, pond, reeds, brush, field, and “park land” (almost savannah like, with herbaceous cover interspersed with groves of trees).
At first I thought there were House Wrens singing, but something about their voices didn’t sound “right.” It turns out that Blue Grosbeak songs are similar to the House Finches’, and it was the grosbeaks I had been hearing.
I spent about 15 minutes watching a Pileated Woodpecker chiselling out bugs along a tree limb. He also let me get close before reluctantly flying away when I lingered a bit too long.
In some ways this park is similar to Pine Island, but on a slightly smaller scale. That helped with the walking, as I am still on hold regarding this persistent issue with my knee.
The complete species list for the morning:
- Mourning Dove
- Eurasian Collared Dove
- Common Ground Dove
- Black Vulture
- Turkey Vulture
- Blue Jay
- Fish Crow
- Northern Cardinal
- Blue Grosbeak (FOY)
- Eastern Towhee
- Gray Catbird
- Northern Mockingbird
- Carolina Wren
- White-eyed Vireo
- White Ibis
- Snowy Egret
- Reddish Egret (FOY – white morph)
- Great Egret
- Green Heron
- Double-crested Cormorant
- Pileated Woodpecker
- Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Northern Flicker (FOY)
- Common Grackle
- Boat-tailed Grackle
- Common Yellowthroat
I count today as particularly successful because I saw every bird I heard today, which is pretty rare. I wish I had seen more migrants, but all in all I had a good time.