Turkey Creek Awakens!

Longer term readers of this blog know that Turkey Creek Sanctuary [map] had long been a mainstay of my weekly birding adventures. Of late, this beautiful part of the EEL family has been less than stellar, when it comes to watching birds. Migrations for the past two years have been exceedingly quiet and episodic. While visiting new places and teaching a newbie the “birding ropes”, it’s not been a priority location. This changed late last week after seeing the uptick in action and Lori Wilson Park (another quiet-of-late Space Coast migrant spot). I saw on the Brdbrain e-mail list that Bill Haddad had some decent species numbers at Turkey Creek, and was leading a Space Coast Audubon Society walk there on Saturday morning. We’d had a “good” shift in weather, and Bill was banking on seeing more migrant warbler (and other species). I decided to drop in on his walk and see what my birding fortunes would be.

I am glad I made the trip. While we didn’t have a “blockbuster” morning by any measure, it was nice to see some bonafide migrant species and enjoy a day that, while starting off a bit drizzly, wound up blue and beautiful. The only metaphorical “fly in the ointment” was the wind, which likely kept the numbers and species count down. But for Turkey Creek it was a nice change, and I got to walk the comfortable and familiar paths of my old stomping grounds.

We used the tried-and-true method of locating common and vocal resident species, such as Northern Cardinals and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers to find associated migrants.

The tail-end of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. All the birds we saw were so active, photography was not often a fruitful endeavor.

At the end of one overlook (I can’t remember if it was the “Tree House” overlook or not), a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk landed in some nearby (but obscuring) oak limbs to devour it’s lunch (a frog).

Best-focused and least graphic photo I have of the hawk having a fresh meal.

Of course, spring time is in full swing, and much of our canopy is closed in, which made locating the many Northern Parulas we heard a frustrating exercise. Even later on, with other warblers and vireos singing quite close by, we had to rely on the group’s combined birding-by-ear expertise to positively identify the birds.

Among the FOY birds for me this trip were Black-throated Blue, Worm-eating, and Cape May warblers.

Various airplants and bromeliads are still blooming, like this +2-foot diameters plant with the bright red inflorescence. I was tempted to ID it as a Cardinal Airplant, but the inflorescence looked different to me. If anyone knows the specific species, I’d be glad to know  – just leave a comment.

This may be the largest airplant I’ve seen, outside of the Everglades.
Brilliant red inflorescence.

We had some non-avian friends as well. A pretty orange butterfly landed on the path from McKinnon’s way to the jogging path. When it finally landed, it refused to open it’s wings (at least until after I left the vicinity – other’s ID’d it for us).

American Painted Lady butterfly, resting.

No trip to Turkey Creek Sanctuary is complete without a Gopher Tortoise sighting, of course. This one was just off the boardwalk on the way toward the park entrance.

Gopher Tortoise hanging out on the equivalent of its front porch.

By the end of the walk, only a few of the 10 of us remained (it was a taxing walk, with little reward at first), and we were treated to a couple of male Indigo Buntings in the sanctuary and public library parking lot.  At the very end just Bill and I were left as two Swallow-tailed Kites flew quickly past over us in the lot before the breeze quickly carried them away.







eBird list (doesn’t include the Prairie or possible Pine warblers Bill saw, but I missed):

This may bode for some good migrant activity through the week until the weather changes again, and I hope some birders have a chance to get out there and appreciate these birds as they make their way north, in some cases thousands of miles, to their breeding grounds.

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