On The Move!

April 23, 2017

It’s past the middle of April, and that means MIGRATION for us here in Lonely Birder Central. Waves of migrants have made their way north, despite the wintry weather holding on for a good part of the USA.

At the start of April, Camille and I took a car trip to Stormwater Treatment Area 5/6 (STA 5/6) in Hendry County. Neither of us had birded that area of Florida yet, and it seemed a good idea to get over there before the really hot weather sets in.

STA 5/6 is quite reminiscent of the North Shore Restoration Area and the Wildlife Drive at Lake Apopka. There are large cells of open or semi-open water with vegetated levees and berms, providing diverse habitats.

sta56
Stormwater runoff passes through various “STA”s on the way into the Everglades and adjacent hydrological systems.

Various water and wading birds ruled the day, although several dozen Northern Rough-winged Swallows was a nice surprise. In addition to the expected Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, there were some “hangers on” Northern Shovelers and Blue-winged Teals. Black-necked Stilts seemed poised for nesting, and other shorebirds were making good use of the muddy edges to the treatment cells.

black-necked-stilt
Black-necked Stilts can forage in deeper water than other shorebirds and waders of similar body size due to their long legs (submerged in this photo).

A bold Loggerhead Shrike took a liking to Ken Spilios’ vehicle!

shrike-truck
I don’t think that’s what “Bird On” means, does it?

We also got a nice look at a Crested Caracara, which let us loiter around its chosen post for quite some time. It’s likely it was serving as a lookout for a mate somewhere in the vicinity. While we watched it, we saw Peregrine Falcons and Snail Kites nearby, too.

caracara
The Crested Caracara has such presence, it is easy to see why it is the national bird of Mexico (though arguably, the Golden Eagle appears on Mexico’s flag).

As a last minute treat as we wound our day down, Camille and I went with trip leader Margaret England one last time to find a reported Tropical Kingbird, and met with success! It was a wonderful excursion with over 60 species identified.

Here are the eBird lists for STA5/6 (one stationary at the parking lot, the other once we got underway):
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44319603
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44330867

It was a good adventure, and it added a couple of counties to my Florida birding lists (Hendry and Glades).

Closer to home, there have been a few weather systems bringing moderate fall-outs here and there, and I was lucky enough to catch some migrant action at Turkey Creek Sanctuary over the last couple of weeks.

rose-breasted-grosbeak
I’m happy with this distant shot of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak – my first ever taken in the Sanctuary.

Upon arriving at Turkey Creek on one of the days, I bumped into Bill Haddad and we stuck together for a good chunk of the morning. It was among the more impressive days at the park in recent memory with a good variety of warblers activity, including a sizable number of Prairie and Black-and-White Warblers.

black-and-white-warbler
I had to dodge raindrops and foliage to get this shot of one of a couple of dozen Black-and-White Warblers. This species is a winter resident, but many move through the state during migration.

As the winter resident Blue-headed Vireos depart, the Red-eyed Vireos are heading through on their way north as well (White-eyed Vireos are year-round residents here).

red-eyed-vireo
A Red-eyed Vireo playing “peekaboo”, high in the canopy. I heard this bird singing long before I saw it.

During a rain shower on one of the mornings, I finally managed to get a photograph I’ve been trying to get for a long time: a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher singing! Their song is so soft and easily overlooked that it took me years to even recognize it for what it was.

singing-gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are nominally resident all year, but their activity ramps up (along with most birds) as spring heats up and the mating and nesting seasons begin.

April 11th was the best migrant day at Turkey Creek in some time, with over sixteen warbler species recorded, some in large numbers. I had my first-of-year Black-throated Green, Bay-breasted and Magnolia Warblers, as well as rare Canada Warblers and a Summer Tanager!

Here are the two successive Turkey Creek Sanctuary eBird lists:

https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44425960
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44461099

Coming next, a few photos from a day-trip to Fort De Soto Park!

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