Turkey Creek Heats Up As Things Cool Down

It seems now that September is here and some slightly cooler morning weather has arrived, that things are picking up in Turkey Creek Sanctuary. Notable and active birds seen today inlcuded:

  • American Redstart
  • Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • Swainson’s Warbler (new for me!)
  • Northern Parula
  • Blue Jay
  • Caronlina Wren
  • Northern Cardinal (was there a doubt?)
  • Downy Woodpecker

Voice-only IDs included Hairy Woodpecker (more monotone and deeper version of the Downy’s calls), White-eyed Vireo (again!), Pileated Woodpecker. There was also a Belted Kingfisher that flew overhead at one point. The day was not very good for soaring, though. I saw no hawks or vultures in the air over the park at all.

As you can see from the list above, warbler activity is on the rise as we get closer to the fall migration. 

Today, I tried shifting my birding to Saturday monring (instead of Sunday). As expected, there were a lot more people in the sanctuary than I am used to. As I was on my way to the new Turkey Oak Trail, a woman came down the path and asked me if I knew how to tell the difference between a King Snake (non-venemous) and a Coral Snake (venemous). Various incomplete versions of the rhyme designed to help tell the difference went through my head, which was no help at all. In any case, whatever snake she saw was no longer present, so we both walked and talked along the entirety of the trail. 

Thus ended my first Saturday morning birding adventure of the year.

Red and Redstart

This morning I went to the Malabar Scrub Sanctuary, which is a property adjacent to the Turkey Creek Sanctuary. In fact, the first place I stopped was technically in Turkey Creek, but on the opposite side of the creek than I normally visit.

Far side of the creek than I am usually on.

Apart from a lot of leaping fish in the creek (I think that happens more on overcast mornings, like today), there wasn’t too much going on. The trails are for mountain bikes, and I did see a few riders on the trail. I did get a good glimpse of a warbler, but positive ID was tough. A lot of these birds are in the midst of getting their breeding plumage, so there’s generally a wild mix of colors and patterns that most field guides just have to skip over. My best guess would be a Magnolia Warbler, based on the wing pattern and the emerging black about the throat.

I did hear a few White-eyed Vireos, but did not get any visuals (and of course, the hordes of Northern Cardinals were in evidence). White-eyed Vireos seem to be very plentiful this year.

Bike trail at Turkey Creek in the morning gloom.

With not much going on, I drove the short distance to one of the trailheads for the Malabar Scrub Sanctuary. The Sanctuary and surrounding property are great to have as conservation land, but it comes with a little bitterness. Originally, the Sanctuary was to help with the local Florida Scrub Jay populations; however, with the rise of the adjacent residential developments and population increase in and around Palm Bay, the necessary operations (i.e., FIRE) to keep the scrub in a state that the Jays would thrive in were halted. Much of the property has grown over and isn’t suitable for Florida Scrub Jay habitat. There is a good variety of habitat, though, including some gorgeous open grassland areas.

Some of the diverse landscape types in the Malabar Scrub Sanctuary.

One persistent Northern Cardinal did present himself well enough for some decent photographs.

I give cardinals a bit of rough time in this blog, but they are pretty.

Here he was listening to his mate, who was gathering nesting materials nearby. In all honesty, the red of male Northern Cardinals is stunning.

While setting up the shots of this guy, I was pleasantly surprised by a non-stop flutter of black and orange. An American Redstart! He was actively foraging with his mate. These birds do NOT sit still very often. Here’s the only decent shot I got of him. You can see a bit of the characteristic wing and tail drooping of the species. They flutter down and around like falling leaves, which is pretty neat.

He stood still just long enough to get this.

Other than a few more ear-only catches (White-eyed Vireos) I got some good binocular views of a dark grey-ish bird with a faint black necklace of streaks that I can’t identify. I’ve seen them before, and cannot figure out what they are. The day was heating up, the sun came out and I headed out. I did get a quick glimpse (finally!) of a Carolina Wren in some thick palm scrub.

The trails at the Malabar Scrub Sanctuary are very well kept

Not the most prolific outing, but it was nice and I had fun – which is what birding is all about!

I went to Erna Nixon Park this morning to see what was happening there. At the first “Vista” stop along the boardwalk, there’s an overlook of some reedy vegetation and some grasses, adjacent to a pond that there is no path to get at. In that area I had the most success today. There were several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (males and females, a lot of bickering), what sounded like House Wrens, and at least one Common Yellowthroat (which came quite close, but I was unable to capture on camera). Further along the boardwalk I did see a single male Northern Parula, and along the fire-path along the northern edge of the property was a nice little gathering of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. The usual Northern Cardinals, Mourning Doves and Fish Crows were also in evidence. I did get a nice shot of a snake (not sure what species). Also heard some Carolina Wrens, but they stayed well out of sight.

Front yard chorus and fly-bys

This morning while waiting for my ride to work (yay, carpool!), I took a few minutes to concentrate on the bird songs and calls in the neighborhood.

Apart from the usual cacophony of grackles, I could hear 2 species of dove singing simultaneously (Eurasian Collared and Mourning), at least one American Robin (alarm calls), a Red-bellied Woodpecker (call), what was most likely a Northern Mockingbird (might have been masking a Carolina Wren, but I am not certain of that).

In flight, I saw some terns flying overhead. I usually see them heading inland, toward the west in the morning. I don’t know why that is. I wonder if they are heading toward Lake Washington? A pair of cormorants were heading east, and a pair of White Ibises flew over the house to the south.

Not bad for a few minutes just looking and listening.