How rare is rare?

Just a quick update. I went for a quick walk through Erna Nixon Park before work this morning and had a couple of nice surprises. As the sun was rising I heard 2 distinct individual Eastern Screech Owls some distance away. They were alternating with each other, using a trill on a single pitch (rather than a whinnying call). Then as I was nearing the mid-point on the boardwalk I clearly heard at least 2 Carolina Chickadees calling. I know that Carolina Chickadees are rare for central and southern Brevard County, but this was a 100% certainty for me. Interestingly, when I posted my finds to the BRDBRAIN list, I got some lip from a fellow birder that this bird is SO RARE as to be unlikely, I suppose, but he was “Just saying”. Sometimes I wonder why I don’t just rage quit these e-mail lists.

Anyway, here’s the list:

  • Carolina Wren
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Yellow-throated Warbler
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • American Redstart
  • Blue Jay
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Mourning Dove
  • Eastern Screech Owl

Short and Sweet.

Erna Nixon Park was at one time a green jewel in the middle of Melbourne’s suburban spread and light industrial areas near the airport. When I first moved to the Space Coast, I would often stop there before work each morning and walk the 1/2 mile or so boardwalk. If I was there before the joggers, I’d often have to dodge a few spiderwebs, but it usually made for a great start of the day. There were usually birds around, including Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, American Redstarts, Common Yellowthroats, Blue-headed Vireos, and many others. It’s listed as a hot spot on the Great Florida Birding Trail. 

Of late, though, it’s become very much changed. Even during the spring and fall migrations, bird-life has been very sparse and spotty. This year, I did see some hummers and warblers (as well as the ubiquitous Blue Jays, Carolina Wrens and Northern Cardinals0, but overall it has been quieter than Turkey Creek Sanctuary was this fall. Whether this is a symptom of the park, the neighborhood or the birds themselves, I don’t know. 

I decided to take an hour or so to walk the boardwalk this morning and see what the winter resident situation was. True to form, it was eerily quiet in the park. The most noticible noise was from the various aircraft taking off and landing at the airport, the commercial contruction down the road adjacent to the airport, and the traffic along the main road. And yet it still seemed to spooky.

I saw no birds at all, and only heard a single Blue-grey Gnatcatcher for most of the boardwalk. I took the loop “backwards” today – that is, I ended up passing the various “vista” points along the walk in reverse numbered order. As I paused near “Vista I” I did finally catch some movement in the brush below, and saw a small grouping of warlbers. While I did get some very good binocular views, I was unable to get the camera to take any decent photographs through the dense brush. Here’s the list:

  • Worm-eating Warbler (a first!)
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler (with decidedly un-yellow rumps. All the other field marks match up, though, so I might have to chalk that up to a trick of the light)
  • Palm Warbler

So, not a totally unproductive walk, as far as birding goes. It started spooky and sad, but ended up pretty sweet. At least there was some action. I think it might be a little odd to see a Worm-eating warbler here this time of year, but there are always stragglers after the main migration (or migration is much more spread out and running later now?). It was the bird I got the best look at, and it’s always exciting to see a new “lifer.” At least I’m still an inexperienced enough birder to have many of those opportunities left.

Youth Day!

Sunday was another quiet morning at both Turkey Creek Sanctuary and Erna Nixon Park. What activity there was revolved around juvenile Northern Cardinals (making the usual racket) and some Northern Parulas and Blue-grey Gnatcatchers high in the canopy (at least at Turkey Creek; almost nothing was to be had at Erna Nixon). Still, it was a pleasant enough morning and not too hot since it was mostly overcast. Toward the end of my Turkey Creek hike it started to rain rather steadily, but the rain hadn’t affected Erna Nixon Park when I drove there later in the morning.

After returning home, at some point during the early afternoon, my wife excitedly drew my attention to the antics of a bird on the wire between our house and the utility pole. It was a fledgling Northern Mockingbird leaping off the wires and making short almost flycatcher like sorties before landing back on the wire. We watched it for a few minutes and then noticed another fledgling along the power lines running along the right-of-way behind our house. And then ANOTHER. Then I noticed a fly-catcher along the same wire. It was a bit tougher to identify, but I finally figured out it was a juvenile Great-crested Flycatcher. It seemed a bit more adept at flying, so likely was past fledgling stage.

Looks like the day belonged to the youngsters.

[Edited to add: I’ll have a few photos from the parks later this week (more flowers, bugs and trees), and I’ll see how my only shot of one of the youngsters turned out.]