Will It Fly High Like A Bird Up In The Sky?

This past Sunday was my first birding-specific outing of the year, and I decided to check in on my old favorite haunt, Turkey Creek Sanctuary. The weather has been pretty mild, so I was hopeful for some good bird activity.

The past couple of years have really been a let-down for the Sanctuary. Birds seem to be utilizing the park less and less, and good activity is much more sporadic. I’ve seen a couple of reports via the BRDBRAIN and FLORIDABIRDS-L e-mail lists of some decent sightings there, but my morning was more typical of my other outings there.

One major change in the Sanctuary from two or three years ago is the relative dearth of Northern Cardinals. Regular and long-time readers will note my somewhat antagonistic love-hate relationship with these birds. They are beautiful to see and hear, but they had nearly overrun the Sanctuary. It had gotten to the point that their calls and songs were drowning out those of other birds I was trying to find and observe. Oh, how I wish for the good ol’ days! I saw a total of 2 and heard perhaps half a dozen cardinals for the entire morning.

What were plentiful were the American Robins and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Right upon entering the park and nearing the boardwalk, the first of what would be at least half a dozen overflights of a 10 or 15 American Robins flew overhead. American Robins are migratory; birds from the southern USA make their way to Florida and Mexico for the winter, while birds from further north move into the southern USA. The end result is a north-south shift of the the robins’ range, out of Canada, with a large section of the country having robins all year, though probably not the same robins. I never saw any robins in the park, just flying high over my head, en route to whatever winter roost they will use until they leave in the Spring.

Image ©2007 WhatBird.com

I caught up to a small flock of gnatcatchers on the boardwalk and enjoyed watching them hop and flit about the tree-tops, singing out their wheezy little calls. I was also watching the group closely because often other small birds will associate with the gnatcatchers. Sure enough, a small group of Blue-headed Vireos was there in the same tree. Both the gnatcatchers and the vireos are quite active, but I managed to snap some photographs, clearly showing the Blue-headed Vireos’ diagnostic fieldmarks: white spectacles on a gray head, with yellow flanks and an olive-greenish tail.

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This Blue-headed Vireo was palling around with some Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.

A breeze picked up by mid-morning, sending leaves and other debris swirling around the more open areas. By this time of year at the Turkey Creek Sanctuary the deciduous trees have dropped most of their leaves and the canopy is much more open, which makes observing any overflying birds (like the American Robins) easier. On this day I noted White Ibises, Black and Turkey vultures, a Double-crested Cormorant, and even a high-soaring Anhinga. A pair of Ospreys also went by, calling to each other as the wind swiftly carried them out of sight.

Some typical winter residents were also present, though in very low densities. I saw a single Yellow-throated Warbler, one Downy Woodpecker and two Ruby Crowned Kinglets. My very first visit to this park in 2002 coincided with a mass visitation of kinglets. There were literally hundreds of them throughout the park, hopping on the boardwalk railings and filling the adjacent trees with chittering notes.

I took the opportunity this trip to walk the Scrub Trail. I tend to neglect this trail, mainly due to low bird activity, but it’s a nice loop off the trail leading to the jogging and exercise paths.

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“A path! A path!”

As I returned back along the western and northern edge of the park toward to exit, I caught the song of a Yellow-throated Vireo over the fence-line. It sound like it came closer a few times, but I never did catch sight of it. I hung around for a while (getting a fire-ant bite on my finger for my troubles) before moving along and out.

Species seen by approximate order of identification:

  • Black Vulture
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Rock Pigeon
  • White Ibis
  • American Robin
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Blue-headed Vireo
  • Carolina Wren (♫)
  • Fish Crow
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Yellow-throated Warbler
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Gray Catbird
  • Anhinga
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Ovenbird
  • Palm Warbler
  • Blue Jay (♫)
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Yellow-throated Vireo
  • Osprey
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker (♫)

Happy New Year everyone, and here’s to another great year of birding!

Quick Run to Turkey Creek

I made a quick jaunt to Turkey Creek this morning, and it was fairly quiet, except for near the trail/boardwalk entrance and exit. On my way in the pines near the picnic area were full of a mixed flock of Northern Parulas and Pine Warblers. At the end of my walk just before the end of the Sand Pine Trail by the nature center was a mixed flock of Pine Warblers and several Blue-headed Vireos. Otherwise, there were REALLY worn Zebra Longtail Butterflies throughout the park.

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Tattered survivor.

And there was this mystery whistle.

Any help with identifying this sound would be welcome. How about it?

Otherwise, here’s the list of birds seen today.

  • Rock Pigeon
  • Pine Warbler
  • Northern Parula
  • Gray Catbird
  • Anhinga
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Green Heron
  • Cattle Egret
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Osprey
  • Black Vulture
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Blue-headed Vireo

It’s been chilly (for Florida) the past several days, but the sun’s been warm, and by mid-morning I’ll take mid 60s Fahrenheit over freezing any day.

Back In The Catbird Seat

I had today off from work, so I took a quick late-morning look at Turkey Creek (again) to see if anything was going on. I was too late to catch up with Shirley Hills, and the park was mostly empty. The biggest change from Sunday was the prevalence of Gray Catbird calls all through the western part of the sanctuary. There were some other sprinklings of birds too, including a loose congregation of Yellow-throated Vireos, White-eyed Vireos and Blue-grey Gnatcatchers. I’ll do a quick photoblog post later of the few other shots I got off.

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Catbirds are here!

Here’s the list from today (not in much of a particular order):

  • Gray Catbird
  • Mourning Dove
  • Common Ground Dove
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Carolina Wren
  • Yellow-throated Warbler
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Yellow-throated Vireo
  • White-eyed Vireo
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Blue Jay
  • Snowy Egret
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Tri-colored Heron
  • Common Gallinule
  • Anhinga
  • Fish Crow
  • Brown Thrasher
  • Cape May Warbler
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Red-shouldered Hawk (♫)

You’ll Never Walk Alone

I was a not-so-lonely birder today (Sunday) at Turkey Creek Sanctuary. After walking part of the boardwalk then McKinnon’s Way en route to the weir and canal, I first briefly bumped into Roy Book, and then Shirley Hills. Roy was on his way opposite myself and Shirley, so we waved “good luck” to Roy, and then Shirley and I headed back toward the boardwalk together.

Shirley has so much knowledge about the sanctuary and a keen eye for bird movement that birding with her is always exciting and fascinating. We hooked up with Juanita Baker, who runs the Florida Bird Photo-of-the-Month at Pelican Island Audubon. The three of us stuck together and did a few laps and back-and-forths along the side of the park near McKinnon’s Way. Although Shirley said it was much quieter compared to the previous few days, we did pretty well in terms of variety, if not numbers, of migrants.

Prior to running into my companions for the morning, I did have some luck along McKinnon’s Way. I had a very clear look at a Red-eyed Vireo, a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and an extensive hide-and-seek game with a mystery warbler.

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Fall warblers can indeed be quite confusing. This little girl had me preplexed all day.

I speculated with Shirley that maybe this was either a Tennessee Warbler or an Orange-crowned Warbler. Shirley doubted the latter, due to timing, but as she has seen some Tennessee Warblers at her house, she thought that was a possibility. Keen-eyed readers will see, from the photographic evidence that it was a female Black-throated Blue Warbler. I was finally able to satisfy myself as to the ID of this bird thanks in part to The Warbler Guide, which provides a variety of diagnostic, partial views of all the warbler species. There was a decent sprinkling of Black-throated Blues in the sanctuary, and it was still a nice observing session, but I haven’t seen a Tennessee or an Orange-crowned yet this year.

The big hits for me were my very first (finally) Prothonotary Warbler, a small flock of Blackburnian Warblers, and the sanctuary’s first Blackpoll Warbler of the autumn.

Juanita asked me some questions about my bird photographs and my blog. She asked if my photographs were “documentary” or “nature photographs” (by which I think she meant what I call “glamor shots”). I told her that I consider them “geographic” photographs, in that they tend to show the bird in its place and habitat. The few clear photographs I took this morning are proof of that, as you can see. If you are interested in some great glamor shots, I highly recommend seeing my friend Corey Finger’s photographs over at 10,000 Birds [10000birds.com].

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This Prothonotary Warbler was shy at first, but saved its best views for my binoculars.

Black-and-white Warblers are back now, and they allowed us to get quite near to them. Most of the birds at Turkey Creek of late have been quite skittish, probably due to low numbers, but as the Black-and-whites are winter residents, perhaps they feel more comfortable.

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Greetings, my monochromatic friend. So we meet again.

Along the jogging path, we were able to get quite close to this Downy Woodpecker as he foraged for insects on this sapling. At first, he tried to sidle around the backside of the little tree to hide from us, but as this was clearly futile, he gave up and just went back to feeding.

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Bug flavor must really be worth the taste of tree bark!

The creek level was still quite high, but receding. There were manatees along a good section of the creek, but few turtles in evidence. I also caught a very brief glimpse of what may have been a Short-tailed Hawk (dark morph), but it ducked into the canopy amidst a flurry of Blue Jay and Northern Cardinal calls.

On our way out, as we watched a small grouping of American Redstarts (they continue to be relatively numerous in the sanctuary), we saw this Yellow-throated Warbler skulking in and around some palm fronds.

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This warbler actually followed us along the boardwalk for a bit.

Birding with Shirley and Juanita was a lot of fun, and I think we did well, considering the state of the migration through Turkey Creek in recent years. The verifiable list for the morning follows:

  • Fish Crow
  • White Ibis
  • Blackpoll Warbler
  • Carolina Wren
  • American Redstart
  • Northern Parula
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Blue Jay
  • Mourning Dove
  • Common Ground Dove
  • Snowy Egret
  • Tri-colored Heron
  • Green Heron
  • Great Blue Heron
  • American Coot
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler
  • Cape May Warbler
  • Yellow-throated Vireo
  • Blackburnian Warbler
  • Prothonotary Warbler (*)
  • Yellow-throated Warbler
  • Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Pileated Woodpecker (♫)
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Red-shouldered Hawk (♫)

As you can see from today’s photographs, not too much in the way of glamor shots, but by working with my camera’s limitations and capabilities, I think I capture the moments pretty well.

Falling into Migration

When word came over the FLORIDABIRDS-L mailing list that a Canada Warbler was seen in Turkey Creek Sanctuary, it was clear that the first migrants have arrived in the area. When a rare bird alert goes out like that, it’s exciting enough, but to be at the local park I am most familiar with was even better.

I headed to the Sanctuary on Sunday with modest goals. I wasn’t expecting to see a Canada Warbler, but I figured some increased activity might bode well for the historically heavier migration month of October. As followers of this blog might remember, the past couple of years have been really bad as far as birding during migration.

Early on in the walk I saw what I thought were owl pellets (I even photographed them) but upon closer inspection I think they were some sort of scat (if you don’t know what that means, go ask your parents).

I ended up having a modest morning of it, all told. The most exciting bird encounters were a Wood Thrush (FOY) which I initially mistook for a Brown Thrasher and several warbler species. While none of the warblers were as rare as a Canada Warbler, they were a good indication that the migration is under way.

The most numerous warblers were by far the American Redstarts. There was a mix of what seemed to be immature and mature males. It’s possible some were females, but all had some amount of black or duskiness about them.

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Ready for launch! American Redstarts are hyperactive, even for warblers.

While there have been Blue-grey Gnatcatchers in the Sanctuary all year, there was a definite increase in numbers and activity.

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Blue-grey Gnatcatcher contemplating its next move.

At the end of the Floodplain Trail I got a very brief glimpse of a Worm-eating Warbler, then watched as three species of woodpecker bickered and chased each other around some trees. There was a Pileated Woodpecker really knocking things around and it eventually ousted a pair of Downy Woodpeckers and at least one Red-bellied Woodpecker. I assumed it was a youngster, it was so clumsy and spastic.

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I think this Pileated Woodpecker sort of looks like Kramer from Seinfeld.

I ran into two area birders, both active on FLORIDABIRDS-L, and they were both hoping to catch a Canada Warbler. Mark Eden was on his way out and had seen a lot of activity by the Canoe Deck (activity which had sadly abated by the time I got there) and Jim Armstrong, whom I walked with for a time before we went our separate ways. Normally I tend to shy away from sharing my experiences while birding, even when perhaps I shouldn’t (hence my blog title). But this weekend it seemed natural to want to collaborate, and I hope Mark and Jim got something out of our mutual encounters as well.

The species list for the morning:

  • Yellow-throated Warbler
  • Wood Thrush (FOY)
  • Common Ground Dove
  • Prairie Warbler
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Carolina Wren
  • Northern Parula
  • American Redstart
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Blue Jay
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Worm-eating Warbler (FOY)
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Palm Warbler
  • Fish Crow

Since yesterday I’ve seen more cautiously encouraging reports out of Turkey Creek Sanctuary, so here’s to hoping for a good Fall Migration.

Keeping Tabs

I live fairly close to several parks, and my regular readers know I frequent Turkey Creek Sanctuary, and the descriptions and photographs of my trips there make up the better part of my blog. I do try to find a balance of exploring other areas nearby and keeping track of what’s going on at Turkey Creek Sanctuary throughout the year. If I were a mere “lister” birder, I would more likely travel farther across the region to snag birds for my lists. As it is, I find repeat observations and comparisons are vital to understanding birds and their place in the environment.

This past weekend I returned to the sanctuary to do such a check. Summers are usually quiet times for finding birds in many of the area parks. The rush of springtime homemaking and breeding has settled down and the birds are trying to keep cool even by 8 or 9 in the morning. With not much going on with bird life in the park, I thought it might be good to mix in a few photographs of some of the things I blog about at Turkey Creek.

As I walked toward the park the entrance in the library parking lot,  I heard some soft, high-pitched call notes in the trees, and caught some glimpses of Northern Parulas foraging quietly together. One of the birds caught my eye. It’s yellow “spectacles” gave it away as a Yellow-throated Vireo. This vireo species’ plumage is very similar to the Northern Parula in many other respects (particularly with worn feathers and in the fall), but the spectacles are diagnostic.

Now that we are well into summer, quite a lot of American Beautyberry plants are ripening. This plant is ubiquitous, and birds love to eat them.

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Berry beautiful…

The Sanctuary has been quiet, even for summer, this year and this day was no exception. There were a few Northern Cardinals calling from the brush and one or two singing in the distance, but the usual cacophony of alarm notes and whistling I am used to hearing was again absent. I approached the Harris radio tower which sometimes has Brown Thrashers or Eastern Phoebes hanging out nearby. No such luck this time, but let’s have a look at the tower.

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The tower is held up by 3 pairs sets of guy-wires, spaced 120 degrees apart.

This 129 meter (400 foot) tower is owned by Harris Corporation, and I think it’s used for communications testing, rather than broadcasting. You can see from this photograph that the structure has supports fairly close together. I’ve been told by several people that years ago vultures and various raptors would roost on the tower, sometimes causing quite a smelly mess. To deter the birds from roosting, additional supports were added to the tower, making it near impossible for larger birds to make use of it.

I am amazed that such a tall structure (and others like it) are supported by wires, anchored into the ground. This simple method works even in hurricane-force winds.

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The guy-wires holding up the tower are anchored in place with the help of these 1+ inch diameter bolts. The smaller wire you see is a grounding line for lightning strikes.

We have had a lot of rain the past week or so, and that was reflected in the elevated canal and creek water levels. I walked to the weir, where the Melbourne-Tilman Canal empties into Turkey Creek. There were only a few bird species present by the weir. Mourning Doves were the most abundant, and I flushed quite a few as I walked along the canal. In suburban settings, where these birds are commonly perched on utility wires, they are fairly conspicuous. Among the grass by the side of the canal they were almost invisibly until my footfalls scared them out.

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Mourning Doves.

There were a few Green Herons, a single Tri-colored Heron and one American Coot by the flotation barrier leading to the weir. I saw a few Common Ground Doves and Eurasian Collared Doves as well.

The weir itself is part of a drainage and flood-control system, using Turkey Creek as an outlet to keep the canal water levels down, especially after heavy rainfall events.

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Flood control for the canal system.
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Into the creek.

Two of the area streams, south of the Eau Gallie River, are named for birds. Crane Creek empties into the Indian River Lagoon near Melbourne’s downtown, while Turkey Creek flows into the lagoon in Palm Bay (and is the main feature of the Turkey Creek Sanctuary, of course). I don’t know the historical reasons for the names, but for the first time I documented Wild Turkeys at Turkey Creek. Technically, they were running alongside the Melbourne-Tillman Canal, but based on the direction they were traveling, they had to have been along the creek’s side to get where I photographed them. I found it slightly ironic that I spied them running alongside the residential neighborhood that abuts the sanctuary.

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Residential Turkeys.

The turkeys made their way out of sight, and I made my way back into the sanctuary. Upon entering the woods, there is what I’ve been calling an “emergency” boat ramp. Normally there is a heavy chain across the entrance to the path that leads to the ramp, but I noticed that it was missing (though the sign clearly indicated this is not for pubic access).

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This also happens to be the area I saw the Bicknell’s Thrush this year.

I don’t know if it’s really for emergencies or not, and I freely admit I pass the signs and chain regularly to have a look at the creek from the ramp and it’s adjacent platform. In fact, I took a photograph of Flat Stanley there earlier in the summer.

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You can see the platform and posts in the background and to the left of Flat Stanley, when the water level was lower.

After all the rain we’ve had, the creek level was several feet higher than my last visit, almost completely submerging the wooden posts for the platform next to the ramp.

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Swamped.

I worked my way to the boardwalk and, apart from a couple of distantly circling vultures and some Carolina Wren calls, I didn’t have much luck with finding birds. There were plenty of dragonflies. This one, like many others this late in the summer, have very worn-out wings and rest as often as they are flying.

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Howdy, Ms. Dragonfly!

This Mole Skink was sunning itself on the boardwalk. If you look closely you can see water beaded up on its skin. Despite the shiny appearance, skinks are not slimy or wet. Their scales are exceptionally smooth and close-fitting. The camera had a bit of trouble picking up the brilliant blues and overall iridescence of this animal.

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See the shiny skink sunning in the sanctuary.

Further up the boardwalk and the Sand Pine Trail, I detoured onto the Flood Plain Trail. I was expecting the Boy Scout’s boardwalk to be at least partially under water, but it was not – a testament to both the flood control efforts at the weir and the capacity for the ground near the creek to hold water. The ground was covered in standing water, but still several inches below the decking.

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Apart from a few Yellow-throated Warblers a the entrance end of the Sand Pine Trail, that’s about it for the day.

The species list, including the parking lot:

  • Northern Cardinal
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Yellow-throated Vireo
  • Northern Parula
  • Mourning Dove
  • Wild Turkey
  • Green Heron
  • Tri-colored Heron
  • American Coot
  • Common Ground Dove
  • Eurasian Collared Dove
  • Blue Jay
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Carolina Wren (♫)
  • Yellow-throated Warbler
  • Rock Pigeon

The nearly last quarter moon shone brightly enough, even in daylight, to provide a nice parting shot.

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Blue Moon, you left me birding alone…

Are 1,000 Words Worth A Picture? Turkey Creek – June 22, 2014

It’s the first full day of astronomical Summer in the Northern Hemisphere! Happy Summer!

In my excitement to get out and about early this morning, I left my camera behind, which was a big bummer. We have had a couple of days in a row with some heavy thunderstorms and downpours in the area, and I was anxious to see how Turkey Creek and the adjacent canal were affected. Haste makes waste, as they say, right?

It turns out the creek was about a foot higher than I last saw it, but it had dropped lower than that before the rains came this week. So I don’t know the total difference right before and after. In any case, there was a bit of debris washed over the trails, and evidence the creek had run up on the banks here and there, but otherwise nothing too epic.

On the way to the canal by the Scrub Trail there was a total of 4 immature Coopers Hawks in a dead tree. This is the same general area I saw a pair of the same species last year. They must be recently fledged, and they were making short, noisy flights around the western side of the sanctuary all morning.

The other “main event” of the morning was an apparently newborn manatee in the creek with its mother. I first saw a couple of manatees grazing along the creek banks along McKinnon’s Way, but when I got to one overlook, there was a smallish adult manatee just laying in the water, with its (her) back sticking up. It took a breath every minute or so. Then, I saw a tiny nose poke up next to her, then a small, smooth gray back. It was soo cool (and NO CAMERA!). A man and a woman came along the path from the Canoe Deck, and told me they had seen her in the same spot yesterday before the big downpour, and she seemed “in distress” which they thought might be labor. WIth a newborn manatee in evidence, I’d say they were right. 

I watched the manatees for a bit, then made my way around the park, doing the boardwalks first, then the Sand Pine Trail before exiting.

I know I don’t generally like wall-of-text posts, so I’ll wrap this up with my species list for today, generally in order of first identification (♫ = voice only):

  • Fish Crow
  • Osprey
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Carolina Wren (♫)
  • White Ibis
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Coopers Hawk
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Blue Jay
  • Mourning Dove
  • Great Egret
  • Snowy Egret
  • Green Heron
  • Common Gallinule
  • Chimney Swift
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Tri-colored Heron
  • Northern Parula
  • Downy Woodpecker (♫)
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker (♫)
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Out in the Flat

My wife and I had a guest the past few days, named Stanley. Flat Stanley. He was mailed to us (on account of a bulletin board flattening him in class one day), which seems a darn great way to travel. I took Stanley out to Turkey Creek and Malabar Scrub Sanctuaries so he could experience some of central Florida’s natural world.

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Flat Stanley chilling out by Turkey Creek.

We started the day at Turkey Creek, but I had us do most of the park in reverse order from my usual walks. I started by heading out to the weir, but recent heavy rains washed most of the mucky debris behind the orange flotation barrier. This is where most of the wading birds would hang out, but there was just one Green Heron skulking along the shore. There were plenty of bird songs along the rest of the walk. Stanley and I identified quite a few birds by voice and by sight.

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Red-bellied Woodpecker feasting on ants.

After exiting via the Sand Pine Trail, we drove to the Malabar Scrub Sanctuary. Stanley wanted to do the “Red Loop Trail” and I thought that was fine. We identified more birds and even saw a large snake! About midway around the trail we came across a loud group of Florida Scrub Jays. Stanely was excited to see them, as I had shown him my photos from last week in the sanctuary.

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Florida Scrub Jay. Unlike last week, this was just one of about a dozen we saw in 2 separate family groups.

One of the area middle schools built an educational platform in the heart of the sanctuary. Stanley and I learned a bit more about Florida’s scrub habitat and had a nice view of the surrounding landscape.

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Educational board showing how “flat” Florida is.

The second half of the trail was through some habitats I hadn’t seen there before, with lots of scrub oaks making archways over the path, and pockets of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers here and there.

Here is our list of bird species for both parks (loosely grouped by family rather than order seen).

  • Mourning Dove
  • Eurasian Collared Dove
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Common Ground Dove
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Pileated Woodpecker (♫)
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Brown Thrasher
  • Carolina Wren
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Fish Crow
  • Florida Scrub Jay
  • Blue Jay
  • Ovenbird (♫)
  • Yellow Warbler (♫)
  • American Redstart
  • Northern Parula
  • Wood Stork
  • European Starling
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Boat-tailed Grackle
  • Common Grackle
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Osprey
  • Green Heron
  • Snowy Egret
  • Cattle Egret
  • Great Egret
  • Great Blue Heron
  • White Ibis
  • American Brown Pelican
  • Great-crested Flycatcher
  • Eastern Kingbird (FOY)
  • White-eyed Vireo
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  • Chimney Swift

It was great having Stanley around, but he has to leave early tomorrow. We’re having him head home in style, though, in a USPS Priority envelope, along with photos and descriptions of his time with us here in Florida.

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Me (actual photo!) and Flat Stanley at Turkey Creek Sanctuary.

Turkey Creek and Malabar Scrub Sanctuaries: May 11, 2014

Happy Mothers’ Day! Today’s birding adventure had me ranging farther that I’ve done recently, now that my knee has been feeling better. I spent the first couple of hours at Turkey Creek Sanctuary, mainly south of the creek itself. For most of this first portion of the hike, I could hear quite a few bird species, but it was difficult to see any. I had voice hits on Mourning Doves, Northern Cardinals, White-eyed Vireos and various woodpeckers, among others.

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If you look closely, you can see the red feathers on the belly that give this woodpecker its name.

There was one sweet spot along the trail in an upland section, adjacent to some homes, that had quite a few American Redstarts. Unlike last week, when there was a good mix of adult males and adult females, this week I think most of the birds were first year males. They had some black feathers coming in, but for the most part were yellowish, but displaying like males. I’ll have to check if this is usual for how this species migrates.

Near the end of the path along the creek I did hear one, solitary Black-throated Blue Warbler among the Northern Parulas and general background noise of the cardinals (yes, they’re getting up to that point where they’re drowning out other species again).

I neither saw nor heard any evidence of Blackpoll Warblers today.

The full species list for the Turkey Creek side of my hike follows:

  • Morning Dove
  • White Ibis
  • Blue Jay
  • Common Grackle
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Carolina Wren
  • White-eyed Vireo (♫)
  • Northern Cardinal
  • American Redstart
  • Northern Parula
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker (♫)
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler (♫)
  • Great-crested Flycatcher (♫)
  • Chimney Swift

I backtracked to where I parked and then crossed the road and entered the Malabar Scrub Sanctuary for the second part of my hike. For the first while, I had more voice hits and very little visual identification. This started to change as I crossed from the western part of the Sanctuary, through the Cameron Preserve and into the eastern section of the Malabar Scrub Sanctuary. Many of the same species were present as in Turkey Creek, plus some Fish Crows, Eastern Towhees, and a pale morph of a Red-shouldered Hawk.

I made another loop back to the car and decided to drive down to the southern portion of the sanctuary to try to see Florida Scrub Jays. On the way there, I saw some Ospreys, An American Brown Pelican and a Wood Stork.

Once back in the sanctuary I saw a Swallow-tailed Kite flying low. It actually passed within 20ft above me! I managed to get off a couple of camera shots (neither great, but hey, my first!). I was so excited.

photo swallow-tailed-kite.jpg
Florida’s Bird of Awesomeness.

Then I made my way to the area I had last seen some jays and taken some photos. Sure enough, a single adult scrub jay was there. It let me get very close and even hopped down on the ground right at my feet for a while!

photo fl-scrub-jay.jpg
As awesome as Swallow-tailed Kites are, many people believe this should be Florida’s official bird.

photo fl-scrub-jay-alt.jpg

Despite the overcast sky, it was very warm and humid, and I was sweating through my clothes. At this point I also ran out of water, so I made my way back to the car. In the park near the parking area there was a Sandhill Crane family (2 parents and 2 chicks) walking nearby.

photo cranes.jpg
A mother Sandhill Crane and one of her chicks. Happy Mothers’ Day.

photo dad-crane.jpg
A not very happy Dad. Time to move along.

The final identification I got was a pair of Northern Rough-winged Swallows over the car as I was getting in. All in all, my Malabar Scrub Sanctuary list was:

  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Pileated Woodpecker (♫)
  • Great-crested Flycatcher
  • Northern Cardinal (♫)
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Fish Crow
  • White-eyed Vireo
  • Common Ground Dove (♫)
  • Blue Jay (♫)
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • American Brown Pelican
  • Osprey
  • Swallow-tailed Kite
  • Florida Scrub Jay
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Combined list of the two sanctuaries.

  • Mourning Dove
  • White Ibis
  • Blue Jay
  • Common Grackle
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Carolina Wren
  • White-eyed Vireo
  • Northern Cardinal
  • American Redstart
  • Northern Parula
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker (♫)
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler (♫)
  • Great-crested Flycatcher
  • Chimney Swift
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Pileated Woodpecker (♫)
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Fish Crow
  • Common Ground Dove (♫)
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • American Brown Pelican
  • Osprey
  • Wood Stork
  • Swallow-tailed Kite
  • Florida Scrub Jay
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  • Anhinga
  • Black Vulture

Historically and statistically, the spring migration ends around mid-May, but there may be stragglers.  The summer residents will be setting up house and raising families, and there’s always room for surprises.