TAS Van Trip to North Florida, January 12-15

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Posted by Brian Rapoza on 22:22:40 01/16/07

Ten South Florida birders joined Paul Bithorn and me for Tropical Audubon Society s van trip to North Florida. We enjoyed rainless skies, comfortable temperatures, good food, friendly people (including Paul s brother Mike, and Mike s son Jacob) and a nice selection of wintering birds (139 in all) during our four-day, three-night stay in the Tallahassee area. Sightings from our Friday drive through the peninsula included Crested Caracara, Bald Eagle and Sandhill Crane. Our first North Florida stop was JR Alford Greenway, east of Tallahassee, where we searched for the Fox Sparrow reported there, but were unable to locate it. The group had great looks, though, at Henslow s Sparrow.

Our first full day began at Torreya State Park, where we found a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos in front of Gregory House, which overlooks the Apalachicola River. Other species tallied here included Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Downy and Pileated Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Chipping Sparrow and American Goldfinch. After our traditional lunch at Old Mexico Restaurant in Marianna, we visited Florida Caverns State Park, where we saw most of the species already tallied that morning, except for juncos. We were also unable to find species we ve seen here on previous trips, such as Winter Wren and Brown Creeper. We ended our day at Lake Seminole, with stops at Three Rivers State Park and Sneads Park. Species seen in this area included Canvasback, Ring-necked and Ruddy Duck and Bald Eagle.

On Sunday, we began at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, where we met up with long-time South Florida resident Jean Quincy and her daughter Lynn, who now live in Crawfordville, south of Tallahassee. Our first sighting of note was a Rusty Blackbird, seen at the bridges about ½ mile past the visitor center. Two American Avocets were among the many shorebirds seen at Stoney Bayou Pool # 1. Most of the ducks we saw were at Mounds Pool # 3. Species found here included Gadwall, American Wigeon and Green-winged Teal. Brown-headed Nuthatches were seen across the road from the path leading to this pool, and a Sora was seen along the road before Headquarters Pond. Reddish Egret were in Lighthouse Pool, and Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Loon and Horned Grebe were in the bay. With the assistance of Bob Landry, visiting from the Tampa area, we were able to get good looks at Nelson s Sharp-tailed Sparrow in the surrounding salt marsh.

Sunday afternoon was spent in the Panacea area. At Bald Point State Park, we found several Common Goldeneye among the many Bufflehead. Also seen here were American White Pelican and American Oystercatcher. A Red-throated Loon was found across from the old KOA campground on Alligator Point. A late afternoon visit to Ochlockonee River State Park produced sightings of Downy and Pileated Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Pine Warbler and other pineland species, but no Red-cockaded Woodpeckers around their nest trees near the picnic area. Our last stop was Bottoms Road, where Paul and a few others in the group spotted a Short-eared Owl at the end of the road. Dozens of Clapper Rail were heard calling at dusk. We ended our day at The Landing in Panacea, where we enjoyed great seafood and entertainment by our waiter, David, who aspires to be either a stand-up comic or a nuclear engineer.

On Monday morning, we returned to JR Alford Greenway to once again try for the Fox Sparrow. Again, no luck. We added Great Horned Owl to our trip list; a single Dark-eyed Junco was among the Eastern Bluebirds, Chipping Sparrows and American Goldfinch seen feeding around the parking area upon our return. Next stop was Tall Timbers Research Station, where we had no problem finding White-breasted Nuthatch. Our final stop was the birder s paradise otherwise known as the backyard of Fran Rutkovsky. Sightings that included Black-chinned, Rufous and Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Western Tanager and Bullock s and Baltimore Orioles made for a memorable end to our trip.

Here s the trip list:

Canada Goose
Muscovy Duck
Wood Duck
American Wigeon
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Common Goldeneye
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Reddish Egret
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Wood Stork
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Crested Caracara
American Kestrel
Clapper Rail
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
American Oystercatcher
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Ruddy Turnstone
Red Knot
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Wilson s Snipe
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Royal Tern
Forster s Tern
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Eastern Screech-Owl
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Short-eared Owl
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike
Blue-headed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown-headed Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Sedge Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Pine Warbler
Palm Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Western Tanager
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Henslow s Sparrow
Nelson s Sharp-tailed Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Bullock s Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

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