Merritt Island Trip Report, 11/27-11/29

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Posted by Brian Rapoza on 14:52:42 11/30/09

Five birders joined John Boyd and me for this weekend s TAS van trip to the Merritt Island area. Our first stop on Friday was at St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, where we explored the northeast quadrant of the park in search of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. We found plenty of cavity trees, but no RCWs. Birds found there included Bald Eagle, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue-headed Vireo, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Pine Warbler and Eastern Towhee. Manatees were seen at the observation area on the C-54 Canal, which bisects the park. After lunch, we visited Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. From the observation platform, we saw both Brown and American White Pelicans, but little else. Our last stop was at Viera Wetlands, which we were disappointed to discover was closed to vehicular traffic. We walked around a few of the impoundments, where we spotted flocks of Blue-winged Teal, a few Mottled and Ring-necked Ducks, A Northern Harrier, a couple of Wilson s Snipe and the usual coots, moorhens and common waders. A pair of Northern Shoveler and more waders were at the adjacent click ponds.

Almost all of Saturday was spent at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The morning was spent on Black Point Wildlife Drive; highlights there were up-close looks at Sedge Wren and Clapper Rail, plus a Bald Eagle eating a fish while being harassed by a Fish Crow. Ducks present included Gadwall, American Wigeon, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail and Hooded Merganser. Shorebirds included Black-bellied Plover, American Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet, Red Knot, Western and Least Sandpiper, Dunlin and Short billed Dowitcher. After lunch, we stopped at the refuge visitor center, where I picked up a permit to visit St Johns National Wildlife Refuge. From there we headed to Biolab Road, stopping to view Florida Scrub-Jays feeding along Route 3. The only highlights along Biolab Road were a couple of Sora, heard calling and one briefly seen, but only by Nancy Freedman. A flock of Hooded Mergansers and a Reddish Egret were in one of the ponds along the road leading to Playalinda Beach. We drove to the end of the beach road, where we found a single Northern Gannet floating offshore. As sunset approached, we headed to St. Johns, where we searched for Black Rail without success. It seems that the area we searched is now too dry for this difficult-to-find species.

Our first new bird on Sunday morning was a Peregrine Falcon, perched on a snag near the entrance to Black Point Wildlife Drive. Our first stop was Shiloh Marsh Road, or at least what I think was Shiloh Marsh Road, based on information obtained from the Central Florida Bird Watchers website. We were hoping to find an area suitable for Saltmarsh Sparrow, but we found the road, which we entered from the Route 3 side, to be un-signed and extremely potholed. As a result, I abandoned that plan and headed up to Smyrna Dunes Park, where our target was Purple Sandpiper. On the jetty, we found only Ruddy Turnstones and lots of fisherman. A Common Loon and several Bottle-nosed Dolphin were spotted in Ponce Inlet. We also searched for Saltmarsh Sparrow in the small patches of salt marsh along the boardwalk, without success. From Turtle Mound in Canaveral National Seashore, we could see sizable numbers of Northern Gannets offshore. Flocks of Red-breasted Merganser were also seen, all heading south. After lunch, we headed back to Viera Wetlands, which we found to still be closed, so we added a final stop to our itinerary, Turkey Creek Sanctuary. A few Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers and a flock of Pine Warblers that also included a Blue-headed Vireo and a few gnatcatchers were our only sightings there. We ended our trip with 105 bird species, listed below:

American Wigeon
Mottled Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Hooded Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Northern Gannet
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
Roseate Spoonbill (seen en-route)
Wood Stork
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Clapper Rail
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Black-bellied Plover
American Avocet
Spotted Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Ruddy Turnstone
Red Knot
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Snipe
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Caspian Tern
Forster's Tern
Royal Tern
Black Skimmer
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Common Ground-Dove
Monk Parakeet (seen en-route)
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike
Blue-headed Vireo
Blue Jay
Florida Scrub-Jay
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Brown-headed Nuthatch
House Wren
Sedge Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Orange-crowned Warbler
Myrtle Warbler
Pine Warbler
Palm Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Eastern Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Sparrow

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