TAS North Florida Trip Report

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Posted by Brian Rapoza on 14:13:39 01/23/13

Ten birders joined Paul Bithorn and me this past weekend for Tropical Audubon s annual North Florida birding tour. The weather was fantastic: sunny skies, comfortable temperatures and virtually windless conditions during our entire time in the Panhandle. Friday was windier, negatively impacting birding at Paynes Prairie in Gainesville, but not on Ranch Road in Astatula, where we quickly found our two target species: Say s Phoebe and Florida Scrub-Jay. It was the 6th consecutive year that we saw the Say s Phoebe. We dipped on all the rarities recently found at Paynes Prairie, including the Groove-billed Ani reported from Sweetwater Overlook. We had to console ourselves with distant sightings of bison and Sandhill Cranes from the observation platform at the end of La Chua Trail.

Our first stop during our first morning in the Panhandle was at Crowder Landing on Lake Jackson in Tallahassee, where the wintering Red-necked Grebe had been reported in recent days. John Hutchison and Paul spotted a distant bird that they thought may have been the grebe, but it dove and could not be relocated. We eventually drove on to Apalachicola National Forest. Large numbers of hunters occupied the location near Sumatra where we usually search for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, so we moved on to the pitcher plant bog where Henslow s Sparrows winter. We were able to scare up a few Henslow s, but none were very cooperative. We had better luck with Sedge Wrens, which gave everyone great looks. After lunch in Apalachicola (a Common Goldeneye was spotted on the causeway east of town), we visited a home on 15th Street and Avenue D where a Buff-bellied Hummingbird had been reported recently. A hummingbird was present when we arrived, but it was clearly not a Buff-bellied; we eventually concluded it was a Calliope! (Photographs forwarded to Fred Bassett upon our return to Miami confirmed the identity.)

We wanted to try for Sprague s Pipits at Apalachicola Airport, but it was getting late in the day, so instead we began the long drive to Sneeds, hoping to see the Cackling Geese that had been found earlier in the week outside the correctional institute on US 90. We parked on the south side of the highway, as instructed, but a passing police officer immediately descended upon us. After checking with his superior, he determined that were okay to view the geese. The four Cackling Geese, as well as a single Snow Goose were easily picked out among the many Canada Geese. These birds appeared to be very similar in appearance to the Cackling Goose photographed at St Marks NWR a couple of years back; time will tell if the true identity of these birds can be determined.

On Sunday morning, we headed to St Marks, where at the visitor center, Paul found a Myiarchus flycatcher that he identified as an Ash-throated. Unfortunately, it disappeared before anyone else could view it. At the two bridges beyond the visitor center, we had great looks at a pair of Rusty Blackbirds; a Winter Wren was seen by some of the group. Birding was somewhat slow until we reached the restrooms at Headquarter Pond, where the recently reported Red-breasted Nuthatch was easily found. Waterfowl, including good numbers of Canvasback and Redhead, were concentrated at Lighthouse Pond. Flocks of American Oystercatchers were working the oyster bars offshore.

In the afternoon, we headed west to Alligator Point, where Robin Diaz found a Black Scoter among a huge raft of Lesser Scaup. Lorena Siquera scanned in the opposite direction and pulled out another prize, a distant but clearly identifiable Razorbill! After a quick stop at Bald Point State Park, we ended the day at Bottoms Road in Panacea. A Clapper Rail and Marsh Wren were quickly found, but the real show-stopper were the half-dozen Nelson s Sparrows that as night descended, moved out onto the open mudflats for an evening meal and bath! A Seaside Sparrow joined the show, giving everyone side-by-side comparisons with Nelson s. We celebrated our good fortune with a delicious seafood dinner in Panacea.

Our last morning began at Tall Timbers Research Station, where we easily found Red-headed Woodpeckers and White-breasted Nuthatches along the Stevenson Trail. After a couple of hours at Tall Timbers, we headed back to Crowder Landing, but were once again unable to locate the Red-necked Grebe. Our last stop was the Yarborough s home on Walden Circle in Tallahassee, where we hoped to see the Costa s Hummingbird that was wintering there. We saw at least two Rufous Hummingbirds, and eventually a small hummer came in to a feeder that we convinced ourselves had to be the Costa s. Later inspection of photos taken of the Costa s revealed that we were mistaken; it s possible the bird we saw was simply an immature Rufous.

Here s our trip list (152 species):
Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Muscovy Duck
American Wigeon
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Black Scoter
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Wild Turkey (I-75)
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Red-necked Grebe (identity not confirmed)
Northern Gannet
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
American Bittern
Least Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Wood Stork
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Cooper s Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Crested Caracara (Florida s Turnpike)
Peregrine Falcon
American Kestrel
Clapper Rail
Common Gallinule
American Coot
Limpkin (Florida s Turnpike)
Sandhill Crane
Black-bellied Plover
American Oystercatcher
Spotted Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Ruddy Turnstone
Least Sandpiper
Wilson s Snipe
Laughing Gull
Bonaparte s Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Forster s Tern
Royal Tern
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Common Ground-Dove
Barred Owl (heard)
Calliope Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Say s Phoebe
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Loggerhead Shrike
White-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Blue Jay
Florida Scrub-Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Purple Martin
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown-headed Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Winter Wren
Sedge Wren
Marsh Wren
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
Black-and-white Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Northern Parula
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Pine Warbler
Palm Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Henslow s Sparrow
Nelson s Sparrow
Seaside Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Painted Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Mammals seen included Bison, River Otter and White-tailed Deer

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