Sunday, October 28, 2007

Florida - A Day Birding

Whilst planning our holiday I had contacted a Florida birder via the Birding Pals web site and was lucky enough to find Gallus Quidgley who works near Orlando as a Park Ranger. Gallus had agreed to pick me up at 6am today and to spend a whole day in the field to see as many of my target species as possible. An opportunity not to be missed and a day I had looked forward to for some time.

The day’s bird watching started at The Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens in Port Orange on the Atlantic coast. A fantastic oasis of mature woodland and ornamental flowering shrubs that provide me with my first Ruby-throated Hummingbird that fed on the bright orange flowers of the fire plants. Other species at this site included a very obliging Barred Owl, several American Redstarts, fly over Chimney Swifts, several Black-throated Blue Warblers, a Swainson’s Thrush, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, Scarlet Tanager and several Tufted Titmouse. Not a bad start !

Our next stop was Seabird Island by the causeway at Port Orange where a large gathering of Brown Pelicans were joined by two American Oystercatchers and some Caspian Terns amongst other Tern species already seen. The tides were higher than Gallus had hoped at this time of day so we agreed to move on and return later in the day when more sand banks would be visible. Flyover birds from the car as we drove down to Merritt Island were six American White Pelicans newly arriving as a winter visitor to Florida, a Peregrine and a Red-tailed Hawk

On Merritt we drove the Shiloh Marsh Road and along the way added many new species for the day including wildfowl such as Blue-winged Teal, Mottled Duck, Shoveler, Pintail, Lesser Scaup and an American Wigeon. My first Reddish Egret and Tree Swallows as well as two skulking Swamp Sparrows

Shorebird numbers were low probably as a result of water levels being kept artificially high leading up to the start of the duck shooting season. Dunlin, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper and a single Semipalmated Sandpiper were all picked out along with some Greater Yellowlegs. Fourteen Roseate Spoonbills were counted on the marsh and a Northern Harrier was quartering.

The day ended back at Port Orange in the fading evening light watching the sand bank at Lighthouse Park, Ponce Inlet. Sadly no Black Skimmers as expected but some Lesser Black-backed Gulls and an adult and juvenile American Herring Gull.

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