Monday, February 18, 2013

STA-5 and Clewiston

I used this past weekend to see the newest addition to the ABA Checklist, the Purple Swamphen, and to enjoy some birding in southern Florida. Instead of battling traffic down from Tallahassee on Friday night and paying an outrageous $25-30 camping fee just to lay out a tent, I woke just after midnight on Saturday and left shortly after. I got to Clewiston just after sunrise and made my way down to STA-5 (Storm Treatment Area), only open to birders during specialized tours. It was open for the GBBC this weekend. On the road leading in, the number of Crested Caracaras seen was impressive.

Crested Caracara
Once I got to STA-5, I opted to go in solo so I could take my time and not be restricted to a schedule. This gave me more flexibility for photography. This area is a hot-spot for Purple Swamphens and they are not hard to find. It took all of 10 minutes to find one and at least 15-20 more were seen throughout my stay.

Purple Swamphen
I had a couple other big targets in mind; Fulvous Whistling-Duck and Snail Kite. The ducks were abundant and cooperative, found in multiple locations.

Fulvous Whistling-Duck
Snail Kite, on the other hand, was more elusive. I spied an adult flying waaaaaaaaaaay far out, only visible with a scope and in no way photographable. But, as luck would have it, I found another adult later that day. This one was actively attacking a small branch to be used as nesting material. It still wasn't close, and I am in no way proud of this picture, but I'm not sure if I'll see another one of these birds this year, so this will have to do for now.

Snail Kite
Even more impressive than the above birds, in my opinion, was the flycatcher selection! I didn't have high hopes of finding all the recently seen flycatchers but fortunately they made themselves very apparent. My first was the continuing Tropical Kingbird. I heard the bird call twice before it flew in. Tropical and Couch's can be difficult to identify in the field without hearing them call. I don't have extensive field experience with this duo, but I have seen them both on several occasions. The bill on this Tropical Kingbird is gigantic, as seen in the photo below, and out of the range of Couch's (I think). If anyone has a problem with this, I could be persuaded otherwise.

Tropical Kingbird
I then drove to the Cassin's Kingbird spot and easily found the bird flycatching from a wire. Upon getting out of my car, another kingbird joined it, this time a Gray!

Cassin's Kingbird
Gray Kingbird
The Cassin's was vocal, giving it's classic "Chi-Vrrr" call on several occasions. It was about this time I decided to head out of the treatment area and look for the Scissor-taileds and Western Kingbird present on Co. Rd. 835. Finding the Scissor-tailed was easy, I just had to find the birders. The extremely long-tailed Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was as cooperative as I could have wanted. I never get sick of this bird!

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
No sign of the Western Kingbird, so I decided to turn around and head toward Clewiston. This proved to be a good plan. Shortly after turning around, there sat a Western Kingbird!

Western Kingbird
I couldn't believe the luck I was having. I followed up on a recent report of Bronzed Cowbirds from the Hoover Dike levee in Clewiston. I couldn't even park my car before finding 4 of them feeding in the grass. I followed them around and later found at least 4 others.

Bronzed Cowbird
I tried to find a place to camp, but most were full, so I drove back north to Gainesville and crashed with Craig. On Sunday morning we birded the La Chua Trail at Paynes Prairie Preserve. This place hosts an abundance of Sedge Wrens and I really wanted to find one of them. It wasn't long before one was seen right along the trail. I do like this wren.

Sedge Wren
All in all it was a very successful, fun, bird-filled weekend. Reports are coming in of Swallow-tailed Kites returning to Florida, and more migrants should be on their way! More pictures from this weekend can be found on the flickr site. Enjoy!

No comments:

Post a Comment