Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Birding

The chance of rain didn't scare me away from trying to find a few migrants on this Easter Day. I would have rather spent it with family, but they are all in Michigan and I'm here in Florida.

My first stop was St. George Island. St. George is one of the panhandles best migrant traps (or so I hear), so I thought a few of the earlier warblers might be kicking around. I was secretly hoping for a Swainson's Warbler, but that didn't pan out. In fact, there were relatively few migrants on the island. If I had to pick a best bird... the Prairie Warblers or the Yellow-throated Warbler I guess. Still, it was nice to get acquainted with the place where I fully expect to see some serious migration in the coming weeks.

On my way off the island, I was ready to head east, but I quickly remembered about the Sprague's Pipits at Apalachicola Airport. Last report I know of was of 8 birds on Feb 16 via eBird. I've seen Sprague's Pipit a few times over the past couple years, always in winter in SE Arizona, so I know how tricky they can be to find. Going on a solo mission, I didn't have high hopes of seeing one and knew it would take a bit of luck to get a photograph. Nevertheless, I signed in at the office and started walking the recently mowed and very, very short runway edges. Not 5 minutes later, a Sprague's flushed only a short distance. It was easy to follow it through the sparse, short cover.

The most cooperative Sprague's Pipit I've ever seen
I moved east to Alligator Point where I was hoping for some seabirds close to shore given the strong south winds. It wasn't to be, but Black and Surf Scoters were mixed in with the scaup. As I was leaving, a pair of Swallow-tailed Kites were flying along the road. I sure do love these birds!

Swallow-tailed Kite
Bald Point was my next stop where I hoped to pick up some more migrants and shorebirds. Migrants were actually pretty active at the northern end of Bald Point Road. Northern Parulas were abundant. This is where I picked up my FOY Red-eyed Vireo.

Red-eyed Vireo
On the beach at Bald Point were a couple hundred shorebirds. Sanderling, Willet and Ruddy Turnstone were everywhere. Marbled Godwits also seemed to be congregated in this small area of beach and seemed accustomed to people. I watched as the Godwits probed the sand, flicking up bits of debris every time they withdrew their bill. The Turnstones caught on and took advantage of the free meal.

Marbled Godwit
While birding St. George in the morning, I ran into Barbara Mann from Ontario. We chatted while birding and she told stories of Prothonotary Warblers. The place is Otter Lake. This was my next stop. I went behind the bathrooms, just like she said, and wouldn't you know it, a singing Prothonotary Warbler (Thanks, Barb!). The bright yellow and blues of this warbler are spectacular! This would have been a nice picture, too, if that tree hadn't got in the way (just kidding, trees are good).

Prothonotary Warbler
The winds were getting out of control, my radio listening was interrupted with news of severe weather, and I was getting hungry so I drove back to Tall Timbers. Quite a nice day to be out, saw some great birds, and had a great time.

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Happy Easter!

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