Sunday, April 7, 2013

Riding the Wave

It seems the first big push of neotropical migrants has hit Florida and is moving north. I took advantage of the weekend and did some scouting/birding/photographing. Like last weekend, I had high hopes of seeing a Swainson's Warbler.

On Saturday I departed Tallahassee at 3:30am for Fort  De Soto. But first, I stopped at Sawgrass Lake Park in St. Petersburg where Short-tailed Hawks are nesting. I hung around for two hours with no luck. If I've ever had a nemesis bird, it is Short-tailed Hawk in Florida. I've seen them twice in SE Arizona, but can't find one in Florida! I've been in the glades in the winter, to their breeding grounds in spring and summer, and along their spring migration path with no luck.One of these days...

So I went to Fort De Soto where plenty of migrants are being reported. I stopped at the East Beach Turnaround where I saw a Piping Plover mixed in with the Semipalmated Plovers, and my first-of-year Least Terns were resting on the beach.

Least Tern
 I then went to North Beach where, in the roped off area, a Long-billed Curlew has been seen. It didn't take long to spot it.

Long-billed Curlew
So I made my way into the woods. The Arrowhead Trail hosted at least 2 Swainson's Warblers on Friday. I was hopeful at least one would still be around. Ran into a few other birders right at the beginning and there was quite a bit of bird activity. Blue-headed Vireo, Hooded Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler and Blue-winged Warbler all moved through the area.

Blue-winged Warbler

Worm-eating Warbler with a stick through the picture
 It is going to be tough getting acceptable pictures of some of these forest loving birds. Light is usually very low. Even shooting at ISO 1600, I was only managing 1/250 shutter-speed at best. A monopod is sounding pretty good right now...

A little further down the trail was where the Swainson's Warbler was being seen. I passed a few people who said they just had it. Needless to say, I got a bit excited. Swainson's Warblers are notoriously hard birds to see on their breeding grounds. They aren't too hard to hear if you are in the right area, but seeing them can be tough. I've only seen one previously, and it was in a dark forest and looks weren't great. If you can find them while they are migrating, however, they can be quite confiding. I was very pleased to find the bird right where it had been reported. Of course, it was skulking and flipping leaves in the dark, shady understory. By fidgeting with my camera settings, I was able to get this shot. This was one of my major targets while in Florida, and a bird I've been dreaming of getting better looks at. This, alone, was worth the drive!

Swainson's Warbler
Hooded Warblers seemed to be everywhere. At the east beach picnic area, there were at least 4-5 birds hopping around the grass much to the delight of the many birders here.

Hooded Warbler
After enjoying the park, I made my way back to Sawgrass to see if a Short-tailed Hawk might be flying. Nope.

These, and a few more pictures of varying quality (the pictures, not the birds) can be found on the Flickr page. 

Today (Sunday) I went to St. Marks, but more on that later.

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