Saturday, January 12, 2008

Kissimmee Prairie Sparrow Roundup

Finally time for a little Kissimmee Prairie sparrow round-up again after having to miss the last date. This round-up was fairly typical but did bring a few surprises.

As I was loading up the van at 4:30 AM, I glanced up at the telephone pole at the end of the neighbor's driveway for some reason. Even in the near dark, I could tell that there was some other shape atop the pole and quickly grabbed the binoculars. Definitely the shape of an owl!

Barred Owls and even a few Screech Owls have started showing up nearby but this one looked much larger. I attempted to focus on the dark shape and hoped I could get at least some ID from the shot. To my surprise, it turned out to be a Great-horned Owl! The first I have ever recorded in this area.

Great-horned Owl

I found this to be a good sign for the day to come and headed off 3 hours to the south.

I arrived near the front gate right at dawn and listened in on the waking birds around me. I was pleased to hear an American Woodcock over the morning calls of a distant rooster. I tried to get a recording of the Woodcock but it soon ceased calling but I did begin hearing another call that seemed very strange.

I managed to get some recordings of it by sticking the tape recorder out of the van's window but I could not find the singer. It was totally new to me, almost robotic. Maybe I had found some new sparrow to add to my list.

I stepped out of the van and decided to play the call back toward the brush and see what might happen. TO my surprise, the birds flew directly toward me. They were not anything new to me, though. Turned out to be Eastern Towhee's, a male and female, and the male started his strange call again just 4 feet in front of me!

I am used to Towhee calls, but this one seemed to have a completely new and alien dialect.

Eastern Towhee

I usually take my time driving toward the banding site and I still find the abandoned farm house an interesting sight.

Farm House

Moving on, I drove down the road to see what else might be up before I had to help with the net array. Down near the campground, a flock of turkey crossed the road and passed in front of me.


Off in the distance, I noticed some Savannah Sparrows out in the grasses and I had to head over to join the arriving crew. THere was an impressive amount of volunteers for the day, each hoping to find some new bird for their lists and some close-up photos of seldom seen species.

Most of the birds captured were fairly typical. The most exciting point of the day, however, was the Yellow Rail we flushed on one of our early rope drags. It flushed just feet in front of us a few times before heading toward the net directly in front of me. I jumped the rope line in hopes of getting a good capture but the bird dropped into the bottom panel of the net and rolled out and managed to escape across the road from us.

Luckily, we all got great looks as it flew just a couple of feet above the scrub several time. Life Bird for all of us!

We recorded many Bachman's, Grasshopper, and Savannah Sparrows as well as a couple of Sedge Wrens before we had to call it a day. Not bad.

On the way home back out of the park, I got a good dose of Loggerhead Shrike views before I prepared for the long trek home.

Loggerhead Shrike

I also had a 'warning' from a Northern Mockingbird not long before that.

Northern Mockingbird

Though we didn't get as many sparrows as we had hoped, any day with a great Life Bird is a good one.

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