Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Belated Christmas Present: Green-tailed Towhee

Reports flooded in around December 10th that a rare bird had arrived in Pinellas County, FL. A local Audubon group took a trip to a small preserve in Safety Harbor and found a Green-tailed Towhee. The last one reported nearby was in 2003 when I just missed it then. My mind was spinning on trying to get to this bird sometime during the St. Pete CBC but I knew there was no way I could get there in daylight. Sigh.

So, I had to hope that it would stick around for the rest of the year. The next shot I would have would be either Christmas Day or the following morning. As we drove to my parent's house I knew it would be too late to get there on Christmas. Window was closing and it all came down to a couple hours the day after. Fingers were still crossed.

Dad and I headed out just before dawn. I had dreamed about perfect light in case the bird was there. One of my presents was a new IS lens. My old lens was about dead and this was the most amazing gift I have received in a while. Things were lining up. Then the fog rolled in. Perfect light was now removed from the picture.

I had read that an American Wigeon had been seen in a park that was said to host another bird I was after today, a Gadwall. The park was on the way so since it was still cloudy/foggy we swung through to try for the ducks. The Wigeon was spotted as soon as we exited the car.

American Wigeon

We searched around but found no Gadwall. I was surprised to see a bunch of Limpkin, though. We counted at least 6 adults in the relatively small space.


As we rounded a bend, I spotted a Black-crowned Night Heron resting in the trees across the pond.

Black-crowned Night Heron

It seemed the fog was not going to clear quickly so we figured it was time to head to the Towhee spot and get situated. Possum Branch Preserve is a small parcel of land in between a bunch of developed areas but it is well maintained and has a very interesting habitat. I would love to get back there in better weather. As it was, we walked the trails to get to where we were headed and watched Sparrows and Myrtle Warblers fly back and forth on our way.

We reached our destination and waited for a bit. The fog rolled in thicker and it appeared it would be turning into night. Birds shut down. We decided to walk around an edge of the pond and back just to wait for more light. Back at the Towhee spot all we had was a Northern Mockingbird popping up into view.

Northern Mockingbird

Previous posts from the past week and a half suggested that many folks had to wait hours before the Towhee would show itself. This seemed to be later in the day. I decided to get out here closer to dawn. When the birds are more active. Soon after that Mockingbird shot was taken, Dad and I both spotted movement in the bushes. Target acquired! The Towhee was at hand.

Green-tailed Towhee

It came out to scratch for food in the low light. However, the new lens seemed to handle it well. Such a pretty bird. This species is suppose to stay well to the West but we are having a few sightings in Florida this year.

Green-tailed Towhee

It appears someone has thrown bird seed in the area lately. The Towhee seems to like it. I seem to like the Towhee. Nice Life Bird. I took nearly 100 shots before we decide to head back for the Gadwall search.

Green-tailed Towhee

On the way out, the fog was just a bit less dense and some birds began feeding and moving about. Under a Wax Myrtle I noticed a Downy Woodpecker searching the lower branches in the deeper shade. Still, I managed some nice shots as this male probed for insects in the ends of branches.

Downy Woodpecker

Back at the other park the Wigeon was still in its feeding spot. The light was just a bit better.

American Wigeon

We focused hard on every bird we saw, almost willing a Gadwall to appear. No luck. It was nice to find a couple new birds that were not there earlier like a female Wood Duck and a Lesser Scaup.

Lesser Scaup

Several miles were walked. Many ponds were scanned and rescanned. No Gadwall. Oh, well. I will have to find my new Nemesis Bird elsewhere. This park was next to a park called Moccasin Lake so we dropped by to just get a feel of where it was. Dang. Park closed on Mondays. Go figure. BUT! The gate was surrounded by birds. Peacocks, actually.


Several were inside and out. Might as well get a close-up before heading home.


So, 2 out of 3 birds found. Not a bad few hours. Seems I keep getting to pick up a Life Bird every Christmas. Cool that they are so close to family. We all get to share.

Now I can relax until 2012. Nice way to wrap up the birding for the year. Happy New Year!

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