Sunday, December 18, 2011

St. Pete CBC, 2011

Ready for the tale? CBC stories last a while. Kick back.

I had the pleasure of joining long-time friends and birding activists Don and Lorraine Margeson for their crew on this latest St. Pete Christmas Bird Count (CBC). I have been helping out for years in other areas but it was nice to hang out with them and see some new territory in the county. We did very well with species and numbers counts. The weather was perfect! The past two years were rather cold and miserable so it was excellent to dress for the warm weather and go bird counting.

Don and I did some pre-dawn birding in the neighborhood and scored 5 Screech Owls and other local birds in the dark. Later, we gathered as the Sun rose and began to grab the birds we knew were around before sweeping the general area. The main bird we needed to add was the Lark Sparrow that Don first found last year. It returned this year and it was a Life Bird for a couple of us.

Lark Sparrow

I caught a few shots with my ailing lens in the harsh morning light, but at least they were good enough for ID shots.

Lark Sparrow

I have had a Lark Sparrow before on the East coast of Florida but it hid until I drove away so I heard it and saw it from my rear view window then. Now I had it right in front of me. Next year I should be better armed.

Lark Sparrow

Don and I went through the water treatment plant right before dawn and recorded more birds along the way before heading back to his house to gather forces with Lorraine and Marianne before heading out into the light of day. From their house we tallied a lot of birds flying out into the area as the sun rose.

Our next stop as a group was back at the treatment plant to try and flush birds from the grasses and to listen for others passing overhead. here, Don and Danny Sauvageau watch the edge of the marsh for sparrows. Danny pegged some incoming Green-winged Teals soon afterwards.

Danny and Don

I beat the bushes as the rest of the crew stayed up top and after I spooked an otter in the reeds, I got a shot of one of the seen Marsh Wrens around the pond.

Marsh Wren

In small waves, Black-hooded Parakeets would sail overhead. There have been reports of flocks over 500 in number in the area lately. Can't imagine the noise.

Black-hooded Parakeet

Taking more time to get a fix on the birds we were searching for, Lorraine and Marianne help track down our Grasshopper Sparrow for the day.


We recorded many more species along the way but this moment was interesting. An Anhinga with a fish impaled on its bill was moving along a retention pond. Not only does it seem that the bird can't really get the fish down its throat but what you don't see is the Great-blue Heron and Great Egret stalking the Anhinga to steal the fish. It was fun to watch.


Next, back to the house for lunch and a look around. We found a Hermit Thrush, American Redstart and other birds along the way. Plus, White Peacock butterflies were everywhere.

White Peacock

On the way to pick up lunch, we stopped by a housing development. On the way in we spotted a bunch of water-loving birds but didn't stop to photograph them. Fortunately. most of the same species were right a around the corner, including a remarkable flock of nearly 300 Lesser Scaup.

Lesser Scaup

One of the birds near the entrance and now here was a White Pelican.

White Pelican

One of the fun parts of CBCs is grabbing all the little unseen ponds along the way. At one such stop we found gulls, Ring-necked Ducks, and a few Pied-billed Grebes.

Pied-billed Grebe

Our final territory for the day was the golf course. We tallied up even more species while waiting for carts and then headed out around the course as our day was rapidly coming to a close. Fortunately, we racked up some more good birds for the count. In the weedy areas were Song Sparrows and Prairies Warblers.

Prairie Warbler

One of our 9 Loggerhead Shrikes posed long enough for a nice photo.

Loggerhead Shrike

As you try to get every bird counted by the end of the day, even a Northern Mockingbird counts as a nice find.

Northern Mockingbird

As does another Anhinga around the course.


We still managed to grab a few more species out on the golf course, including House Finch and this nearly hidden White-winged Dove. Every species counts!

White-winged Dove

We ended up shy of the past few years counts but the weather was way different all across the country. Results will still be pouring in from other sites and soon we will get an overall view of bird patterns in North America. Can't wait for the results. Can't wait for next year, either.

No comments: