Sunday, December 16, 2012

St. Pete CBC, 2012

That time again. Time for the big kick-off of all of the state's Christmas Birds Counts. I help out my friends on the Gulf Coast every year. It is nice to get back over to the Gulf side and see some birds I don't see on a regular basis and try to grab some important species for the cause.

I arrived at War Veteran's Memorial Park ahead of the gang to try and get some Screech Owls and locate the Great-horned Owls before dawn. After a long walk to the ranger's house I managed to get one Screech Owl calling back to my recorded calls but no Great-horned. Seemed they were all the way back by the parking lot where I found Rocky Milburn and Mike Judd looking up in the dark at our pair. Jim Wells soon followed just ahead of our leader for the day, Charlie Fisher.

With the owls on the list, we began to scan to water at dawn. Here, the crew is at the end of the boat ramp docks as the Sun begins to rise.

2012 Crew

Looking back from the dock, adult Brown Pelicans light up nicely in the new day's rays peaking over the horizon.

Brown Pelican

We tallied up the pelicans, Oystercatchers and thousands of Fish Crows and headed to Joe's Creek as the fog dropped in over the area. Can't seem to get away from the fog the past couple of weeks. Bad thing about fog is that birds don't like to fly much in it. So, I had to settle for finding birds in the marsh like a Marsh Wren and this Swamp Sparrow.

Swamp Sparrow

As we turned around to head off, we found another reason the birds weren't flying. A Red-shouldered Hawk was perched silently behind us.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Up near the baseball field, a Common Ground Dove flushed from the grasses and settled on the fence.

Common Ground Dove

At the dead-end at the back of the property, an Osprey scans the surroundings.


We added a lot more species before we left the area and I came away with a nice souvenir. A discarded or forgotten machete that had seen better days but an interesting discovery. On the way out of the area we stopped by the treatment plant and located a few more species, including a Black-crowned Night Heron.

Black-crowned Night Heron

We headed off to the next stop and added Snipe, Mergansers, and American Coots to the list.

American Coot

Hunger got the best of us and we settled in for a regroup and then went straight for a nearby parking lot where we added a much needed Ring-billed Gull. Pretty as this bird was, it seemed to be mute. It made calling motions several times but no sound came out.

Ring-billed Gull

Off to our left, Wood Storks gathered. I felt like making this a black and white version for some reason. We headed back to War Veteran's Memorial Park to have another look around in the daylight.

Wood Stork

One of our golas here was a Yellow-crowned Night Heron. There used to be one that lived in a certain spot and was easy to find. Not so much today. I made a big loop through the mangroves and park of the park as the Charlie and Rocky scoped the water. Before that we did find a female Black Scoter!) It was very quiet and all I could find was a Great Blue Heron up in a pine tree, of all places.

Great Blue Heron

Back down at the water I found a couple of Ruddy Turnstones out on the rocks but no other birds near shore. Instead, I found mating Horseshoe Crabs along the beach.

Horseshoe Crab

I headed back to the point to meet back up with the guys. As I waited I found myself in a feeding flock of Myrtle and Palm Warblers. I stood still and watched as several Palm Warblers formed a crude line 30 yards away from me and began foraging toward me. Eventually, a gorgeous Eastern Palm Warbler was mere feet away and allowed a nice shot.

Eastern Palm Warbler

One last stop before the end of the day. We headed next door to the Veteran's hospital. We scanned the water and came away with a few more herons and an Egret. We headed out and decided to check the cemetery. Nothing there but we heard a sweet, loud call nearby and got out to search. The last bird of the count for us: Black and White Warbler.

Black and White Warbler

Over 80 species for us today and the total for the count area ended up being a respectable 162 species. Might try to do more than one CBC next year. Just need a little more planning. Now I have to finish planning for Christmas.

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