Sunday, December 29, 2013

Chasing (and missing) a Godwit at Fred Howard Park

So it was twitch time. With the predicted heavy rain still far off in the Gulf and with a couple hours to spare thanks to my understanding wife, we made a bee-line for Fred Howard Park to look for a possible new Life Bird: A Bar-tailed Godwit. I wasn't even going to try but a post came through that the bird was there now and we arrived in less than 90 minutes at the described location.

We arrived and, as Dad paid the entry fee, I jumped out to scan the flock in the area where the bird was not long ago. The bird...was not there. All we found were a few Marbled Godwits hanging with Willets on the beach.

Marbled Godwit

We decided to walk around the parking lot and take a rest stop. The most obvious birds were Red-winged Blackbirds feeding along the vegetation.

Red-winged Blackbird

Laughing Gulls were resting on top of the restrooms so I had to take a quick close-up while I could.

Laughing Gull

The rain was beginning to move in on us, wave after wave, as we rounded the western edge of the park. Not much there but a Semipalmated Plover.

Semipalmated Plover

Back by the initial flock the best I could discover was a Wilson's Plover. Not too bad, but not the bird I was after.

Wilson's Plover

I had thought I saw a possible candidate bird as we drove in so I opted to go back and see if it was THE bird. Nope. Just another Willet. I had to retreat to the car as the rain increased and we watched another Semipalmated Plover along the embankment.

Semipalmated Plover

On the opposite side of the road I spotted a few Common Loons coasting in the gloom.

Common Loon

Not willing to conceded defeat yet, we headed back and the flock had shifted to the other beach. Right by the road was a small flock of Short-billed Dowitchers in the seaweed.

Short-billed Dowitcher

People were crossing the beaches and flushing the resting flocks, especially the hundred Black Skimmers just looking for a place to relax.

Black Skimmer

Still no Bar-tailed Godwit. Dang. Time to give up. Rain was still coming. On the way home, we made a stop at a water treatment plant where we noticed a TON of ducks on the ponds there. Dad stopped the car and I got out in the pouring rain to get some shots for later processing. Most ducks we have ever seen in one spot ever. I am guessing 6,000 Redhead.


The shot above is just one frame of a couple of dozen I took of the entire scene. I made panoramas of each side but am not sure how to present such a large photo here. I did make sure to take a closer shot of one very lightly colored Redhead before I had to escape the rain. My camera was getting too wet.


We headed home. Life Bird #2 missed for the trip. Oh, well. According to later forum posts, the Bar-tailed Godwit headed North and was spotted miles away and even returned to the first spot after we got back to Orlando. Thanks, Godwit. No year-ending new birds for me. Guess I will just have to gear up for local birds next week.

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