Sunday, December 21, 2014

2014 CBC in St. Pete, Part 1

That time of year again. Christmas Bird count in St. Petersburg, FL for another year. This time it would be at a new location for me and I was put on a team with Professor Elizabeth Forys from Eckerd College and Becki Smith, one of my volunteers from the Wekiva Basin Banding site. We started before dawn trying to locate some owls or Rails but were unsuccessful.

So, we headed to the water for a search for shorebirds at sunrise. We parked and hit the small beach right at dawn.


Even in low light we could quickly make out birds such as Short-billed Dowitchers, Black-bellied Plovers, and American Oystercatchers. It was the first time I have seen a juvenile (left) foraging with an adult.

American Oystercatcher

Out in the open water we could see nearly a dozen Red-breasted Mergansers searching for breakfast by dipping their heads just under water to look for prey and then paddling off to a new spot.

Red-breasted Merganser

Back near the bridge, a Herring Gull stood on the sea wall and was lit up by the rising Sun.

Herring Gull

Soon, a pair of Ruddy Turnstones inched their way toward me until the first was right below my camera before scooting past to examine the beach again.

Ruddy Turnstone

Before we left, I took note of the view to the South. The Sunshine Skyway bridge was jutting up in the morning glow

Sunshine Skyway

Making our way to Isla Del Sol, we parked along the road and searched the area for anything we could add to our growing list of birds. Monk Parakeets flocked by and landed on wires while an Osprey flew past with a morning meal.


Not far behind, a Wood Stork traversed to wires over the intersection for a feeding spot across the road.

Wood Stork

I noted aloud the ever increasing stands of Brazilian Pepper everywhere we traveled today. Getting worse all the time.

Brazilian Pepper

We added a few more species before we moved along. House Wrens and Catbirds were playing hide-and-seek while a Northern Mockingbird proved to be not so shy.

Northern Mockingbird

Our next stop was Eckerd college. Becki and I ticked Northern Cardinals and another Catbird while Beth searched for Muscovy Ducks. I had to duck under several Spiny Orb Weaver webs along the way.

Spiny Orb Weaver

Near Beth's office, Myrtle Warblers were flocking in large numbers but I was drawn more to a spot that sounded like a larger bird thumping on tree trunks. It turned out to be a smaller bird tapping palm fonds. A Yellow-throated Warbler. It posed for a few seconds before disappearing into the gloom again. Nearby, we added a Black and White Warbler.

Yellow-throated Warbler

As we rounded the corner of a building we could hear a soft call from one of the palm trees. A Red-shouldered Hawk bolted out on approach and flew over to a nearby pine.

Red-shouldered Hawk

A couple of minutes later the Red-shouldered Hawk swooped to the ground to examine something int he grass. I was sure it had captured something but all it did was tap the ground a few times before flying off to another lot.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Immediately to my left, a Brown Pelican dove into the water and was followed by two more quickly afterward. The latter two flew off but the first drifted by to give me a once over.

Brown Pelican

We were about to leave this spot when we started hearing a strange call out in the pines. A short detour took us to a stand of trees where we finally found the source of the calls. A pair of Loggerhead Shrike. Don't usually hear that noise as Shrikes tend to be more solitary.

Loggerhead Shrike

Beth said we should start finding more ducks in the next set of ponds and as we got to the next section of the campus we did find our first Winter ducks of the day. A trio of Ring-necked Ducks.


We then spent a while counting Mottled Ducks and a variety of hybrids in this pond. Seems they come in so many varieties. I need to delve into the full range of mixes soon but we don't get that many Mottled Ducks in Orlando proper.

Mottled Duck

In the next post I will conclude our discoveries. It was a faily short day but full of photos. Too many for one comfortable blog post. Part Two to follow soon!

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