Nine locations, 93 species, 2,082 individual birds, 11 hours and 20,000+ steps are the numbers I reported for my marathon day of birding. Bob Mercer and I spent the long day doing social distancing while birding. Six others joined us at varying locations to participate in the fun. Let me tell you more about my day.
We started the day at 6:30 with a visit to Camp St. Christopher. We were granted permission to bird in this closed facility. (Our individual donations to the Camp were appreciated!) Bob was able to identify the numerous birds we heard in the dawn chorus. The day started with Painted Buntings and Summer Tanagers. 46 species were seen on our 2.7 mile walk. (Mark Andrews admitted he didn’t realize such long trails could be hidden in the relatively small gem.) At the slough (with very high water) we saw a flock of Cedar Waxwings that had yet to go north. Near there, we also heard a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and two Black-throated Blue Warblers. This was also the only location we reported a White-eyed Vireo, a Red-eyed Vireo or Eastern Kingbird.
Our second location of the day was the always interesting North Beach. The wind was chilly and brutal but we saw 45 species and almost 3 miles. One Piping Plover, American Oystercatchers (including the infamous U5), a small number of Red Knots, Wilson Plovers, Black-bellied Plovers and Least Terns were seen. In greater abundance were Semipalmated Plovers (700), Semipalmated Sandpipers (75), Dunlins (125), Sanderlings (100), and Royal Terns (75). Of course, Brown Pelicans and Laughing Gulls were there as well. On the return walk from the spit, a Savannah Sparrow was seen running along the dune.
The last stop of the morning probably had the greatest concentration of birds. We stopped to see the rookery on the golf course lagoon that backs to houses on The Haulover. We had to guess at the numbers of birds as they were everywhere. Some Great Egrets had penthouse nests on tops of palms. Wood Storks were still constructing their nests. Great Egrets and Snowy egrets were feeding their young. Even Cattle Egret were in residence at this commune as were several pairs of Anhinga. A total of 15 species were seen in this brief stop.
The afternoon started with a walk around Palmetto Lake. A mature male Orchard Oriole, a female Orchard Oriole and a first-year male all gave us good views to get a good comparison of the varying plumage. In one hour and about three quarters of a mile, 30 species were seen.
First seen at this location then seen again later in the day were Northern Rough-winged Swallows and a beautiful Mississippi Kite. When a European Starling crossed our path, we could eliminate the Horse Pasture from our scheduled itinerary and make up for lost time.
The Maintenance Area was next on our stop. The 29 species were all seen in less than .2 mile and a half hour. By this time, our legs appreciated this. Highlights were three Mississippi Kites circling along with two Red-shouldered Hawks. A mama Killdeer was there with her chicks.
An elegant Black-necked Stilt was seen. 25 Least Sandpipers were near at hand. When planning our day, this was the location we hoped to see the Spotted Sandpiper. There were four here but we also saw them bobbing their tails at three other locations.
Jenkins Point resulted in 33 species over 1.4 mile. Although seen in five locations, the 10 Green Heron seen here were the peak. One was building a nest and another posed nicely for a photo. There were no species seen only at this location but 13 Black-crowned Night Herons were another highlight. All participants admired but stayed clear of the numerous “baby” alligators. It was agreed, those were probably either one or two years old.
Nancy Brown joined Bob and I for our last stop at Bohicket Marina. The Eurasian Collared-Dove was the goal for this stop. It was an easy find since one is nesting on Nancy and Flo’s porch. Other unique finds within the 21 species seen were Chimney Swifts and Black Skimmers (missed at North Beach).
After I was home and enjoying that glass of wine, I was able to add to my day’s list with a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, a Wild Turkey, and a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak. As night settled in, I heard the Chuck-will’s-Wwidow as my 93rd species of the day.
“Expected” but not seen were Eastern Towhee, White-breasted Nuthatch (Friday’s sighting didn’t count), any owls, and Black-and-white Warbler. With these notable misses, I may have to try again next year with a goal of 100 species.
Submitted by: Judy Morr