Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Florida Trip - Day 5

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

This morning we arrived at Honeymoon Island State Park about 15 minutes before they opened. We walked the Osprey Trail, which lived up to its name, with several nests and cooperative individuals along the trail. Part of the trail was closed due to an active Bald Eagle nest. We were rewarded with a couple low fly-bys of eagles, even though we didn't walk out to the end of the trail to see the nest.

We also found many land birds along this trail, including the first Prairie Warbler of the trip. The park is famous for shorebirds, sometimes with "thousands" present, we had to settle for dozens today (though there were many dozens of Royal Terns and Black Skimmers) since it was high tide. But, some of the shorebirds were fairly cooperative for photos, including:

Black-bellied Plover

Piping Plover

Snowy Plover

American Oystercatcher

From here we headed south to the Sarasota area, where we checked the Celery Fields which were supposed to have a few Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks. We succeeded in finding them, though only distantly in the scope, along with many other waterbirds including Glossy Ibis, Wood Stork, lots of coots, Lesser Scaup, and a couple Mottled Ducks. One of the more unexpected birds in this area was a pair of Monk Parakeets, one of which posed nicely on the power lines for photos.

Next, it was on to the Oscar Scherer State Park near the town of Osprey, where we birded in the sandy pine and oak scrub.

One of the first things we saw here, after a couple species of butterflies, was quite a surprise. We found not one, but two different Gopher Tortoises, a lifer for us! The first one was quite shy and "sprinted" off into the brush when we got out of the car. The second one was much more tolerant, and allowed close approach.

Of course the key bird in this habitat is the Florida Scrub-Jay. Finding a family group was impossible on the Green Trail, but a short distance down the Yellow Trail they found us rather quickly, and as expected, tried to land on us! Two of the birds were color banded as part of ongoing research on this Threatened species, while two others were not banded.

With a 400mm lens on my camera, it took quite a bit of backing up to get more than just the bird's head in the frame, as in this shot below.

It was actually just as easy to photograph these birds with my "point-and-shoot" camera.

And this point-and-shoot shot was taken against the sky, but with fill flash, which the birds ignored.

Our last stop of the day was intended to be on Sanibel Island near Ft. Meyers at the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. But, we were running out of daylight so decided to do that tomorrow morning, and stopped for the night at the south end of Ft. Meyers.

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