My girlfriend Alicia Gerrety and I left Pensacola on 1/14 for Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna. We birded there most of Friday afternoon. Our first stop there was at the sink, where we managed to find the large mixed flock right from the parking lot. The flock contained Blue-headed Vireo, Orange-crowned, Pine, Yellow-rumped, a single Black-and-white Warbler, and American Goldfinches among the usual Ruby-crowned Kinglets, chickadees and tirmice. At least three Golden-crowned Kinglets were in the flock, and a Brown Creeper was heard then briefly seen. From the parking lot, we also had two Winter Wrens, as well as two more further down the trail. We heard three Barred Owls, and Hermit Thrushes were very common. At the springs, we had another Winter Wren feeding under the bridge, and yet another Black-and-white Warbler.
We camped at Camel Lake in Apalachicola National Forest, southeast of Blountstown. It was a frigid night, dipping into the teens. In the morning, we met the Tropical Audubon Society, visiting from Miami for their annual north Florida trip, just north of Sumatra. A wet prairie here along the scenic byway has had Yellow Rail in the past. However, we were only able to come up with Sedge Wrens and over a dozen Henslow's Sparrows. We departed the group and made our way to Alligator Point in Franklin County. From the old KOA campground, we quickly spotted a Red-throated Loon. Redhead and Greater Scaup were loosely associated with the many Lesser Scaup. We made an attempt at the Western/Clark's Grebe that was seen several days ago from 1551 Alligator Drive, but only came up with Horned Grebe, Bufflehead, and Red-breasted Mergansers.
We made our way to St. Marks NWR. Our first birds of note were the three Ross's Geese feeding close to the road in a weedy area of Stoney Bayou I. They can be easily overlooked if they make their way behind the vegetation, but are otherwise very obvious. One of the geese is slightly larger, has a more prominent grin patch, and has a hint of yellow wash on the cheeks, so one is a hybrid. At Stoney Bayou II, we found many ducks: Mallard, four American Black Ducks, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, both teal, Canvasback, Redhead, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead and Hooded Merganser. Also, three Black-necked Stilts and Sedge Wrens.
We heard about the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck at Picnic Pond, and refound that with little trouble. There are many American Wigeon on the pond as well.
Lighthouse Pond was full of Canvasback, and had several Ruddy Ducks along with the more common ducks. We booked it to Bottoms Road in Panacea before dusk in hopes of hearing Black Rail. We were able to see and hear many Clappers and two Virginia Rails. Also present were American Bittern, a Barn Owl, Marsh Wrens, and Nelson's and Seaside Sparrow. The owl raised the heart-rate, as Short-eared Owls have been here in the past, and the Seaside Sparrow did as well as it ran in between clumps of spartina grass in the very low light. We dipped on the Black Rail.
Instead of birding with Tropical Audubon on the morning of 1/16, we headed back to the Pensacola area for the Sage Thrasher. We were able to refind it fairly quickly, although the first few looks were fleeting. The Green-tailed Towhee was also at it's usual location. We sat on the bench in the immediate area it frequents and watched it feed ten or fifteen feet away. It has certainly lost it's shyness. A single adult Lark Sparrow was feeding at the northwestern corner of the fort parking lot.
On the way back to Pensacola, we stopped at Quietwater Beach, which is just south of the toll booth. Among the ducks were a pair of Common Goldeneye.
I also realized that I accidentally posted what was meant to be saved as a draft last night regarding the thrasher. I have not figured out how to type on my iphone without constantly pushing the wrong buttons and obviously pushed send.
Miami and Pensacola
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