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Two days of birding the gulf coast

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  • Jeff Bouton
    On Sunday (6/29) I hooked up with Mr. Simpson for a look around Charlotte and Lee Counties. We met at the Charlotte Auditorium where for the first time we
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2003
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      On Sunday (6/29) I hooked up with Mr. Simpson for a look around Charlotte
      and Lee Counties. We met at the Charlotte Auditorium where for the first
      time we didn't detect the male House Finch in its usual haunts. It very
      well may have been around somewhere, I've always seen it in the afternoon,
      and we didn't check the surrounding neighborhood at all. The Gray Kingbirds
      were present though. From this starting point, we made our way over to
      Washington Loop road in an attempt to pad David's Charlotte County list. We
      saw the White-winged Doves, the Red-headed Woodpeckers, and the FL Scrub
      Jays among others here.

      Then we headed south to Babcock Webb, and pulled a quick swing through. Our
      intent here was to show David where I've been finding birds as opposed to
      actually bird the area. None-the-less, we did pick up Hairy Woodpecker,
      Nuthatches, and Bachman's Sparrow among others. Unfortunately, we didn't
      see a Red-cockaded which ruined my 100% success rate at finding all 3 pine
      specialties on every trip this year. Although we didn't make any concerted
      effort to try and find them. A shame since we had a 6 woodpecker day going.

      After leaving the Webb, we made a loop along the Caloosahatchee first to
      Caloosahatchee Regional Park where we discovered mosquitos and fire ants,
      but not many birds mid-day. The botany provided a good distraction though,
      David's well trained eye noticed every exotic species along the trail and I
      learned a lot about plants (that I will likely forget most of before I have
      the opportunity to use again, unfortunately). We then swung down through
      Alva, across the river, and backtracked along SR 80 to Hickey's Creek
      Mitigation Area. I found this area a lot more interesting than
      Caloosahatchee regional as it was much more diverse habitat wise. Again
      birds were a bit scarce but more prevalent than our last stop. I found it
      more scenic as well, and we saw some neat orchids and air plants. At the
      parking area there was a bizarre distant song that didn't fall well into
      any species. It was a clear-toned open warble fringing on single slurred
      notes. It was reminiscent of one of the typical songs of Yellow-rumped...
      At any rate, it never showed itself and didn't sound like any of the
      warbler species that are supposed to be here at this time of year (more on
      this later).

      From here we stopped in downtown Olga for gas and McDonald's chocolate
      shakes, and then it was south to Daniel's
      parkway. Our next stop was Six Mile Cypress Slough (or do we need to call
      that Ben C. Pratt slough ;). Here we added Titmouse and 6 Swallow-tailed
      Kites to the slowly growing list. Austin had a ball here moving from one
      marked spot to the next with his guide map. He'd run ahead and excitedly
      shout back to us, "I found #4!" Yeah, David got the real feel for what it's
      like birding with the four year old...... I'm sure he's more appreciative
      of "the punk" now! Our final stop of this day was Lakes Park which by the
      time we had completed the grand tour brought us to near 7:30 PM. All in
      all, this inland loop in the heat of the day only provided us with about 68
      species. The shore species were poorly represented, and the only bird of
      note per se, was the mystery singer.

      It bothered me so much in fact that I contacted Vince McGrath to ask him
      about it and went so far as to offer to meet him there the following
      morning. Only I was late and missed him. I did see the bird though, quite
      easily. It was singing right over the car when Austin and I finally arrived
      at 9:00 AM, I had my camera slung ready to document this "odd bird",
      unfortunately the only thing odd was the song. A male Pine Warbler sat
      above me uttering a song more reminiscent of a Yellow Warbler than anything
      trilled. Oh well, another mystery solved. In retrospect I noted that Juncos
      in Alaska have an alternate song very similar this and not resembling a
      trill at all that fooled me the first time I heard this as well. Oh well
      we're always learning. So an hour drive south for a 30 second view of an
      odd PIne Warbler singing, but at least I can sleep at night now! ;)
      Unfortunately, Austin and I had planned to head north on this day so back
      in the car and drive.

      We arrived at the Celery Fields a bit before 11:00 AM and stayed here for
      about 4 hours including a great father/son picnic at the gazebo and some
      fantastic photo ops. So many in fact I wound up burning an all of the film
      I'd brought leaving me none for Fort Desoto. One of the Wood Storks and a
      brazen Limpkin absolutely defied me to take their pictures so I did, the
      young Bald Eagles offered excellent opportunities for documenting plumage
      variation, my first Meadowlark nest took a bit more film and the amazing
      assortment of dragonflies were the last. Anyone know the name of that
      absolutely amazing mid-sized crimson-colored gem of a dragonfly? Even its
      head is brilliant Red, awesome critter!

      Next stop Fort D. starting at about 4:00 PM ( I had to stop and buy an
      overpriced roll of Kodachrome at Eckerd's en route). At the East Beach turn
      around, four Spoonbills were once again oblivious to my approach bringing
      an end to another roll of film. Also here were a handful of lingering
      shorebird species (all in non-breeding plumages) including many SB
      Dowitchers, a handful of Red Knots (still gray), a single Western and a
      single Least Sandpiper, and a few Black-bellied Plovers in with the many
      Wilson's and Semipalmated Plovers. Between here and the North Beach (the
      only two spots I visited) we also had 6 species of Tern (Least, Common,
      Forster's, Sandwich, Royal, and Caspian (7 with Skimmer)) and I added a
      lone Piping Plover to the species mix along with 4 Marbled Godwits,
      Willets, and Reddish Egrets.

      Grand species total for day two 82, total for both days 96. Not earth
      shattering, but more importantly, the peanut and I enjoyed another great
      wildlife adventure together culminating in an evening at the beach catching
      and releasing, hundreds of live sand dollars, Crowned Conchs, and dozens of
      hermit crabs in a variety of shells. On the way home near 9:00 PM, Austin
      beamed, "Daddy, today was a great day!" ....... I couldn't have agreed more.

      Good birding,

      Jeff Bouton
      Port Charlotte, FL
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