Wednesday, 14 December 2011

More Florida Birding Highlights...

Hello readers. Well, it's been a touch hectic here in sunny Florida, what with all the relaxing, leisurely birding and my ongoing investigation into the state's microbreweries...

Monday was a bit of a write-off bird-wise as we all headed out to some monster outlet mall to indulge in a spot of rampant pre-Christmas consumerism. As it happens, I did add a few birds to the trip list. Floridian favourites such as loggerhead shrike, red-shouldered hawk, wood stork (pictured) and magnificent frigatebird were all seen en route, but eclipsing these fine aves was a rather fine crested caracara perched up in a roadside tree. Off the top of my head, I think this is the first one I've seen north of Mexico, so it was a pleasant surprise to see it sat there.
Once we got 'home', Jenny, Satty and I headed out to the beach to catch the sunset. Of course, there were willets, ruddy turnstones and sanderling on the beach with ring-billed gulls, laughing gulls and passing royal terns. On our way back in the dusky darkness we heard a great horned owl hooting from the confines of a huge banyan tree.

Tuesday was somewhat more productive on the birding front as me and Jenny, along with Paul and Satty, hired bikes and explored the length of Gasparilla Island, and beyond. As we headed out north along the island on the excellent cyclepath, we frequently stopped to check out the mangroves, bays and assorted interesting looking spots. There were loads of yellow-rumped and palm warblers all along the route, plus we got views of a single common yellowthroat and a dazzling northern cardinal. Both turkey and black vultures, American kestrels, Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks and scores of ospreys competed with the white and brown pelicans, various egrets and anhingas for our attention. 
From a small bridge overlooking a shallow bay with exposed sandbars, I could see good numbers of willet, sanderling, black-bellied plover, killdeer and a couple of Wilson's plovers
On the other side of the bridge, another sandbar hosted around 400 black skimmers, plus hundreds of Sandwich and Forster's terns and brown pelicans.
A sizeable flock of feeding warblers were working their way through some roadside trees and, after a little pishing, I was soon surrounded by a horde of palm warblers, and in among them a single pine warbler and smart black-and-white warbler.

On our way, we also saw the lizard pictured here, either consuming a large spider or still sporting its Movember 'tache... (maybe one of my herpetologist pals can identify the reptile?)
After a return to the house for a much deserved cup of tea we cycled down to the south of the island, to the old lighthouse. Brown pelicans and double-crested cormorants were in good supply and a single horned grebe was fishing close to the shore.

On the beach there were good numbers of Sandwich and Forster's terns mixed in with the many laughing gulls (pictured). A bottle-nosed dolphin showed well, passing by just offshore.
The usual shorebirds were present.
We returned the bikes and headed to a bar to sample some local brews and review our plans for the following day... (going in search of a lifer or two - details to follow!)


  1. Hi Jon,

    The lizard with the mouth full of spider is, as far as i can tell, a Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei). Another of the many introduced species found in this part of the world. Originally from Cuba and the Bahamas.