On The Road With 2 New Life Birds

Gulf Islands National Seashore is located on Okaloosa/ Santa Rosa Island, and situated between Destin and Fort Walton Florida. Despite the commercialisation of the wesrwen side of the island, the eastern portion was where my focus was yesterday as I pulled into the parking lot that sits at the foot of Destin Bridge. When I found out that Snowy Plovers nested on this island I knew that I had to make a decent effort to tick off this bird.
Despite a few fisherman I had the whole place to myself as I set off at about 7:30. I was at the far eastern part of island and working my way around the edge due to the fact that the interior was closed off. We have to remember that threatened species nest here so great care is taken to keep 2 and 4 legged animals out.
As I walk the edge I’m seeing Willets, Sandwich, Royal, and Common Terns. A single Ruddy Turnstone, Black Skimmers, and several Peregrine Falcons make for some breath birding. No Snowies yet. I knew they were small and their winter plumage made them difficult to see, but I was beginning to worry that I was going to dip on them.
My head was on a swivel as I worked this stretch of beach. Then I turned around one more time and noticed movement about 15 feet from me. There they were, 2 of them. They blended in so well you might just walk right past them without noticeing.
Well I must have followed them for 30 minutes taking pictures and just looking at how small and cute they were.
I”ll post pictures upon my return.
After leaving the area my next stop, which came highly recommended, was the Fort Walton land fill. As long as you obey their rules a very birder friendly place. I scoped out a holding pond where Common Moorhen, American Coots, and Pied-billed Grebes swam. A lone Snowy Egret really stood out as I noticed several strange ducks swimming far off. I”ve still not been able to I’D them yet, so more to come on that.
I drove further back onto the land fill and pulled over to walk this sandy road that paralleled a fence row. Most of the birds I was seeing were Blue Jays, Brown Thrashers, Northern Mockingbirds, White-eyed Vireos, and a lone American Kestrel. It was during my return to the car when I spooked 2 very small, brownish birds off their roost, across the path in front of me, and onto another tree on the other side. I was shocked to see that they were Common Ground Doves. I got back on them and was able to make a better ID, but they quickly disappeared before I could pull my camera out.
Time for the happy dance!
My goal this vacation was 1 new life bird, and now that I scored 2 of them, everything else was gravy. So were on the road again this morning making our way to the Panama City area and one more chance to do some Florida birding before we”re off to Hilton Head.
Stay tuned, more to come.

On The Road

After a nice leisurely breakfast we set off out of Hattiesburg and pointed the bird mobile south. But before we could even get out of town we had to make a stop so Kathy could pick up a University of Southern Mississippi t-shirt. Which turned out to be pretty good from a birding prospective when I picked up Fish Crow calling from behind the store. It happened to show up beside the store as we were leaving but within camera at the ready no photo proof.
Birding by car can always be a challenge as Kathy reminded me as I was watching this Red-headed Woodpecker fly across my path and landed on a telephone pole.
During a stop at a rest area we were greeted by several Boat-tailed Grackles as they mooched for hand outs. SeverAl more birds were added to my vacation list as we made out way to Destin. Osprey, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Brown Pelican were all seen from the comforting the car.
More casual birds were added after we settled into our room and went for a stroll along the beach. Plenty of Laughing Gulls and Sanderlings with a very cooperative Royal Tern.
Tomorrow will be the big day with me heading out trying for Snowy Plover. Wish me luck.

Addendum

We all like small, unexpected, birding experiences. This morning while having a cup of coffee while lounging in the lobby of the hotel, I noticed a dove that just didn’t seem right. So I got up from the table and wandered outside to check it out. Walking around the property I noticed an open field where a couple of Killdeer were feeding, but no doves.
Making my way back towards the hotel I noticed a lone dove fly down to the ground by one of the hotels side entrances. This was no Mourning Dove. The first thing I noticed about this bird was the white edges along the tail, and the small black cresent collar. Classic Eurasian-collared Dove. Then I noticed another one sitting in a tree, so now I see a chance to get some photos. So I hurried off to the room, picked up my camera, and snapped off some good shots at these very approachable birds.
So let’s add 2 more birds to the trip list
Killdeer
Eurasian-collard Dove

On The Road

Friday morning started out way too early as the alarm rudely interrupted out sleep at 3 am. In the hour We gave ourselves we had to take our showers, make coffee, pack the car, lock up the house and hit the road, for what turned out to be a very , very long day driving. Hattiesburg Mississippi was our ultimate destination after this day of driving, and besides being uneventful, it truly was boring. The landscapes outside of your car windows are constantly changing with Tennessee being the most entertaining, while Alabama, and Mississippi offered the most yawn factor. These states are big pine country and the road goes on and on through such dense pine forests that they warn you that the next exit can be x many miles away. And between these exits, nothing.

And as many good birder will tell you, despite the danger, we still bird while driving. You just can’t help but notice the kettle of Black Vultures, or the Pigeons as you drive along. So as I drive along I’ll tick off birds and add them to my total vacation list.
After arriving in Hattiesburg, and eating some dinner, I crashed and burned.

After breakfast the following day I had some free time go birding. So I was off to Johnson State Park just outside of town.This is the same park I birded in when I was visiting a few years back. They have a nature trail that’s really nice. Well marked trails with thick under growth, with towering pine trees shading the entire area. My window of opportunity was limited, so I had to take advantage of this time before lunch.
Despite my short time here I did see some quality birds.

Today is my last full day in Mississippi before heading off to Florida, and the weather outlook doesn’t look too promising. Rain is in the forecast, however that shouldn’t deter me from going out. I just don’t know how this will effect the birds. We”ll see I guess.

Vacation List
Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
American Crow
Northern Mockingbird
Mourning Dove
Pigeon
Carolina Wren
Carolina Chickadee
Northern Cardinal
Pine Warbler
Hooded Warbler
American Redstart
White-eyed Vireo
Brown Thrasher
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Blue Jay
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Canada Geese
Gray Catbird
Eastern Towhee

“On The Road”

VACATION

This one word that has endless possibilities and adventures. Exploring some new destination. Visiting friends and families in far off places where we normally don’t go. Sleepless nights as the departure date approaches as your suitcase stands at the ready. Studying maps and setting your GPS with all the proper way points pre-programed, has become part of our normal pre-vacation process. Loading up on all the appropriate snacks prior to that long drive has become a time honored tradition families practice without giving it a second thought.  Wouldn’t we all love a nice long vacation right about now? Well I am.

However my pre-vacation check list has a few more items that’s not normally found on other, non-birders lists.

  • Appropriate number of field guides
  • Spotting scope
  • Binoculars
  • Camera with additional batteries and charger
  • Extra SD cards
  • I-Pod with charger (bird calls)
  • Lens cleaning stuff
  • Tripod
  • Samsung tablet with charger (for recording species seen on e-Bird)
  • Birding suitcase (yes, I have one specifically for my optics, books and stuff)

This upcoming road trip/vacation will be 2 weeks in length, which hasn’t happened for a long time. It will be a combination of visiting family and friends, intermixed with leisure/ bird watching.

We’ll be starting out with a long drive to Mississippi to visit my southern side of the family. Mostly to visit my last living aunt and uncle who are both 96 years old. She is my Mother’s oldest sister, and she looks so much like her when she was alive. One of the most gentlest souls you’d ever want to meet.

Then it’s onto Destin Florida where Kathy and myself will spend a few days before traveling to Panama City to visit one of Kathy’s favorite cousins. It’s here in these 2 cities where I’m concentrating my birding efforts.

From Florida it’s off to Hilton Head South Carolina where we’ll be staying with a friend of Kathy who she worked with, who’s now retired. It’s here where I’ll contact my Hilton Head birding friend Rich for a few days of some outstanding birding along the Atlantic coast.

Our last stop will be Asheville North Carolina where we”ll act like real tourists and visit Biltmore House.

The Florida leg of this vacation will prove to be the most difficult as far as birding is concerned. You see I’ve not been to these 2 cities before and knowing where to go birding has caused me to reach out for help through Audubon websites. Our length of stays will also be rather short, which doesn’t help in familiarizing yourself with the lay of the land. Hilton Head is a different subject altogether. having been there twice already I know where to find the birds in the short time there.

Life birds I feel will next to impossible, unless I happen upon a Snowy Plover while in Destin. Most of the Florida specialties are more in the southern/central part of the state, or migration hasn’t brought them this far south. This is yet another frustrating aspect of being a birder.

I will be updating my blog as my birding adventures take shape. Alas I’m still without a means to transfer my photos onto my tablet so I can share my pictures with my readers. This will be remedied before the end of the year as I’ve found the right piece of electronics that will help me  do this.

So on the 26th, we’re off. More to come, so stay tuned.

A Birders Haiku

rock garden

The Mourning Dove calls

Sweet sounds in the afternoon

On a summer day.

By Phil Burgio