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.

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