” On The Road”

With just over 2,700 miles driven, 91 different bird species seen, and with 4 of them being life birds, I’d have to say it certainly was a whirl-wind vacation. And with all good things, it must come to and end and reality rears it’s ugly head in the form up going back to work and all the stress that goes along with it. However I am glad to be home and sleeping in my own bed and not eating in restaurants every night.

Like I said it was a whirl-wind vacation where we visited family, friends, and places we’ve never seen before. And being a type of vacation where we’re not in one location for more than a few days at a time, birding proved to be a challenge. Knowing ahead of time where we were staying helped with locating the best places to bird watch, so planning ahead was really important. Making phone calls and studying web sites proved to be the biggest help.

Our first day of driving was going to be the longest as we drove south to Hattiesburg Mississippi. My 95 year old aunt and uncle live there plus a couple of cousins, so even though it was an exhausting drive I picked up some quality birds.

IMG_1304Boat-tailed Grackles were particularly common as they scavenged the rest stops throughout the south.

IMG_1298Being a rarity in the north, down south the Eurasian-collared Dove was quite common, especially along the Gulf Coast.

From there it was a short drive to Destin Florida where we stayed for another couple of days. It was here I picked up 2 life birds, Snowy Plover located at Gulf Islands National Seashore,

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and Common Ground Dove, which I found at the Ft. Walton land fill north of town.

The location of the Snowy Plovers was furnished to me by a contact through the local chapter of the  Audubon Society. The bridge leading west out of Destin onto Okaloosa Island has a parking lot right where the bridge ends. She told me to walk the beach and keep my eyes open.

IMG_1328Royal Terns were a pretty common sight, as were

IMG_1319Sanderlings

IMG_1334Immature Sandwich Tern

IMG_1336A Willet in the surf.

IMG_1373 Black Skimmers

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IMG_1355As I made my way around the edge this is the scenery I was confronted with. Since the Snowy Plover breeds here, it’s off limits to all and is roped off to keep people out. Except for the waters edge, it was nothing but sand and scrubby grasses.

IMG_1367As I passed my way through to the ocean, I really started to pay attention to where I was walking. Except for a few people fishing back by the parking lot, I had this whole area to myself. As I moved about the beach looking for Snowies, something moved.

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IMG_1382Notice that this particular bird is banded.

IMG_1389A closer looks at the bands they use.

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IMG_1396Knowing how threatened these birds are I didn’t want to keep following them, so I took as many pictures as I could, then I left with another bird ticked off my life list.

After leaving Destin we made our way to Chipley Florida, which is 45 minutes north of Panama City. It was here Kathy’s cousin lived, and our next stop for a couple more days. So the morning of our first full day I drove the 45 minutes to St. Andrews State Park.

IMG_1415A view of one of the larger marshes at the park. One thing I noticed about the state parks in Florida that differ from state parks in Ohio, you have to pay to enter.

IMG_1418Common Gallinule

IMG_1421Trails through the park were well marked and maintained. Low trees and scrubs held a nice diversity of birds, particularly migrating warblers.

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IMG_1442Snowy Egret

After our stay in Chipley was over it was onto our next stop, Hilton Head and one of my favorite places to bird, Fish Haul Creek Park. And as was the case on previous visits, as was now, the Piping Plovers were here. The pictures were terrible, so I apologize.

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IMG_1458Piping Plover

The day was beautiful when I took these pictures, so why are they so bad? The sun was at a bad angle, and it was real windy, which made holding the camera still difficult while using the digital zoom on the camera. They are so small, and far away getting a good shot is difficult.

It was here that I got a hot tip about a good location for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers just an hour away. As much as I wanted to stay here, I wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity like this. So i packed it up and drove they hour or so to Webb Wildlife Management Area in Garnet South Carolina.

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The drive as you pulled in a long, gravel road with mature stands of pines with scrubby undergrowth. Perfect Red-cockaded habitat! Plus the nesting trees had white bands around the tree so you can identify them. All you had to do is find a tree, and look for the nesting hole, which is usually covered on the outside with sap.

IMG_1467Red-cockaded Woodpecker nesting hole.

Unfortunately it’s not nesting time, and the couple of hours spent along the road looking for them was in vain, except for the completely by surprise Bachman’s Sparrow that came into view. About as secretive as they come, I was able to “piss” this out into the open long enough for a good ID.

Now you would think finding yet another life bird I would be satisfied. No, I wanted to see this woodpecker. So I parked the car and made my way down a sand road that criss-crosses the wildlife area.

IMG_1468It was along this road where I’d walk 20 yards and stop and scan. walk another 20 yards and repeat. Over and over again.

Then I spooked a woodpecker off a tree. Flying away from me with black nap and tail, and a ladder back, about the size of a Hairy Woodpecker was my Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Time for the Happy Dance! Life was good.

The drive back was euphoric as was the next day as we walked the beach while Brown Pelicans flew past,

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IMG_1518Laughing Gulls looked for scraps to eat,

IMG_1536and a lone Osprey hunted overhead.

However sometimes when you least expect it a really nice bird presents itself at the most unusual of times. We were shopping and just outside the store was a Palmetto Tree, where a Brown-headed Nuthatch flew into. Having my camera at the time, which is surprise in unto itself, I snapped several pictures of this southern specialty.

IMG_1561Brown-headed Nuthatch

IMG_1569The house we were staying at had a patio, where in the morning several palm Warblers were grabbing up all the worms.

But before this trip was over we had just one more stops to make. And boy was it worth every penny and then some.

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As for the birds, here’s my total trip list:

  1. House Sparrow
  2. Wild Turkey (seen through the kitchen window at Biltmore)
  3. Eastern Bluebird
  4. Red-tailed Hawk
  5. Red-shouldered Hawk
  6. Northern Harrier
  7. American Kestrel
  8. Osprey
  9. Peregrine Falcon
  10. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  11. Cooper’s Hawk
  12. Bald Eagle
  13. Turkey Vulture
  14. Black Vulture
  15. Mourning Dove
  16. Eurasian-collared Dove
  17. Common Ground Dove
  18. Pigeon
  19. Northern Mockingbird
  20. Brown Thrasher
  21. Common Crow
  22. Fish Crow
  23. Blue Jay
  24. Carolina Chickadee
  25. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  26. Boat-tailed Grackle
  27. Hooded Warbler
  28. American Redstart
  29. Palm Warbler
  30. Magnolia Warbler
  31. Black and White Warbler
  32. Yellow-throated Warbler
  33. Pine Warbler
  34. Scarlet Tanager
  35. Canada Goose
  36. Blue-winged Teal
  37. Carolina Wren
  38. House Wren
  39. Eastern Towhee
  40. White-eyed Vireo
  41. Red-eyed Vireo
  42. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  43. Northern Flicker
  44. Pileated Woodpecker
  45. Downy Woodpecker
  46. Red-headed Woodpecker
  47. Red-cockaded Woodpecker
  48. White-breasted Nuthatch
  49. Brown-headed Nuthatch
  50. Northern cardinal
  51. Tufted Titmouse
  52. Gray Catbird
  53. Barn Swallow
  54. Killdeer
  55. Snowy Plover
  56. Piping Plover
  57. Black-bellied Plover
  58. Brown Pelican
  59. Ring-billed Gull
  60. Laughing Gull
  61. Sanderling
  62. Least Sandpiper
  63. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  64. Ruddy Turnstone
  65. Royal Tern
  66. Caspian Tern
  67. Sandwich Tern
  68. Common Tern
  69. Willet
  70. Black Skimmer
  71. American Oystercatcher
  72. Double-creasted Cormorant
  73. Snowy Egret
  74. Great Egret
  75. Great Blue Heron
  76. Tri-colored Egret
  77. Cattle Egret
  78. Little Blue Heron (white and blue phase)
  79. Coot
  80. Common Gallinule
  81. Pied Billed Grebe
  82. Ruby Throated Hummingbird
  83. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  84. Eastern Phoebe
  85. Belted Kingfisher
  86. White Ibis
  87. Clapper Rail
  88. Bachman’s Sparrow
  89. Red-winged Black Bird
  90. House Finch
  91. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
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6 responses to “” On The Road”

  1. Great photography. The sand is almost too white.

  2. Wow those are amazing pics, and a lot of great birds, made me wish I was there.

  3. Pingback: Texel sanderlings, robin, and green sandpiper | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Purple sandpiper, eider duck and brent geese of Texel | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: Ruddy turnstones, other birds, at Scheveningen harbour | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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