Friday, January 23, 2015

Meeting Jay-Z ... Well, really, it was JZ

Female (l) and male Northern Shovelers with an American Coot (r)

This Ring-billed Gull watched me dip on the duck!
Suppose I offered you this scenario ...

You make a three hour drive, stake out a location, get a lifer, have some dinner somewhere, maybe bird some in a National Wildlife Refuge, and drive home.

OR ...

You make a three hour drive, stake out a location, miss the lifer, decide to go birding in a National Wildlife Refuge, meet a really famous person in the birding world whose work you have read quite a bit, spend some delightful time chatting and birding with said person, and leave with a terrific story to tell other birders.

Normally, I'd pick a lifer over almost anything, but a recent encounter has changed my mind.  Let me tell you about it.

Lesser Scaup
The goal was a Long-tailed Duck that had been hanging out around Parrish Park near the entrance to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  I had already dipped once on this species during a tremendous rainstorm near Portland, Oregon, and I wanted to see it!  So the Red Van Gang (The RVG) made the long trek from Gainesville early on a Wednesday morning.  While a Ring-billed Gull watched us, we made a diligent search of the waters near the park.  There were plenty of scaup, but the  Long-tailed Duck wasn't there.  So we were faced with a choice.  Should we continue the stakeout in order to give us the best chance of getting a life bird, or should we head into the refuge to bird along Blackpoint Drive and Biolab Road?  After a brief discussion we decided on the latter choice and resolved to return to Parrish Park later in the afternoon for a second shot at the bird that was formerly known as an Oldsquaw.

American Coot
I love looking at ducks.  I think they are among God's most beautiful creatures.  And in the winter, Merritt Island can be a duck-watcher's paradise.  I've been there when the number of ducks was in the thousands for each of a dozen or more species.  This day was not like that, but it still offered plenty to see.  We started along Blackpoint Drive and soon encountered nearly all of the expected waders.  White and Glossy Ibises were abundant, but I couldn't find a White-faced all day.  Wood Storks; Snowy Egrets; Great, and Little Blue and Tricolored Herons seemed to be present wherever the eye turned.

But I was eager to see ducks ... so eager that I almost missed something I'm glad I saw.  American Coots are present here in Florida in huge numbers.  It isn't unusual to see thousands on a walk around a lake, so I tend to overlook them.  But one Coot was close at hand, and its red frontal shield was more prominent than on any other Coot I've ever seen.  I thought it was gorgeous, and I was lucky enough to get the shot on the left.

Roseate Spoonbill
We made one stop to look at some American Avocets and to watch several Reddish Egrets hunting nearby.  There were also a few Blue-winged Teals and Northern Shovelers in the area.  Then another birder told me to look through the bush right in front of me.  There stood a Roseate Spoonbill, just a few feet away.  How can you look at that bird and not smile in delight?  Not possible!

Another stop held some White Pelicans, Pied-billed Grebes and Hooded Mergansers.  What a contrast in size!  Some Yellow-rumped Warblers and at least one Common Yellowthroat danced around in the bushes along the road while a flock of Tree Swallows put on an impressive display of aerial skills.

A bit farther along the road we found the pool where the Northern Pintails like to hang out.  Once again they were present in decent numbers.  I think the Northern Pintail is an elegant looking bird.  The brown, white and gray are displayed with clean lines, artistically aligned with a graceful swirl.  I found myself taking dozens of photos because I just couldn't stop!

Northern Pintail
Finally we found ourselves at one pool studying some American Wigeons and Green-winged Teals.  Another birder pointed out to us a bird that he thought was a Eurasian Wigeon.  We got our scopes on it and studied.  We weren't convinced.  Then as we stood there another car drove up.  One of the RVG members whispered, "That's Julie Zickefoose!"  Now, for you non-birders (Hi Judy!!), Julie Zickefoose is a well known birding author, artist, blogger and speaker.  We knew she was in town to give the keynote speech that very night at the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival.  I'm a big fan.  I read her blogs, I subscribe to her family's magazine (Birdwatcher's Digest), and I even went on a field trip she led in Texas a few years ago.  I found her to be engaging and approachable, so I gathered some courage and walked over to her.

"Aren't you Julie Zickefoose?" I asked.  She turned to me with a huge smile, said she was, and she started chatting with us.  I told her about the mystery bird, and she came right over to my scope and checked it out.  At first glance she thought it could indeed be a Eurasian -- we saw only cinnamon in the head, with no hint of green -- but she also readily admitted she could be wrong.  I sputtered out a few thanks for taking a look, and she actually thanked us for getting her on the bird!  What a thrill!  Then as we stood there, another car drove up.  I watched one of the RVG exchange a few words with the driver before the car drove off.  The conversation ended with my friend looking a little startled and at a loss for words.  When I walked over, I was told "That lady asked what we were looking at.  I said a possible Eurasian Wigeon.  She said, 'What, just one?' and drove off."  We started laughing and did so again and again throughout the rest of the day.

Blue-winged Teal
Eventually we left with Ms. Zickefoose still studying the bird.  I turned and said, "She may not be one of the Beatles of the birding world, but she's at least Fleetwood Mac."  That wasn't greeted with much enthusiasm.  We decided to bump her up farther -- the Beach Boys?  The Stones?  Hard to say, but she's a rock star in our world and we partied ... ah ... birded with her.

We decided to lunch at the Visitor's Center, so that was our next stop.  We spent money in the gift shop, watched a Painted Bunting and some Red-winged Blackbirds at the feeders, admired a Great Blue Heron and enjoyed our lunch at one of the picnic tables.

Our next destination was Biolab Road, a narrow, unpaved drive along the water's edge.  This is usually really good for shorebirds, but the tide was high and the time of year not ideal for numbers and variety.  Still we got some good looks at Black-bellied Plovers, a Killdeer, a Least Sandpiper, numerous Short-billed Dowitchers, both Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, and a few Dunlin.  One spot held a nice group of Black Skimmers and Caspian Terns.

Great Black-backed Gull
The sun was now moving with determination toward the western horizon, so we decided to leave the refuge and return to Parrish Park for another shot at the Long-tailed Duck.  Once again, we struck out.  Had we missed it while we were knocking about the refuge?  Did it matter in light of our encounter with Julie Zickefoose?  Someone told us it hadn't been seen all day, but we didn't need to hear that in order to feel better.  But the birding gods left us with one parting gift -- a gorgeous Great Black-backed Gull on a light post.  It posed long enough for me to take a few hurried photos and then flew off.

In all, it was a terrific day.  We tallied about 50 species including nine ducks.  After studying several field guides, we decided that our mystery bird was probably a Eurasian x American Wigeon Hybrid, but I'm no expert so don't take my word for it.  And of course the day was crowned by the meeting with Julie Zickefoose.  She may not be as famous as the original Jay-Z, but she's our JZ, and did I mention I'm a big fan?

You know you wanted another look at a Northern Pintail!

A bonus look at a Northern Shoveler

Caspian Terns and a Black Skimmer

American Avocet

Reddish Egret

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Duck and Chuck

Early on a January morning at St. Marks NWR

 You might think that the title of this post refers to last year's offense at the University of Florida - the quarterback trying to duck under the on-rushing defense and then chucking the ball out there, somewhere, hoping to find the right colored jersey.  But in this case, it perfectly sums up a great day of birding at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.  The Red Van Gang made its annual pilgrimage to St. Marks for the Alachua Audubon field trip led by John Hintermister.  For me, this is always one of the highlights of the year.  I love looking at ducks, and there are few places any better in Florida to see a nice variety and in good numbers.

I love this shot of a Common Yellowthroat.
The gang gathered at 4:30 AM with temperatures in the mid-30s and a clear, starry sky.  We drove northwest through High Springs and Fort White, towns I often only see in the dark, before reaching Perry and a tasty breakfast at a Huddle House.  We eventually reached St. Marks just before the official 8:00 AM starting time, so we made a brief scouting trip down to Lighthouse Pond.  Many of the ponds we passed were empty, but a Common Yellowthroat posed nicely beside the road.  I was driving, so I didn't try to get a shot, but later I found the photo at left on my camera.  I didn't take it.  Wish I did.

The field trip itself started with a walk around the area adjoining the parking lot.  Almost immediately we encountered a swarm of Yellow-rumped Warblers followed by a nice mixed flock.  A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker joined the crowd, followed by a Blue-headed Vireo, a Black-and-White Warbler, and a few Brown-headed Nuthatches.  Phil Laipis caught a glimpse of a Golden-crowned Kinglet, but I missed it. I resolved to get back to the area later in the day and try for the kinglet again, but that goal went the way of so many other resolutions I've made.

American Wigeon
This year John opted not to join Don Morrow's tram tour of the eastern pools.  I think the cold temperatures and stiff winds had something to do with it.  Instead we made a quick stop at the double bridges before moving to the boat launch spot at Stoney Bayou 1.  I hopped out, saw only a few American Coots, and raised my camera.  Only it wasn't my camera.  After swapping cameras with one of the gang, I looked around and found very little to photograph.  Slow day so far.

Next we moved on to Headquarters Pond where the day got a lot better in a hurry.  The pond was teeming with life.  About 40 Black-crowned Night-Herons lined one side.  A Sora patrolled the edge nearest the road.  Some gorgeous American Wigeons (right) swam among dozens of Coots and Ring-necked Ducks.  A few Redheads (bottom) joined the crowd adding another splash of color to the mix.

 It was at this point that the Red Van Gang separated from the rest of the group for a while.  They were heading out for a long hike, and one of us was recovering from a bad cold and wasn't feeling up to the walk.  Instead, we drove down to the Lighthouse and started working our way around the pond.  It was loaded with birds and especially with female Northern Shovelers and some spectacular Canvasbacks.  But before we were there for more than a few minutes I got a phone call from John.  One of the group had spotted a Chuck-will's-widow in a tall pine behind the bathrooms near Headquarters Pond.  We piled back into the car and hurried to the site.  No one was still around, but John's directions had been precise.  There it was, sitting quietly across (not along) a branch apparently taking a nap.  We were able to get a few photos and even get some other folks on the bird.  What a terrific sight!   This is a bird that I've heard way more often than I've seen it, and even then it's been in the very dim light of early night just after twilight.

Eventually we drove back to Lighthouse Pond and returned to studying the Canvasbacks.  I thought the one pictured on the right was particularly handsome.  Farther along we encountered a few Northern Shovelers.  The females were out on parade, but the males were snuggled in the reeds with their heads tucked into their sides.  Offshore to our left, the Gulf was alive with Double-crested Cormorants, Redheads, Horned Grebes, Common Loons, Laughing Gulls, Red-breasted Mergansers, and an occasional small shorebird that zoomed by too quickly for me to identify.

At the end of the path is a gazebo that is a wonderful spot for a brief rest and some leisurely sea watching.  There was a family there speaking a language that I didn't recognize at all.  The man spoke a little English, and with words and gestures he asked me what I was seeing through my scope.  I mentioned a bird and indicated he should look for himself.  He did, and immediately called to his wife and daughter to look as well.  Just then one of the Gang saw a Reddish Egret, which I eagerly turned to examine with my bins.  When I turned around the family was happily looking out to sea with both of our scopes while the girl also tried to digiscope something using her iPhone.  It took a while before we could reclaim our property and move on.

Swamp Sparrow
On the way back toward the Lighthouse some movement caught my eye in the vegetation near the pond.  First a Sora and then a Clapper Rail came into view, both disappearing almost immediately.   Another motion to my left proved to be a Swamp Sparrow (left) who was not as shy as the rails.  It posed patiently while I snapped a half dozen shots.

After a picnic lunch and a quick look at Picnic Pond, we decided to inspect Mounds Pool 1 and 2 by walking along the dikes.  What we found was a distant mass of ducks including our first Northern Pintails and a few stunning drake Mallards.  They were too far away to get a decent photo, but I snapped a few anyway.

The afternoon was getting old, so it was time to rejoin the group.  We typically end the day at Bottoms Road, well to the west, in hopes of finding a Short-eared Owl.  This time John wanted to try Wakulla Beach.  About 15 of the original field trippers made that much shorter trek and staked out a likely area.  Unfortunately we struck out, but the talk and camaraderie made it worth the time and effort.

I hate to end this on a negative note, but I feel I owe this to birders everywhere.  If you are in Perry and need to eat dinner, don't go to Pouncey's.  I had the worst restaurant meal of my life there and I won't go back.  Our waitress was very nice, but the food was paradoxically cold and overcooked and the building and furniture were badly in need of repair and cleaning.  Save yourself the unpleasantness and use one of the fast food places or the Huddle House.

Alachua Audubon in the dying light at Wakulla Beach

A Canvasback looking good!

Ruddy Duck taking a bath.

Ring-necked Duck


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Bob's Gone Birding at Rainbow Springs State Park

Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon, Florida

Earlier this month I was doing some research on state parks and noticed that there was one fairly close to me that I had never visited.  Rainbow Springs State Park is in Dunnellon, just west of Ocala and less than 90 minutes away.  Grudgingly I had to admit I didn't know my local state parks as well as I thought I did.  So early one Wednesday morning, the big red van headed south to explore a new park.

Carolina Wren Enjoying the Decorative Lights
Thank you, God!

Rainbow Springs is one of the most beautiful spots in Florida.  The springs that feed Rainbow River produce over 400,000,000 gallons of pristine water every day.  There are no motorized boats to spoil its cleanliness and no pesticides along its course to poison its fish and plants.  The result is a crystal clear river that is as gorgeous today as it was a thousand years ago.   It truly is a gift from God, and thankfully we have done nothing to mess it up!

In fact, while we were there it was evident that the park volunteers had done much to dress it up!  The park was prepared for the holiday season with lighted deer drinking from shallow streams, multi-colored lights decorating the paths and railings, and small, holiday-themed buildings promising lots of excitement during the evenings for families.

Great Egret in the Mist
But are there any birds in the park?  Turns out, there are!  In fact, we had a hard time getting out of the parking lot. A Carolina Wren sang just above the van.  American Robins darted in and out of one tree while a Northern Flicker called from another.  A Black-and-White Warbler scurried along a branch of yet another.  American Crows and Northern Cardinals dashed around the parking lot, seemingly enjoying a game of avian hide and seek.  A lone American Goldfinch was seen by one birder, but eluded me.

We made our way into the park where a Pileated Woodpecker circled the gift shop and snack bar, calling noisily all the way.  A Red-shouldered Hawk landed high atop a live oak and declared his presence for all to hear.  Below him, some Ruby-crowned Kinglets and more Carolina Wrens hopped about generally ignoring us and the hawk.  One wren (above) was very curious about what we were doing - or perhaps was just enjoying the Christmas lights - but it stayed close to us for a long time.

Gray Catbird
Next we decided to walk along the falls that feed into the river and out to the observation platforms.  The falls were constructed early in the twentieth century when the springs were "an attraction" and not under state control.  The water is pumped from the river to the top of the falls where is drops into shimmering pools and short streams until it reaches the river again.  Gray Catbirds (left), Yellow-rumped Warblers, and White-eyed Vireos joined in the fun, popping up along the trail for a quick peek at us.  One of the viewing areas bordered a small lagoon where American Coots, Common Gallinules and a Little Blue Heron seemed to be finding lots to eat.

The Falls Trail was gorgeous, but our goal was to walk a portion of the 3.5 mile Nature Trail which follows the river to the south.  Unfortunately, the river is generally hidden from view along this trail even though you are never very far from it.  There are one or two small openings, but that's it.  Nonetheless, the birding was very good.  We encountered a mixed flock that surrounded and entertained us.  Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue-headed Vireo, Tufted Titmouse, Ovenbird, Hermit Thrush, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Pine Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Palm Warbler and Eastern Towhee all joined the melee.  I love birding in situations like this.  There was a bird everywhere I looked.  It seemed that every branch in every tree hosted at least one bird, often more.

Green Heron, the Only County Lifer of the Day
The trail left the cover of the canopy for a while to lead us along the edge of a field filled with something that looked like fennel, but I'm lousy at plants so I really don't know what it was.  A few birds flew among the sparse trees in the distance, but I never got a good look at them.  Then a House Wren started scolding us, and while I searched for it, a few Chipping Sparrows fluttered high in a nearby bush.

Now the trail took us back into the woods and finally to the edge of the river.  Here a Pied-billed Grebe and a Double-crested Cormorant swam and dove in the river.  A Belted Kingfisher patrolled the western bank, a Snowy Egret fed along our side, and a little farther south a Green Heron hunted in the reeds.

Rather than completing the loop, we decided to head back to the snack bar and have lunch.  I had a tasty cheeseburger from the concession stand prepared by a smiling park volunteer.  We ate while watching a Red-tailed Hawk soar overhead.  In the swimming area an Eastern Phoebe flew about, enjoying whatever treats he could find.

We were finished birding for the day, but it was difficult to leave the park.  Instead, we lingered for another half hour soaking up the perfect weather, and I even stretched out on the bench of a picnic table for a quick nap (at bottom).

I will return to Rainbow Springs State Park.  In fact, I'm excited about returning during spring and fall migration.  The birding should be terrific ... but the park is its own attraction.  If you've been there, you know what I mean.  If you haven't been there, you need to do yourself a favor. 

Bob's Gone Birding at Rainbow Springs State Park

While I was watching an Eastern Phoebe, these two were watching me.

A Cardinal munching on some berries.

This was too beautiful to leave out.  Enjoy it!

This Ovenbird didn't appreciate our presence in the woods

Bob's Gone Napping at Rain ... zzzzzzzzzzzz

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bob's Gone Birding at Big Shoals State Park

Bob's Gone Birding at Big Shoals State Park
I don't believe that I've ever read a birding report from Big Shoals State Park.  I'm sure there have been some, but it occurred to me that this might be an under-birded site worth exploring.  After all, the state park website describes miles of trails, some ponds and an observation tower on the banks of the Suwannee.  It has to be birdy, doesn't it?

Black-and-White Warbler
First, let me give you an overall impression.  The park is divided into three sections.  Big Shoals and Little Shoals are state park lands located in Hamilton County near White Springs.  They form a kind of parentheses around a wildlife management area.  The two sections are connected by the wide and paved Woodpecker Trail that stretches for over three miles from the lower Little Shoals parking lot to the parking lot at the Big Shoals picnic area.  The lower portion has miles of winding trails and bike paths.  The upper portion has trails for hiking, biking and riding horses.  There are picnic areas and restrooms in both sections, but the bathrooms are considerably better at Big Shoals.  The entire park is bordered on the east by the Suwannee River featuring (when the depth is right) the only Class III White Water rapids in the state.

The Big Red Van arrived just after 8:00 AM.  We picked up a park map at the honor pay station and immediately set out on the Woodpecker Trail.  I have to admit that I was very surprised at the habitat here.  On one side of the trail was a forest of tall pines with a palmetto understory.  The other side was a mixed hardwood forest with a dense, bushy understory.  I'm used to birding in both habitats, but not both at once.  Weird.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
The Woodpecker Trail was aptly named.  We found Red-bellied, Downy and Pileated Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.  On the pine side there were Brown-headed Nuthatches and Pine Warblers.  On the opposite side were Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a Black-and-White Warbler and a Tufted Titmouse.  Eastern Bluebirds and Palm Warblers darted from side to side while a flock of American Robins flew over us.  So this part of the trail was very birdy.

One of our goals was to find the observation tower mentioned on the park map, so we headed off on a side trail.  At first we had no luck, so we kept walking, slowly circling a large tract.  We picked up a few species along the way including Eastern Phoebe, Carolina Wren and Yellow-throated Warbler, but the tower wasn't where I expected it to be.  We kept walking.  Then we came upon a "tower" that looked more like a glorified hunting platform.  And it looked out on ... well ,,, not much.  The land immediately in front of the tower was cleared of everything but grass.  Beyond the grass was a stand of pines.  That was it.  The better view was to the rear where the trail wound its way through the woods.  The walk back was uneventful.  Still, we added House Wren and Hermit Thrush to our day list.  When we got back to the parking lot, we ate our lunches in the picnic pavilion. 

The Observation Tower
The Big Shoals side proved to be very different in more than one way.  The picnic area was open, not under a roof, and it included a Bat House!  The restrooms were bigger, had running water, and had showers.  The main hiking trail was a narrow, winding ribbon of a trail that cut its way through a scrub and palmetto forest along the river (to the east) to the rapids.  Several swampy ponds dotted the western edge of the path.

And there were no birds.

Well, there were a few ... a flock of Turkey Vultures collected in one area, a Barred Owl called in the distance, and a Red-shouldered Hawk screamed overhead without actually letting itself be seen.  At one spot we found three White-eyed Vireos.  And on the way back we found the day's biggest surprise, a single Tennessee Warbler that must have been the rear guard of this year's migration.  But that was it.  After a really nice start, I only tallied 27 species for the day, and not a single Northern Cardinal among them.  But the variety of habitats, the swampy areas, and the river's edge all should be packed with birds, and the miles of trails should make them accessible.  Perhaps the early November date and the windy weather that marked the afternoon just kept the birds hunkered down and hidden.  According to my phone app, I accumulated over 19,000 steps covering almost nine miles of trails, and I only got 27 species.  On the other hand, I really liked the park.  There were some really beautiful areas.  Perhaps a trip back there during the spring or fall migration period will be more productive.  I'll let you know.

The Suwannee at Big Shoals

House Wren

The Big Shoals Trail

Hermit Thrush

The View from the Observation Tower

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bob's Gone Birding at Suwannee River State Park

Bob's Gone Birding at Suwannee River State Park

The historic Suwannee River
Some time ago I had the idea of writing a series of blogs on my favorite state parks in Florida.  I started with Fort Cooper and promptly got sidetracked by ... well ... birding.  But the idea has been bouncing around in the back of my head ever since.  Now I think it's time to get back to it.  I'd like to feature one state park a month, and I'll try to mix some of the more popular sites with some that are off the beaten track.  I hope you enjoy the series.  And if you have a favorite state park that you think is a great birding destination, please add a comment to that effect at the bottom of this blog.

Suwannee River State Park is a gem of a place.  Set at the confluence of the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers, the park covers parts of three counties.  There are three trails I like to bird, and I can generally cover them in a long morning.  Throw in a few items of historic significance and you get a park that is worth the journey.

A multi-county Belted Kingfisher
Typically I like to start out walking up the Suwannee, passing the boat launch and entering the Suwannee River Trail.  I stay on it until just after it turns away from the river and merges into the Lime Sink Trail.  At that point I turn right and head back along a stream to return to a spot near the boat ramp.  My second loop starts downriver past the old Confederate earthworks to the overlook.  Here you can stand on an observation platform and glance up and down the Suwannee, across the river to Madison and Hamilton counties, or up the Withlacoochee.  I once had a Belted Kingfisher fly from the Suwannee side to Madison County and later had the same bird land in Hamilton County - a rare triple for county listers.  After some time on the platform, I turn around and head away from the river until the path joins the old stagecoach road which leads back to the entrance road and the parking lot.  The Sandhills Trail leads out to the old cemetery and then finishes the loop back at the parking lot.  None of the trails are long, most of the walking is easy, and the birding can be very good. I like to end the morning with a picnic lunch under the trees along the river.  I should also mention that the park is very clean as are the restrooms.

Eastern Towhee on the Sandhills Trail
During October I spent two mornings at SRSP.  On a Thursday early in the month the denizens of the Big Red Birding Van pretty much had the park to ourselves.  We started birdng in the picnic area where we found Downy and Pileated Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Yellow Warbler and Northern Parula.  On that day we headed downriver first and were rewarded with Hooded and Chestnut-sided Warblers, Ovenbird and American Redstart.  A Catbird flew from Suwannee to Madison County while a Belted Kingfisher (above) took the opposite route before returning to Madison.  At the end of the loop we stopped to use the restrooms and stumbled upon a Bay-breasted Warbler moving slowly from tree to tree.

We took the Sandhills Trail next and walked out to the old cemetery.  The park is on the site of the 19th century town of Columbus which was serviced by steamboats and the stagecoach line.  The cemetery has graves that date back to the mid-nineteenth century.  Unlike the other trails which feature a mostly hardwood forest with some scattered pines, this one runs through a pine and palmetto tract, and the species here are very different than those that can be found just a hundred yards away.  Brown-headed Nuthatches, Eastern Towhees, Pine Warblers, and a variety of woodpeckers are quickly found on a short, easy-to-walk path.

Back at the parking lot, we decided to turn upriver, taking the Suwannee River Trail.  It was getting to be near noon and bird activity was low.  Still, we added Black-and-White and Yellow-throated Warblers, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Northern Flicker and Summer Tanager to the day's list.

Pine Warbler
The second trip to SRSP took the form of a Sunday field trip that I led for the Alachua Audubon Society.  Fate was on our side.  We arrived at the park a few minutes before the gates opened.  We pulled off the road to wait and decided to bird among the trees at the gate.  There we found a Black-throated Green Warbler, my only one of that species this fall.  Once we reached the parking lot we found a Black-and-White and the first of three Bay-breasted Warblers we saw that day.  We started upriver this time and located most of the birds I had seen two weeks earlier including the Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  We also saw a Tennessee Warbler.  On the lower trail we relocated the Hooded Warbler and Ovenbird and added a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker to my park list.  Then we had a little luck along the stagecoach road on both sides of the entrance road.  First was a Blackburnian Warbler and moments later a gorgeous Magnolia Warbler.  Along the Sandhills Trail we relocated the typical pine forest birds (Brown-headed Nuthatch, Eastern Towhee, Pine Warbler) and added Prairie and Palm Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Eastern Bluebird.

Overall, my two-day haul tallied over 45 species including 16 warblers and five woodpeckers.  I really like Suwannee River State Park.  If you find yourself with a chance to stop there, I promise you will discover another jewel in the Florida State Park System.

Brown-headed Nuthatch on the Sandhills Trail

A small spring bubbling into the Suwannee River

Columbus Cemetery with family plots dating to the mid-nineteenth century

An immature White Ibis feeds in one of the streams that run through the park