Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Goals and Wild Turkey

Circle B Bar Reserve, Lakeland, Florida
Sometimes I go birding just for the pleasure of being outside and seeing God’s most delightful creatures.  Other times I have a specific goal in mind.  Yesterday was all about goals.  I have to lead a field trip for Alachua Audubon in late November to Circle B Bar Reserve in Polk County.  I’ve only been there once, so I needed to do some scouting, but time was becoming an issue.  Between now and then I’ll be spending nine days driving to and from Texas and attending the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival.  So Goal #1 was to scout the Reserve so that I could plan a good trip.  And then there was Hillsborough County.  I’ve been pecking away at that county, trying to get my life list to 100, with little luck.  So Goal #2 was to find six new species and finally reach that century mark. 

Wood Storks Soar in a Perfect Sky
The Red Van Gang left Gainesville at 5:00 AM and got to the park just after 8:00.  If you haven’t been there, I have two words for you: Why not?  It’s a gorgeous place and it’s a birding hotspot.  You like hardwood hammock?  Got it.  Ponds and marshes?  Lots of them.  Grassy sparrow fields?  That too.  Our first problem was trying to get out of the parking lot – too many birds hanging out in the canopy above us.  We had a little excitement when one flew over us and there was a flash of bright red.  The size and shape suggested Painted Bunting, but we were unable to relocate the bird.  Eventually we headed out along the Heron Hideout Trail, and there were the birds!  The place was alive with herons, egrets, Limpkins, Bald Eagles, Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Blue-winged Teal, Common and Purple Gallinules, Coots and Solitary Sandpipers, and so much more.  A Common Yellowthroat popped up here, but you couldn’t look for long because a  Marsh Wren popped up over there, just behind that Swamp Sparrow. But don’t forget to look up!  There were Wood Storks, Sandhill Cranes, Anhinga, Belted Kingfishers, Forster’s Terns, Herring Gulls, a Brown Pelican, Osprey and a Sharp-shinned Hawk.  But wait, look back down – there’s a Sora!  Also, I needed to check the top of the hill leading out to the Eagle Roost Trail.  We walked through a small grassy area and quickly located two Grasshopper Sparrows and a Savannah Sparrow.  It took a little patience, but eventually we got good looks at all three.

Solitary Sandpiper
After lunch we headed to Hillsborough River State Park, but they appeared to be fresh out of birds.  Other than a Muscovy Duck in a pond on the way to the park, I had no new ticks to add to my list. We traveled south on 301, eventually reaching I-75 with the intent to go one exit north and to Lettuce Lake.  We never got there.  On the east side of the northbound lane of the interstate, we saw a pond with a bunch of shorebirds.  We took the next exit (Fletcher Ave.), found the little road that runs parallel to the highway, and headed south.  We found the pond and there were Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and Stilt Sandpipers – and I was at 98.  We then turned around and headed back up the road.  We pulled over at one spot to look around and saw a Pileated Woodpecker – 99!  Just as I was about to turn away I looked to my left and saw Wild Turkey (the bird, not the drink).  That was #100.  I wanted to celebrate by raising a Wild Turkey to the heavens (the drink, not the bird)!

Both goals were accomplished and we were only a half hour late getting back.  That’s a good day’s work.

Grasshopper Sparrow
Wild Turkey ... The Bird, Not the Drink!

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