Saturday, March 16, 2013

County Listing in Southern Levy

Eastern Meadowlark
I'm tempted to say I love birding in Levy County.  The truth is, I have done almost all of my Levy County birding in Cedar Key, and nearly all of the 210 species I've seen in the county were either in the Cedar Key area, or they were seen going to or coming from there.  So I decided that I needed to spend some time getting to know the rest of the county.  It was a good decision.  Yesterday was one of those days in which the usual joys of birding were mixed with the distinct pleasure of a beautiful day spent in gorgeous settings.

We started off by heading south on US 41 and stopped at a field outside of Raleigh to check out a Red-tailed Hawk.  The hawk flew away after a minute, but an Eastern Meadowlark announced itself with its gorgeous song in the field right behind us.  In typical Meadowlark fashion, it perched up in the open and posed while I took the picture at left.

Brown-headed Nuthatch

 Next we turned west on CR 326 near Morriston.  As I drove, I saw a little pond just down a hill from the road.  I stopped to check it out, but there was nothing there.  On the other hand, the tree above the car was loaded with birds including  Black-and-White,  Yellow-throated, Pine, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Blue-headed Vireo, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and several Tufted Titmice and Carolina Chickadees.  It was really fun being swarmed by birds!

Soon we got onto SR 121 and somewhere along there we pulled off to look for a Brown-headed Nuthatch.  We were successful after just a few a minutes, and we got some nice shots of one that was very cooperative.

Next it was on to Lake Rousseau, west of Inglis.  There is a small park with a boat ramp on the north side of the lake, and the county line moves through the center of the lake.  The park is small, but picturesque.  We saw American Coots, Blue-winged Teal, and Ring-necked Ducks on the water and Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, and other waders along the edges.

An Anhinga drying its wings.
We continued west on CR 40 through Inglis, heading toward the boat launch west of Yankeetown.  Impulsively, we pulled into a recreation area devoted to flying model airplanes.  We saw a few Greater Scaup and Ring-necked Ducks and the Anhinga pictured at left.   A second photo that shows the gorgeous blue patch around the eye is at the bottom.  I haven't noticed this before, so my guess is that it is associated with mating season.

When we reached the intersection with US 98, we saw a small restaurant on our left.  Above it the sign read "Breakfast Lunch Dinner".  There were so many cars in front of the place that its name was blocked from view.  That in itself was a pretty good recommendation, and I filed it away for later.

Soon we reached the boat launch park and found it to be another really pretty spot.  We watched Laughing and Ring-billed Gulls fly around us, a single Brown Pelican float by, and at least one tern I couldn't ID land on an oyster bar off to the north.  An American Oystercatcher flew from one spot to another, and a Willet fed along one bar directly west of us. 

Waccasassa Park
That brought us to lunch time and we decided to go to "Breakfast Lunch Dinner" back in Inglis.  Good decision again.  The place was still crowded, packed with good ol' boys, many of them wearing camouflage after a morning in the woods.  I had the Captain's Melt, a burger with swiss and grilled onions on buttered and toasted rye.  It was terrific!  The service was prompt and the waitress friendly.  The place is actually called Shrimp's Landing, and I'll definitely go back there the next time I'm in the area.

Next we headed north on 98 to Gulf Hammock where we took 326 west to a little place called Waccasassa Park.  We were three for three on gorgeous places.  This little park had a boat launch and dock and a few picnic tables.  Some locals were fishing along the banks and Red-winged Blackbirds, a Swamp Sparrow, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker darted in and out of the nearby reeds. 

It was getting late, so we turned toward home.  Still, we couldn't resist pulling off at a dirt road leading into the Goethe National Forest for one last look around.  The only bird that showed up was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  Obligingly, he stayed in one spot long enough for us to take a few pictures (below, right).

Overall, it was a gorgeous day with bright sunshine, temperatures that started in the 30s and ended in the 60s, and lots of birds.  We tallied about 60 species.  While none of them were new to the county, much of this part of the county was new to me, so it was time well spent!

Click on the pic and look at the blue!
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

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