|Love among the Swallow-tailed Kites!|
Perhaps the best sight of the day came before we actually got into the park. We were approaching the park from the north on CR 347, about 200 yards from the entrance to Headquarters Road, when we saw a Swallow-tailed Kite drifting over the pines. It was the first of the year for me, so I pulled over to get a better look. The Kite was soon joined by a second and they circled the area for a bit, but then one of them landed in a tall pine. Now, I've never seen a perched Swallow-tailed Kite, so I wanted to get a photo. As I set up my scope and turned on my iPhone, the second Kite appeared to land on the same branch. I focused quickly and started snapping away. It was only after I saw the first picture that I realized what I had. The Kites were mating!
|The River Trail at the Lower Suwannee NWR|
The River Trail was both birdy and gorgeous. There was a mixed feeding flock in the parking lot and another about 200 feet down the trail. Tufted Titmice, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets were joined by three vireo species: Blue-headed, White-eyed and my first of the year Red-eyed. Next we saw a stunning male Hooded Warbler whose colors were as bright and fresh as could be. Moments later we caught sight of a Hermit Thrush, which is notable in that it was a county first for me ... after 211 other species!
Our next destination was the Lower Suwannee Nature Drive, beginning at the north entrance. One of our objectives for the day was to find a Bachman's Sparrow. Ranger Woodward told us that parts of the park are managed specifically for Bachman's Sparrows, so on several occasions we checked likely spots, but the little critter continued to evade us. Still, we encountered a few birdy areas and got some great looks at an immature Bald Eagle. Then we saw a small pond with an observation deck. We saw several Blue-winged Teals, Pied-billed Grebes, Common Gallinules (does anyone else still want to say Common Moorhen??), and a single Bufflehead.
|A Willet feeding in the mud flats at Cedar Key|
It was well after lunch, so we decided to drive into Cedar Key for some food. We had a nice lunch and then continued birding along SR 24. We saw a large flock of American White Pelicans, lots of Willets, a few American Avocets, and some White Ibises that had brilliant red face and bills, just in time for mating season.
So for the day we tallied 52 species including three county lifers. We had great weather, saw some gorgeous new places, and we had a pretty good meal at Annie's. Makes you feel lucky to be alive!
I've added a few extra pictures below. I hope you like them.
|Immature Bald Eagle|