|Bob's Gone Birding at Big Shoals State Park|
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.
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|
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|
|The Big Shoals Trail|
|The View from the Observation Tower|