Continuing Day One of Northern Florida

I arrived at Light House Point Park and was immediately concerned that I would have no opportunity to see the Purple Sandpipers that had been reported from there.  The wind was blowing sustained at 20-25 mph directly out of the North and all but the last 100 feet or so of the jetty was being swamp by nasty looking waves.  On top of that the sand from the beach was actually blowing into drifts!

I figured since I was already there I bundled up the best I could and walked out towards the jetty.  I was about 50 feet from where the waves were crashing when up popped a Purple Sandpiper not but a couple feet away.  I guess he was avoiding the surf too!

Purple Sandpiper ... This was the one species I was hoping to find at Light House Point and to get him to pose so close and nice was definitely a bonus.

Purple Sandpiper … This was the one species I was hoping to find at Light House Point and to get him to pose so close and nice was definitely a bonus.

After my time with the Purple Sandpiper I decided to check out a large concentration of birds on the beach right near the lighthouse.  It turned out to be a couple hundred Black Skimmers and a few miscellaneous Gulls and Terns.

About a third of the Skimmers ... once again too muck lens!

About a third of the Skimmers … once again too muck lens!

I did get a couple of nice shots of a Herring Gull and a Greater Black-backed Gull which really shows off the differences in the colors of their backs.

Herring Gull with his Gray back.

Herring Gull with his Gray back.

Great Black-backed Gull ... With his distinctive black back.

Great Black-backed Gull … With his distinctive black back.

I explored some of the rest of the park as it was my first time there and it was still a little early to head up to the Gull roost at Daytona Beach Shores.  The wind kept mostly everything down but I did manage a dozen species or so including a fly-by Bald Eagle.

I made my way down to Frank Rendon Park just around 3pm and made my way down to the beach where I was greeted by this!

Beginning of the Gull roost.  It kept getting bigger and bigger as the day went on.

Beginning of the Gull roost. It kept getting bigger and bigger as the day went on.

The number of Gulls that come into the beach here is incredible and is nearly impossible to describe.  It truly is one of those things you must experience to believe.  There had been a few very good Gulls being seen for the previous couple of weeks including a Thayer’s Gull and a couple of Iceland Gulls and these were my target species.

Lesser Black-backed Gull ... This was a new year bird!

Lesser Black-backed Gull … This was a new year bird!

I didn’t get to see either of those two rarities but I did pick up a Lesser Black-backed Gull, actually I was able to see and photograph a couple of Juveniles also, thanks in large part, actually totally in part to Michael Brothers being present.

Michael is the man when it comes to identifying Gulls and other Pelagics.  He works for the Marine Science Center, which is at Light House Point and posts almost daily Birdbrain posts on what is being seen.  I hung around with him and a small group picking up little bits of knowledge every 50 feet or so.  He was kind enough to point out the young Lesser BB Gulls and also a curious looking Juvenile Ring-billed Gull.

Young Ring-billed Gull

Young Ring-billed Gull

His comments were on how dark the coloration was and he took quite a few pictures.  I’m just a beginner when it comes to Gull Identification and was thrilled to be able to listen to Michael for the couple of hours on the beach.

Wouldn’t you know it both rarities were seen the next day … right place, wrong time for me, at least this time.

I finally left as it was getting dark and made the drive West to Tallahassee.  For those who are new to the blog I do a lot of car camping.  My SUV is large enough to sleep comfortably in and I have no problem sleeping in rest areas.  The cost savings are wonderful and since I get up so, so early to be where the birds are at first light it makes better sense than staying in a hotel.   Thanks for following along and the next post will be from Saint Marks NWR, one of my favorite spots in Florida to bird!

 

 

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Northern Florida Day 1

Well, maybe not the entire first day but at least the first part of the day.  I was up early around 4am so that I could get to Merritt Island NWR by sunrise.  I had packed my SUV up the night before so I only had a few things to take down as I was leaving.  After an obligatory stop at Dunkin Donuts in Fort Pierce I made good time and arrived in Titusville just as it was starting to lighten up … notice I did not mention the sun coming up as you will see from most of the pictures there was very, very little in the way of sunshine on my first day.

Roseate Spoonbill ... Merritt Island 1-14-15

Roseate Spoonbill … Merritt Island 1-14-15

Not only was there very little sun it was cold and windy!  The wind made for a very bad hair or should I say feather day.  The weather conditions weren’t the greatest but there was still a tremendous amount of bird activity and I had an enjoyable 5 hours or so around the refuge.  I drove Blackpoint Drive and Biolab Road and stopped at the visitors center seeing just over 40 species with many being new for the year.

American Avocet

American Avocet

Redish Egret ... There were half a dozen of these guys in the same area fishing.

Redish Egret … There were half a dozen of these guys in the same area fishing.

The main reason I stop at Merritt Island are the fantastic number of Ducks that Winter there. There are often a dozen or so species in really huge numbers and while there were quite a few around I believe the weather kept the overall numbers down.  I did have Blue and Green-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers,  Northern Pintail, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked and Mottled Ducks, American Wigeon, Red-breasted and Hooded Mergansers and a new one for me at Merritt Island a Redhead.

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail

Redhead ... This was a new species for me at Merritt Island

Redhead … This was a new species for me at Merritt Island

There was also a few shorebirds around including a nice group of Red Knots along Biolab Road.  This was also a new one for me at this location.

Red Knot

Red Knot

One of the other reasons I like Merritt Island is probably the easiest place to find Florida Scrub Jays.  This is Florida’s only endemic bird (one not seen in any other place).  There is a part of the refuge that is called Scrub Ridge Trail where the Jays are fairly reliable but I have found that the pay station that leads out to Canaveral National Seashore is becoming the go to spot for this species and I wasn’t dissapointed this morning.  There were 3-4 Jays feeding near the road and this guy shows you just how strong the wind was still blowing.

Florida Scrub Jay

Florida Scrub Jay

My good friend Cheryl had visited the refuge a week earlier and told me about a Great Horned Owl that has taken over an Ospreys nest.  It was still on the nest and blessed me with a quick look.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

I left Merritt Island around 1pm and headed towards Lighthouse Point Park and Daytona Beach Shores.  I was hoping the weather would improve as I drove North but as you’ll see in the next post I’d have to wait to the following day to see any sun.

Thanks for stopping by and God Bless!

 

 

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