I ended my North Florida swing with a quick pass through Ft DeSoto County Park near Tampa. There were a couple of real nice birds being reported from there and I was fortunate to find both of them in a relatively short period of time.
I started the morning early at the beach near the pier where a young Franklin’s Gull was being reported hanging out with a large group of Laughing Gulls. This species can be tricky to ID … unless it’s standing right next to the larger Laughing Gull. The slightly smaller size and darker cap with larger white eye arcs set it apart from the similar looking Laughing Gull.
The second bird I was searching for was a Western Tanager. I spent an hour or so looking for it with a few other birders and came up empty. Ft DeSoto is a wonderful place to see a few species that are very tough to see in Palm Beach County so I headed to the North Beach area and recorded these nice guys.
Willets are a fairly plain-looking bird when you see them on the shoreline … but when they are in flight they are some of the flashiest. The below picture is a good example that if you click on the image it will make it much larger and much easier to appreciate their beauty.
Very similar to what happened when looking for the Snowy Owl just as I was leaving the North Beach a young couple told me they just got done looking at the Tanager. I raced back up to the area where it was being seen and fortunately it was still there and a few people were looking at it. While it was difficult to get a good picture of it due to it being very high in the tree and feeding quite slowly I was happy to get another new “State” bird!
I finally sat down and figured out the statistics for the trip. I drove 1248 miles and walked probably another 15 or so. I found 3 “Life” birds … the Snowy Owl, Franklin’s Gull and Nelson’s Sparrow. I added 5 new birds to my state list … the above three plus the Western Tanager and the Sedge Wren. My total species count for the trip was 126 including a few I might not see the rest of the year, so all in all it was one fantastic trip that I look forward to repeating every January.
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