Category Archives: Volusia Birding

Green Birding in Southwest Volusia County, March 2015

In March I visited 11 different birding spots to add to my 2015 green year list. Birds at home and some seen along the way while I was biking also contributed to my monthly total of 97 green species for March.

I added 13 new birds to the year list: Rock Pigeon at Lake Monroe Park; Marsh Wren, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Purple Martin, Red-eyed Vireo, and Black-bellied Whistling-Duck at Gemini Springs; Swallow-tailed Kite in DeBary; European Starling and White-winged Dove at Dewey Boster Park; Common Ground-Dove at River City Nature Park; Indigo Bunting, Great Crested Flycatcher, and Brown-headed Cowbird at home. I had biked to Dewey Boster Park in hopes of finding Red-headed Woodpecker in addition to the doves, but I was skunked. That trip was about 13 miles round trip (about the same to Audubon Park).

At Gemini Springs I had 81 species in 14 visits. Previous March totals: 69 in 2014; 79 in 2013; and 66 in 2012.

Here are some photographic highlights from my green birding outings in March!

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)
Northern Mockingbird at River City Nature Park | 09-MAR-15

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)
Red-shouldered Hawk at River City Nature Park | 09-MAR-15

Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum)
Cedar Waxwings at Green Spring Park | 16-MAR-15

Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)
Ebony Jewelwing at Green Spring Park | 16-MAR-15

Green Spring Park
Green Spring Park | 16-MAR-15

Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
Common Snapping Turtle at Gemini Springs | 18-MAR-15

White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)
White Ibis flock flying over Gemini Springs | 18-MAR-15

Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)
Green Anole at Audubon Park | 20-MAR-15

Luna Moth (Actias luna)
Luna Moth (deceased) at Audubon Park | 20-MAR-15

Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus)
Swallow-tailed Kite at Audubon Park | 20-MAR-15

On March 27th I had a short walk in the late afternoon at Gemini Springs. As I walked out onto the fishing pier, a gentleman in a Volusia County polo pointed out a snake in the water. Later we saw a different snake on the other side of the pier. I have only seen water snakes at Gemini Springs a handful of times so I thought seeing two was quite remarkable. But then there was another snake sunning itself on the dam. I think they might all be Florida Water Snakes. All three snakes had a different look, but this species does have a lot of variability in pattern and color. Here are two of them:

Florida Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris)
Florida Water Snake at Gemini Springs | 27-MAR-15

Florida Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris)
Florida Water Snake at Gemini Springs | 27-MAR-15

Chipping Sparrows (Spizella passerina)
Chipping Sparrows at Gemini Springs | 29-MAR-15

Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis)
Sandhill Cranes flying over Gemini Springs | 27-MAR-15

On March 30th I found a fledgeling Barred Owl, along with one of its parents. The baby flew across the forest, but made a poor landing and ended up hanging upside-down from a branch. The parent looked on, and so did I. Eventually the baby managed to upright itself.

Barred Owl (Strix varia)
Barred Owl fledgeling at Gemini Springs | 30-MAR-15

Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor)
Prairie Warbler at Gemini Springs | 30-MAR-15

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
Osprey at Gemini Springs | 31-MAR-15

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Red Admiral at Gemini Springs | 31-MAR-15

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Green Birding in Southwest Volusia County, February 2015

Just like January, I birded at Gemini Springs 15 times last month. I wanted to complete the February eBirder of the Month Challenge by submitting 20 checklists from a single patch, but I didn’t make it. About halfway through the month I realized the challenge was making me antsy so I just let it go.

I recorded 77 species at the park for the month. Previous February totals: 73 in 2014; 74 in 2013; and 60 in 2012. The complete list for February 2015 is at the end of this post.

For my green list, I had 87 species for the month. I added 9 species to my year’s green list, including Spotted Sandpiper and Greater Yellowlegs at Konomac Lake, Merlin and Field Sparrow at Gemini Springs, and Eastern Towhee at Audubon Park.

Here are some photographic highlights of my February 2015 green birding in southwest Volusia County.

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)
Snowy Egret at Gemini Springs | 03 February 2015

Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)
Confiding Gray Catbird at Gemini Springs | 06 February 2015

Wood Stork (Mycteria americana)
Wood Stork flying over Gemini Springs | 06 February 2015

Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)
Loggerhead Shrike at Konomac Lake | 07 February 2015

I hear Sandhill Cranes from time to time from Gemini Springs, and I’ve seen them fly over a handful of times, but I think the sighting on February 9th this year was the first time I have seen these birds actively feeding at the park. It was nice to see this group of four that ended up being a one-day wonder.

Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes at Gemini Springs | 09 February 2015

Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)
Chipping Sparrow at Gemini Springs | 15 February 2015

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)
Eastern Phoebe at Gemini Springs | 16 February 2015

On the 16th I noticed a Virginia Opossum walking along a path next to the dog park at Gemini Springs. I waited for it to have a good lead and then I followed its trail — walking a little part of the park I never had before. Thanks for the discovery, opo! ๐Ÿ™‚

Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana)
Virginia Opossum at Gemini Springs | 16 February 2015

Merlin (Falco columbarius)
Merlin perched over the sinkhole at Gemini Springs | 16 February 2015

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
White-tailed Deer at Audubon Park | 20 February 2015

Mallards hanging out in the flooded sinkhole were a surprise during the month. I first saw them on the 11th. I recorded them a few more times before the month was over. I already got a kick out of seeing waders feeding in the flooded area, but watching ducks swim around above a sidewalk I’ve walked hundreds of times was somewhat unreal.

Mallards w/ Snowy Egret
Mallards with Snowy Egret in the sinkhole at Gemini Springs | 22 February 2015

It was a good month, but I’m excited for the migrants that will be passing through in the coming weeks. The hot summer that follows, not so much. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Warblers, bring ’em on!!

Gemini Springs bird list, February 2015
Mallard (Domestic type) – Anas platyrhynchos
Lesser Scaup – Aythya affinis
Pied-billed Grebe – Podilymbus podiceps
Wood Stork – Mycteria americana
Double-crested Cormorant – Phalacrocorax auritus
Anhinga – Anhinga anhinga
Great Blue Heron – Ardea herodias
Great Egret – Ardea alba
Snowy Egret – Egretta thula
Little Blue Heron – Egretta caerulea
Tricolored Heron – Egretta tricolor
Cattle Egret – Bubulcus ibis
Green Heron – Butorides virescens
White Ibis – Eudocimus albus
Glossy Ibis – Plegadis falcinellus
Black Vulture – Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
Northern Harrier – Circus cyaneus
Sharp-shinned Hawk – Accipiter striatus
Bald Eagle – Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Red-shouldered Hawk – Buteo lineatus
Red-tailed Hawk – Buteo jamaicensis
Sora – Porzana carolina
Common Gallinule – Gallinula galeata
American Coot – Fulica americana
Limpkin – Aramus guarauna
Sandhill Crane – Grus canadensis
Ring-billed Gull – Larus delawarensis
Caspian Tern – Hydroprogne caspia
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
Belted Kingfisher – Megaceryle alcyon
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius
Downy Woodpecker – Picoides pubescens
Northern Flicker – Colaptes auratus
Pileated Woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus
American Kestrel – Falco sparverius
Merlin – Falco columbarius
Eastern Phoebe – Sayornis phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike – Lanius ludovicianus
White-eyed Vireo – Vireo griseus
Blue-headed Vireo – Vireo solitarius
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata
American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos
Fish Crow – Corvus ossifragus
Tree Swallow – Tachycineta bicolor
Tufted Titmouse – Baeolophus bicolor
House Wren – Troglodytes aedon
Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Polioptila caerulea
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Regulus calendula
Hermit Thrush – Catharus guttatus
American Robin – Turdus migratorius
Gray Catbird – Dumetella carolinensis
Brown Thrasher – Toxostoma rufum
Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos
Cedar Waxwing – Bombycilla cedrorum
Ovenbird – Seiurus aurocapilla
Orange-crowned Warbler – Oreothlypis celata
Common Yellowthroat – Geothlypis trichas
Northern Parula – Setophaga americana
Palm Warbler – Setophaga palmarum
Pine Warbler – Setophaga pinus
Yellow-rumped Warbler – Setophaga coronata
Yellow-throated Warbler – Setophaga dominica
Prairie Warbler – Setophaga discolor
Chipping Sparrow – Spizella passerina
Field Sparrow – Spizella pusilla
Savannah Sparrow – Passerculus sandwichensis
Swamp Sparrow – Melospiza georgiana
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
Painted Bunting – Passerina ciris
Red-winged Blackbird – Agelaius phoeniceus
Common Grackle – Quiscalus quiscula
Boat-tailed Grackle – Quiscalus major
American Goldfinch – Spinus tristis

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Suburban Bird Counting – Ponce Inlet CBC

On January 3rd Arthur and I joined in the Ponce Inlet CBC for the first time. The count seems to be heavily associated with the Southeast Volusia Audubon Society; it was our first time joining this group in any way. We had a lot of fun!

We were assigned to join Dennis and Barb, who were working their part of the count circle for the second year in a row. Thanks to the scouting work they had done in the previous week, we were able to find some good birds. We were happy to see some parts of our county with which we were not previously familiar as well. In the end, though, the best bird of the day was much-wanted county lifer well outside of our count area.

Here are some photographic highlights of our day of bird counting for the Ponce Inlet CBC!

We did a lot of birding-by-car through large subdivisions in Port Orange. We started out at the entrance of a development where one of our first birds was a group of Eastern Bluebirds. Incredibly this was a species I managed to miss in the county during 2014 completely, so I was happy to add it to my Volusia list so early.

Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis)
Eastern Bluebirds in harsh light

Late in the morning we visited Coraci Park in Port Orange. Our target here was Eastern Meadowlark. When we arrived, there were several cars parked on the dead-end road outside of the gated park. It was not clear why the county park’s gate was closed, but there were several people enjoying the park’s amenities, despite the gated entrance. One visitor walked with a loose dog, ignoring the “No Pets Allowed” signage.

no pets allowed
Clearly marked at Coraci Park

As we looked for the elusive meadowlarks in the park, Arthur and I heard the birds singing their unmistakeable song across the road. We continued to look and found a distant bird outside the park boundary. Meanwhile, the dog-walker left the park. Almost immediately after he and his dog got into their car, seven Eastern Meadowlarks flew in to a mowed area inside the park boundary. I was especially excited to see this species as it was another that I completely missed during the previous year.

Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna)
Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna)
Eastern Meadowlarks

While we were enjoying the nice looks at the feeding birds, another jerk with a dog started to walk into the park. Upon seeing our party of four intently staring at a seemingly empty grass lawn through our binoculars, he asked what we were looking at. After a beat no one had spoken, so I said, “we’re looking at the no pets allowed sign.” I was livid and I couldn’t help myself. The birds seemed less spooked by this ass’s dog (maybe because it was leashed, unlike the previous dog) and didn’t fly off as he continued into the park, past us and the sign, with his dog. He said something flip like “must be an interesting sign” or some such B.S. Oh man, I was so mad! It felt a little bit good to have at least said something. I am so not built for confrontation.

no pets allowed, ass
An ass and his dog

In the unseasonable heat we had a little stroll here and added some more birds to our list for the day, including another pair of Eastern Bluebirds.

After lunch we visited Cracker Creek, where we walked a fairly birdless trail in a fruitless search for woodpeckers or pretty much anything else. Dennis had parked the car in an open area where we watched a Gopher Tortoise for a moment before setting off on our walk. When we returned to the car, we were all shocked to find the windshield cracked along the driver’s side. After some thought and investigation, foul play was ruled out. Our best guess was that a pine cone fell from the trees above and hit the windshield at a most unfortunate angle. What a lousy bit of luck!

Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus)
Our potential witness was nowhere to be found when we returned to the car.

In the late afternoon we returned to the subdivision where we had started our day. There was a lot of activity in a retention pond, so we headed to a bench along the water to take in the action. We saw a large concentration of waders here, plus at least three Bald Eagles flying about and overseeing the area. It was a nice way to wind down from the day of running around counting birds. We saw a Great Blue Heron struggle with a big fish (he managed to eat it). Dozens of Cormorants swam in the pond, all actively fishing.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
Great Blue Heron with catch

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
An adult Bald Eagle watches the action

After a short rest nearby at Dennis and Barb’s house, we headed back to the morning’s meeting place to pick up our own car and head to the CBC dinner. Upon our arrival at the parking lot, Arthur shouted out that there was a group of frigatebirds flying overhead. What the what?! I saw them right away, but I couldn’t wrap my head around what I was seeing. A group of five Magnificent Frigatebirds?!? In Volusia County?! That’s not possible! Magnificent Frigatebird was one of my most-wanted county birds — rare sightings usually consist of single, unchaseable birds. A group of five was completely unheard of so when I first saw the unmistakeable silhouettes of five frigatebirds riding the thermals overhead my mind tried to turn them into anything else. Once Dennis got the car parked and we all jumped out, I could no longer deny that there was a freaking FLOCK of freaking Magnificent Frigatebirds gracefully floating above us right there in New Smyrna Beach, Volusia County.

Magnificent Frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens)
Magnificent Frigatebird!

Magnificent Frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens)
Magnificent Frigatebirds!

When we met up with the count group at the restaurant, I asked the trip leader who was responsible for the count area at the meet-up parking lot. We arrived fairly late and I thought we might have been the only lucky S.O.B.s to see the frigatebirds. But the reply to my query was simply, “oh, did you see the frigatebirds?!” so I knew the birds had been seen by others. In fact, “Magnificent Frigatebirds” was being whispered among our group the entire time. It seems this species was “most wanted” by more than just me. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Green Birding in Southwest Volusia County, January 2015

I birded at Gemini Springs 15 times last month, where I recorded 74 species. This beats my previous January totals of 70 species in 2014, 68 in 2013, and 61 in 2012. It doesn’t feel like I made 15 visits to the park in January. I hope I can kind of keep it up, because I’d like to complete the February eBirder of the Month Challenge again. The challenge is the same as last February: complete 20 checklists at a patch. Last year I actually got a little bit sick of the same old same old at Gemini Springs day after day. Hopefully 20 lists in February will fly by like the 15 I did in January! The complete list for Gemini Springs is at the end of this post.

Since I’m so interested in my green birding list, I’m going to expand these monthly reports to include other green birding that I did during the month. In January I saw a total of 90 species without the aid of fossil fuel. Besides Gemini Springs, I also visited Audubon Park in Deltona twice, plus I made stops at Lake Monroe Park in DeBary and the Lake Monroe Boat Ramp in Enterprise. I found a few more birds during on a long bike ride around Konomac Lake mid-month. And I picked up a handful of species at home, too.

Here are some photographic highlights of my January green birding in southwest Volusia County.

For Christmas Arthur and I got a set of trailers to tow our kayaks with our bikes! We took them out on January 1st for a nice paddle at Gemini Springs where we picked up some trash and got a bunch of FOY (first of year) birds from the water.

bikes & kayaks
Bikes & kayaks ready to go to Gemini Springs | 01 January 2015

trash picked up in the bayou
Trash picked up in DeBary Bayou at Gemini Springs | 01 January 2015

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
White-tailed Deer at Gemini Springs | 02 January 2015

Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)
Little Blue Heron at Gemini Springs | 02 January 2015

Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Bald Eagles at Gemini Springs | 11 January 2015

blocked
A fallen tree blocks the Spring-to-spring Trail | 11 January 2015

Red-shouldered Hawks (Buteo lineatus)
Red-shouldered Hawks at Gemini Springs | 12 January 2015

Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica)
Yellow-throated Warbler at Gemini Springs | 12 January 2015

Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)
Hermit Thrush at Gemini Springs | 14 January 2015

On January 16th I joined the West Volusia Audubon walk at Audubon Park in Deltona. I was super happy to see a pair of Eastern Bluebirds there, especially since I totally missed this species on my 2014 green list.

Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird at Audubon Park | 16 January 2015

The following photos remind me of someone we used to go birding with back in Illinois. This guy would often remark that a pair of different birds standing together were providing a “good comparison” in case people ever got them mixed up. Except he would say this, in humor, even if the birds were as different as an American Robin and a Mallard! But these two photos really are good comparison shots of two different species that people actually do often mix up. Ah, I miss that old bird club. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anhinga, Double-crested Cormorant
Anhinga versus Double-crested Cormorant at Audubon Park | 16 January 2015

Little Blue, Tricolored Herons
Little Blue Heron versus Tricolored Heron at Gemini Springs | 17 January 2015

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)
Snowy Egret at Gemini Springs | 20 January 2015

Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris)
Painted Bunting in our back yard | 22 January 2015

Ibis at sunrise
Glossy Ibis sunrise at Gemini Springs | 23 January 2015

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)
Brown Thrasher at Gemini Springs | 23 January 2015

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Cattle Egret at Audubon Park | 24 January 2015

Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)
Black Vulture at Gemini Springs | 25 January 2015

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)
Northern Mockingbird at Gemini Springs | 25 January 2015

Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)
Swamp Sparrow at Gemini Springs | 26 January 2015

I'm not smart
I’m not very smart – my mud-soaked socked foot at Gemini Springs | 26 January 2015

Gemini Springs bird list, January 2015
Blue-winged Teal – Anas discors
Hooded Merganser – Lophodytes cucullatus
Pied-billed Grebe – Podilymbus podiceps
Wood Stork – Mycteria americana
Double-crested Cormorant – Phalacrocorax auritus
Anhinga – Anhinga anhinga
American Bittern – Botaurus lentiginosus
Great Blue Heron – Ardea herodias
Great Egret – Ardea alba
Snowy Egret – Egretta thula
Little Blue Heron – Egretta caerulea
Tricolored Heron – Egretta tricolor
Cattle Egret – Bubulcus ibis
Green Heron – Butorides virescens
White Ibis – Eudocimus albus
Glossy Ibis – Plegadis falcinellus
Black Vulture – Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
Northern Harrier – Circus cyaneus
Cooper’s Hawk – Accipiter cooperii
Bald Eagle – Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Red-shouldered Hawk – Buteo lineatus
Red-tailed Hawk – Buteo jamaicensis
Sora – Porzana carolina
Common Gallinule – Gallinula galeata
American Coot – Fulica americana
Limpkin – Aramus guarauna
Killdeer – Charadrius vociferus
Ring-billed Gull – Larus delawarensis
Forster’s Tern – Sterna forsteri
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
Barred Owl – Strix varia
Belted Kingfisher – Megaceryle alcyon
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius
Downy Woodpecker – Picoides pubescens
Pileated Woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus
American Kestrel – Falco sparverius
Eastern Phoebe – Sayornis phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike – Lanius ludovicianus
White-eyed Vireo – Vireo griseus
Blue-headed Vireo – Vireo solitarius
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata
American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos
Fish Crow – Corvus ossifragus
Tree Swallow – Tachycineta bicolor
Tufted Titmouse – Baeolophus bicolor
House Wren – Troglodytes aedon
Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Polioptila caerulea
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Regulus calendula
Hermit Thrush – Catharus guttatus
American Robin – Turdus migratorius
Gray Catbird – Dumetella carolinensis
Brown Thrasher – Toxostoma rufum
Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos
Cedar Waxwing – Bombycilla cedrorum
Black-and-white Warbler – Mniotilta varia
Orange-crowned Warbler – Oreothlypis celata
Common Yellowthroat – Geothlypis trichas
Palm Warbler – Setophaga palmarum
Pine Warbler – Setophaga pinus
Yellow-rumped Warbler – Setophaga coronata
Yellow-throated Warbler – Setophaga dominica
Prairie Warbler – Setophaga discolor
Chipping Sparrow – Spizella passerina
Savannah Sparrow – Passerculus sandwichensis
Swamp Sparrow – Melospiza georgiana
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
Red-winged Blackbird – Agelaius phoeniceus
Common Grackle – Quiscalus quiscula
Boat-tailed Grackle – Quiscalus major
American Goldfinch – Spinus tristis

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Daytona Beach CBC Seawatch

Tom Renick Park

On Saturday I joined my friends Harry and Eli for a 10 hour seawatch at Tom Renick Park in Ormond-by-the-Sea. The weather was fine for standing around all day, but calm winds meant little excitement on the birding front. At least the company was swell. The ten hours didn’t pass too slowly. ๐Ÿ˜‰

birders

Eli and Harry have done the seawatch the previous three years, so I was the newbie. I hardly get to the beach and I’ve never done any kind of long-term seawatch like this. The closest I came was a handful of 2-3 hours searches for Razorbills a couple of winters ago in Ponce Inlet. Harry has many hours of seawatching experience, both here in Florida and back in old England.

Eli and I took a couple of walks on the beach to keep from falling asleep — I mean, to count shorebirds! Yes, we went out on a couple of shorebird-counting forays. Right off the bat on the first stroll I spotted a big pink something flying over the Halifax River. It was far and moving fast in the early morning sun. Sometimes big white birds can look pink in the right light, but I got Eli on the bird and even managed to snap this magnificent shot to confirm ID. Roseate Spoonbill was new to the seawatch list — yay me!

Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)

We counted 24 Red Knots on our 1+ mile walk south. The flock included Lime Green 4C2, first captured in South Carolina in October 2011. Others have reported this bird in New Jersey, and Georgia. This bird is also radio-tagged.

Red knot (Calidris canutus)

In the afternoon we trained our scopes on some distant fishing trawlers and their groupies, which consisted of gulls, pelicans, gulls, Northern Gannets, and gulls.

fishing trawler

Harry spotted a couple of Parasitic Jaegers in the mix, plus a pair of Glaucous Gulls. I didn’t manage to get on them at all, which was a bummer. So was this find during our morning walk:

Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)

I didn’t see any bands so I left the bird (Northern Gannet) undisturbed.

A Mourning Dove joined us for a while, perching on a nearby century plant stalk.

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

Eli and I had a short walk to the north in the afternoon. We found a pair of Ring-billed Gulls dancing around.

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)

We found another banded bird, a Ring-billed Gull. I submitted the tag info to the Bird Banding Laboratory. Hopefully I’ll hear back about this bird, too.

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)

EDIT: I heard back about this bird. It was first banded in May 2012 as an adult bird hatched in 2009 or earlier. It was banded in Montreal, which is about 1200 miles, as the gull flies, from Ormond-by-the-Sea. Here’s the certificate I got with the information:

banded RBGU

It was a good day out at the beach with my friends and ended with a nice group dinner at a local Chinese spot. I’ll do my last CBC of the season next weekend with Arthur in Ponce Inlet.

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#SCBWF Pelagic January 27, 2014

On Monday my friend Kim and I boarded the Pastime Princess for the annual Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival (SCBWF) pelagic trip out of Ponce Inlet. I used the same method as last time to track our trip. The light gray dotted line along the bottom of the map on the left side shows the Volusia County border; we were within Volusia waters for the entire trip.

pelagic map
Click here for full view of map

Seas were extremely calm, which unfortunately meant that few birds were on the wing. The easygoing, relaxed ride made it simple for me to check our location every half hour or so. The dock (start/end point) is somewhere northwest of point A in the inlet. When calculating distance between points, I used a straight line. At our farthest we were just about 50 miles offshore and we traveled a total of somewhere around 150 miles. I added a table to the end of this post showing where we were at what time.

placid
placid water

From about 8:45 to about 11:30 we saw zero birds. Two Audubon’s Shearwaters in the early afternoon and a pair of jaegers (one Pomarine and one Parasitic) as we approached land on the way back were the most exciting birds. Northern Gannets were in relative abundance closer to shore and we could study their plumage cycles. In total I recorded 28 species, most of which were found in the inlet at the start and end of the day. I entered six eBird checklists; see the links at the end of this post.

Northern Gannet immature
Northern Gannet, 1st cycle

Four washback sea turtles were released near beds of Sargassum. Two of the youngsters were from the Marine Science Center and two were from Sea World. There were three Greens and one Loggerhead.

sea turtle release
Michael Brothers holds baby sea turtles prior to release. Green on the left; Loggerhead on the right

We did see 6 to 8 adult Loggerhead Sea Turtles throughout the day. We also came across pods of Common Bottlenose (in the inlet) and Atlantic Spotted Dolphins during the journey. Twice we were lucky to have some spotteds join us as we clipped along at speed. They were a ton of fun to watch. Look for the baby in the below video.

Species list, January 27 2014 pelagic:

Black Scoter – Melanitta americana
Common Loon – Gavia immer
Audubon’s Shearwater – Puffinus lherminieri
Northern Gannet – Morus bassanus
Double-crested Cormorant – Phalacrocorax auritus
Brown Pelican – Pelecanus occidentalis
Great Blue Heron – Ardea herodias
Little Blue Heron – Egretta caerulea
Green Heron – Butorides virescens
Black-crowned Night-Heron – Nycticorax nycticorax
White Ibis – Eudocimus albus
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
American Oystercatcher – Haematopus palliatus
Ruddy Turnstone – Arenaria interpres
Purple Sandpiper – Calidris maritima
Pomarine Jaeger – Stercorarius pomarinus
Parasitic Jaeger – Stercorarius parasiticus
Bonaparte’s Gull – Chroicocephalus philadelphia
Laughing Gull – Leucophaeus atricilla
Ring-billed Gull – Larus delawarensis
Herring Gull – Larus argentatus
Lesser Black-backed Gull – Larus fuscus
Great Black-backed Gull – Larus marinus
Royal Tern – Thalasseus maximus
Sandwich Tern – Thalasseus sandvicensis
Black Skimmer – Rynchops niger
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
Boat-tailed Grackle – Quiscalus major

Here are my eBird checklists from the day:

eBird checklist: 6:45AM, 45 minutes, 5.35 miles
eBird checklist: 7:30AM, 1 hour 15 minutes, 15.98 miles
eBird checklist: 11:30AM, 2 hours, 25.85 miles
eBird checklist: 3:00PM, 30 minutes, 5.87 miles
eBird checklist: 3:30PM, 1 hour 10 minutes, 14.06 miles
eBird checklist: 4:40PM, 1 hour 50 minutes, 22.67 miles

Here’s where we were, when:

Marker Time Latitude, Longitude Distance
A 6:47AM 29 1.38N, 80 54.53W
B 7:32AM 29 4.47N, 80 54.18W 5.35 miles
C 7:50AM 29 4.25N, 80 52.27W 1.92 miles
D 8:19AM 29 1.28N, 80 45.57W 7.56 miles
E 8:45AM 28 59.36N, 80 39.47W 6.50 miles
F 9:43AM 28 52.57N, 80 26.58W 15.07 miles
G 10:23AM 28 48.7N, 80 17.58W 10.17 miles
H 11:04AM 28 48.26N, 80 6.48W 11.25 miles
I 11:36AM 28 49.17N, 80 0.22W 6.38 miles
J 12:25PM 28 51.43N, 79 48.48W 12.15 miles
K 1:00PM 28 53.49N, 79 54.12W 6.21 miles
L 1:30PM 28 55.5N, 80 1.18W 7.49 miles
M 2:01PM 28 55.58N, 80 6.17W 5.03 miles
N 2:31PM 28 57.12N, 80 13.30W 7.40 miles
O 3:01PM 28 58.36N, 80 18.28W 5.23 miles
P 3:32PM 29 0.44N, 80 23.6W 5.87 miles
Q 3:39PM 29 1.56N, 80 27.54W 4.14 miles
R 4:40PM 29 3.39N, 80 37.14W 9.92 miles
S 5:03PM 29 3.58N, 80 43.51W 6.41 miles
T 5.31PM 29 4.52N, 80 51.45W 8.08 miles
return A approx 6:30PM 8.18 miles
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Audubon Park accessible!

Back on March 2nd I wrote a bit on a small park in Deltona, Audubon Park. At the time I had the impression that the park was somewhat underused and relatively unknown. I noted that some new signs were installed in the park so it probably was not as unknown as I suspected. However, when I went to visit the park on the morning of March 19th I found the entrance gate locked. The park was not open at sunrise as signed. A half hour after sunrise no one came to open the gate so I left, grumbling.

Open at sunrise?

I learned that on April 19th the park had its official opening by the City of Deltona. I was unable to attend but had it in mind as I went biking on the East Regional Rail Trail with Arthur and his parents on April 27th. When we reached the back entrance to the park on the bike trail, I was absolutely thrilled to see that the pedestrian gate was open and there was a sign to indicate passage to Audubon Park. Yes!

Audubon Park

We headed into the park and had a short walk around the ponds and circle path. Bird life wasn’t too abundant that afternoon, though I was happy to have good looks at a couple of Black-necked Stilts and some Spotted Sandpipers (my Bird-a-Day) running along the shoreline.

Black-necked Stilt

There was also a great new sign showcasing some of the species recorded at the park. The poster has a couple of maddening spelling and editing errors that I tried to overlook – really, it’s always great to see birds getting a shout-out.

Audubon Park

Audubon Park is a small sanctuary that Deltona has developed into a nice little destination for birders. Access from the East Regional Rail Trail bike path is open so I hope to make this a regular place to visit in my quest to add to my BIGBY species list. Now if only they would add proper bike parking! ๐Ÿ˜‰

bikes

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Birding Volusia: Audubon Park

Audubon Park
Audubon Park in Deltona, Florida

While heading down Doyle Road in Deltona in early January, I noticed a sign off of a side road that read “Audubon Park.” I couldn’t stop then, but later at home I looked online for information about the park. I couldn’t find much besides a short mention in a meeting minutes from the Deltona Parks & Recreation Advisory Board. A large part of the text involved the fact that no one on the board seemed to know where the park was located.

Boardwalk
The boardwalk goes over a marshy area

Anyway, Arthur and I went back to the park a day or two later to see what it was like. The park consists of about 60 acres and includes four small water bodies that serve to filter waste water naturally. There is also a long boardwalk over an open marsh (now dry) and a chipped wood path through a small patch of woods. On my first visit on January 6th I was happy to see that the small water ponds had attracted a pair of Hooded Mergansers, my first in Volusia for the year. Arthur found some Eastern Bluebirds, also FOY birds for me.

Audubon Park
Water treatment ponds

trail sign
The loop trail goes into the woods

The next time I visited the park was on my mini big green day on January 19th. One great thing about Audubon Park is that it is adjacent to the new East Regional Rail Trial, which now runs through Deltona to SR415 in Osteen and will eventually extend all the way to Edgewater and Titusville (!!). However, there is currently no access from the park to the bike trail, which should really, really, be easy to facilitate. There is already a dirt road connecting the two, but it is gated. The photo above shows the dirt road heading to the bike path.

parkblocked!
Access to the park from the trail would be through this gate

Hopefully access from the bike path to the park will eventually be opened up. Anyway, without proper access I biked to the park by going around and cycling shortly on busy Doyle Rd, something I don’t really want to do again. Of course, it was definitely worth it, because I picked up some great new BIGBY species (Green-winged Teal and both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs). ๐Ÿ™‚

I felt I had discovered an under-used, unloved and virtually unknown park, but on my visit on January 31st I was surprised to find brand new signs, signs, and more signs. There are now tree ID signs all along the path, and a pair of informational signs declaring the intent of the Ledford Regional Surface Water Treatment Facility (I can’t find anything about the park using this name in a Google search, by the way). So maybe it’s not so unloved and unknown, anyway.

Slash Pine
Many, many trees have these big, bold ID signs

Ledford Regional Surface Water Treatment Facility
LRSWTF

I’ve visited a few more times in the last couple of weeks. The small park continues to be productive, though not overwhelmingly birdy. In and around the ponds I’ve seen Cattle Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Wilson’s Snipes, a lone Spotted Sandpiper just this week, Sandhill Cranes, lots of Killdeer, and a pair of Mallards. The woods and transition habitat hold the usual suspects, including Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Carolina Wrens, White-eyed Vireos, Northern Mockingbirds, and others. I have also seen some interesting fungus there including Column Stinkhorn (very stinky when it was in bloom in January) and a pretty metallic mushroom.

Little Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron

Hooded Merganser
Hooded Merganser

Column Stinkhorn
Column Stinkhorn

Audubon Park is located off of Lush Lane in Deltona. Lush Lane is off Doyle Road between Saxon and Courtland. Here’s a map. The green arrow points to the parking area; you can see the water treatment ponds to the west. On the map, Ledford Road appears to run through the property, but this dirt road is blocked to public access. Ledford would be the access from the East Regional Rail Trail to the park. The Rail Trail is the line running south of the park, roughly parallel to Doyle.

Have you ever birded at Audubon Park? Do you have your own “unknown” birding spot? Let me know in the comments! Especially if it’s in Volusia County! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Audubon Park bird species list so far (through March 1st, 2013)

Mallard (Domestic type) – Anas platyrhynchos
Green-winged Teal – Anas crecca
Hooded Merganser – Lophodytes cucullatus
Little Blue Heron – Egretta caerulea
Cattle Egret – Bubulcus ibis
Black Vulture – Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
Swallow-tailed Kite – Elanoides forficatus
Bald Eagle – Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Red-shouldered Hawk – Buteo lineatus
Red-tailed Hawk – Buteo jamaicensis
Sandhill Crane – Grus canadensis
Killdeer – Charadrius vociferus
Spotted Sandpiper – Actitis macularius
Greater Yellowlegs – Tringa melanoleuca
Lesser Yellowlegs – Tringa flavipes
Wilson’s Snipe – Gallinago delicata
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus
Pileated Woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus
American Kestrel – Falco sparverius
Eastern Phoebe – Sayornis phoebe
White-eyed Vireo – Vireo griseus
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata
American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos
Fish Crow – Corvus ossifragus
Tree Swallow – Tachycineta bicolor
Tufted Titmouse – Baeolophus bicolor
Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Polioptila caerulea
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Regulus calendula
Eastern Bluebird – Sialia sialis
American Robin – Turdus migratorius
Gray Catbird – Dumetella carolinensis
Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos
Northern Parula – Setophaga americana
Palm Warbler – Setophaga palmarum
Yellow-rumped Warbler – Setophaga coronata
Chipping Sparrow – Spizella passerina
Savannah Sparrow – Passerculus sandwichensis
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
American Goldfinch – Spinus tristis

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Posted in Volusia Birding | 4 Comments

Goals for 2013

It’s that time of year! Here’s what I hope to accomplish, bird-wise, in 2013.

  • I’ll be keeping a BIGBY list again. With 115 birds last year, I surpassed my goal. That total will be hard to beat; I will be happy to get 100+ again in 2013.
  • I will be participating in the Bird-a-Day Challenge once again. My target is to beat last year’s total of 144 birds. I also strive to not stress about it too much. It’s a lot of fun but it messed with my head a bit last year. ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • I would like to crack 200 birds in Volusia for the year. My Volusia life list is at 180, my 2012 list was 167 (#1 on eBird), and the eBird total for Volusia in 2012 was 249 (all as of December 30). The Big Year record for Volusia is 278 birds set by Michael Brothers in 2007.
  • I will try really, really hard to review at least 20 books this year. I post my reviews on MagnificentFrigatebird.com and last year I was a huge slacker.
  • I’d like to fill in the missing weeks for Gemini Springs on eBird. Right now there are three eBird hotspots for Gemini Springs (I have suggested these be merged, but I am not sure how this process works). I use Gemini Springs and there are just two greyed-out weeks: the second in February and the second in May (from my own checklists, there are 7 weeks missing). The hotspot Gemini Springs County Park has more checklists over fewer months; between May and November there are only two weeks of data. This location appears to be used heavily by a snowbirder! ๐Ÿ™‚ Combining all of the Gemini hotspots leaves just the second week of May missing.
  • I would like to improve my raptor handling skills at my new volunteer place, but I feel moving forward here isn’t in my hands as much as I would like. So I would consider it a “nice-to-have” if I could handle 4 more birds in 2013.

Do you have any goals (bird-related or otherwise!) for the coming year? Let me know in the comments! And best wishes for a fantastic and successful 2013!

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Posted in ACBOP, Bird-a-Day Challenge, Florida, Green Birding, Volusia Birding | Leave a comment

Razorfail*

*Spoiler: I did see a Razorbill.

In case you haven’t heard, Florida is having an unprecidented Razorbill invasion. They have been seen all up and down both coasts, as far west as Pensacola on the Gulf coast. They usually don’t venture further south than coastal North Carolina or so. Florida had a handful of records prior to this invasion.

On December 12th I went to Lighthouse Point Park in Ponce Inlet, where Razorbills had been reported in earlier days. When I arrived at about 12PM it was drizzling steadily. I decided to walk out on the jetty without my scope. The rain came on and off, and though I didn’t see any Razorbills, there were birds around. I even saw a sea turtle.

STOP
Great Black-backed Gull

Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret

sea turtle
I think this is a Green Sea Turtle

I headed back into the inlet for a while, where I saw a huge flock of Black Skimmers fly down to land on a sandbar. I added a few other birds to my day list and watched some dolphins playing by a marina. The skies cleared a bit and I walked back out onto the jetty, this time with my scope. When I arrived at the end, birder Michael Brothers was there and informed me that a Razorbill had been seen about a half hour prior. Well, I stepped away just in time then, didn’t I? D’oh. I looked for another 45 minutes before I had to leave. It started raining again on my way back in and I got soaked. Sad, sad Razorfail. A half hour later I went back out on the jetty again with Arthur for a short look, but we didn’t see a Razorbill. We did see a flyover Roseate Spoonbill, though. Big pink birds are always good, even far away and in the rain.

Roseate Spoonbill filter
Roseate Spoonbill, artsy ediiton

Last Wednesday I went out to Ponce Inlet again. Now the weather was spectacular — cool but sunny, with a bright blue sky and relatively calm waters. I collected my scope, binoculars, and camera, and headed out onto the jetty. A large group of Black Skimmers was loafing on the beach. They seemed quite photogenic so I stopped to take some photos, but my camera didn’t react. The card door was open and the card slot was EMPTY. After ransacking the car it became clear I had another case of Razorfail — there would be no photos this day. I consoled myself by thinking that such an error probably guaranteed I would see a Razorbill. I was right.

I set up my scope and looked. And looked. And looked. A pair of Red-breasted Mergansers, a Common Loon, and a large flock of scoters all went by. Good birds, but no Razorbill. After about two and a half hours, Mr. Michael Brothers came out onto the pier. And about 20 minutes after that, he pointed out my lifer Razorbill to me. It appeared in the mouth of the inlet, actively feeding. It would bob up momentarily before disappearing underwater for extended periods. Michael left after a short while, but I stayed on the Razorbill for another half hour or so. After the feeding frenzy, it had an extensive period of preening, giving me very nice looks and letting me snap some terrible iPhonescoped shots. I didn’t take any nice photos but I’m happy I got to spend some quality time watching this special visitor. Good luck, Razorbill.

just an eBird record shot
My lifer Razorbill

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