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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Palm Beach County 2012 02 10

On February 10, 2012, I set out to add some key county birds to my Palm Beach County list.  I had a line on a Red-headed woodpecker in the north end of the county.  There were Piping and Wilson's plovers on the beach in Lake Worth, and I was one of the last people to have not seen the nesting Neotropical cormorants at Wakodahatchee.  I also wanted to take a shot at Common myna and House finch, both of which have been reported on eBird in the Lake Worth area.  Snook Island held the possibility of Reddish egret, American oystercatcher, and maybe a few other lagoon birds.  Wild turkeys occur at the park where the Red-headed woodpecker is found and Virginia rails have been seen in Wakodahatchee.  Those two are inevitable county ticks that had somehow eluded me to that point.  The had three main targets were the plovers and the cormorant.  Best case scenario, I could pick up 8-10 new ticks.  I also hoped to check out the parrot roost at The Breakers along the beach north of Lake Worth.  The day promised to be a fun one with new birds and new sites to explore.

The day finally came and so did the rain.  My schedule is such that I must go birding when I can, regardless of weather.  The rain was merciful in the first couple hours as I explored Loxahatchee River Bend Park.  There is a juvenile Red-headed woodpecker in the back of the park and turkeys roam the open areas.  I picked up the turkeys at the farthest back parking lot.  The Red-headed would prove more difficult.  The clouds may have had something to do with missing this species.  They are late risers and can often be difficult to find on cloudy days.  The park has lots of trails, lots of birds, and an interesting history.  It will be worth coming back to if I can get the time.

Next on the docket was Wakodohatchee Wetlands to see the nesting Neotropical cormorants.  I saw my first Great cormorant in a sewage plant in Delray Beach 20+ years ago.  Palm Beach would be the first county where I have seen all three cormorants.

The rain couldn't help itself at this point.  I circled the boardwalk a couple times to determine exactly where the cormorants were.  There are many islands with nesting birds, but only one with cormorants.  I managed to hear Virginia rail on the back section of the trail for my second tick of the day.  There was no sign of the cormorants at the island as 10:00 approached.  The Neotropicals had been reported to leave by 10:00 in past days, so I wondered if I was going to have to come back later in the day.  Right about 10:00, a non-breeding Neotropical cormorant flew into the trees.  It did not fly to a nest, just lanede and squabbled with a Double-crested cormorant nearby.  The rains began to come down steadily at this point.  I had seen Neotrops before, so I decided to head back to the parking area and plan my next adventure.

What an adventure it was!  I arrived at the Lake Worth Pier and parked in the park north of the pier.  The rain was not stopping at all now.  It varied from light to heavy, but did not stop.  I did not have another day to come back and the Piping and Wilson's plovers are very rare birds in Palm Beach, so I set out to get them in the rain.  At least they don't mind getting wet.  I walked north toward the small lagoon that had formed on the upper beach.  After about a half mile, I found the lagoon along with lots of Semipalmated plovers, Dunlin, Lesser black-backed gulls of all ages, and four Piping plovers.  Where was the Wilson's plover?  I could not find it in the flock.  A couple of Piping plovers had bands, but I could not determine the color and arrangement due to the constant activity of the birds and the rain on my binoculars.  I decided to head on up the beach to the next park in hopes of finding the Wilson's plover.  It is about two miles up and back and it rained the entire time.  I failed to find the Wilson's north of the lagoon, so I trudged back.  This time the Wilson's plover was right there in front of me.  That was quite a relief.  It made the day.  Anything else would be a bonus.  I got back to the truck and tried to dry out as best I could.

I headed across the lagoon to check out Snook Island, but found the area closed for repairs.  Maybe for the better since it was still raining.  I needed to get gas before heading home, so I decided to stop nearby in hopes of getting Common myna and House finch.  I had five ticks this day, three high quality ticks and two that were finally on my list.

I did not get any more birds, but more importantly I did not get sick from the wet and cold.  It was a very satisfying day and I got back home in early afternoon.  273 total for Palm Beach.  I have faint hopes of hitting 300 some day.  I am still missing some ridiculous birds like Common loon, Hermit thrush, and Scarlet tanager.  I'll come back and get Red-headed woodpecker eventually and Common myna and House finch.  300 could happen.

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