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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cape Florida Bird Banding Station

Monday September 30 was likely my one and only day this fall that I'll be able to get out to the Cape Florida Banding Station.  True to my county listing roots, I hit the beach at Crandon Park before going to the station.  Whimbrels sometimes show at the beach, including a few recent sightings.  Common tern, another hole in my list, is a coastal species that migrates through Florida at this time.  The beaches of Crandon Park, which opens earlier than Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park where the banding station is located, are pretty good for shorebirds before the crowds come and scare them away.  Monday morning, the tide was high and shorebirds were scarce.  Only about 100 Sanderlings and a single, unbanded Piping plover were present.  Many gulls, mostly Laughing with some Lesser black-backed and one Herring gull came in shortly after daylight.  Five Egyptian geese were grazing the grassy field between the south and north sections of the park.  Egyptian geese are rapidly becoming an established exotic species of bird in southeast Florida and will likely be added to the official FOSRC list and then the ABA list in the near future.  Crandon Park Zoo is the likely origin of these birds.  The former zoo, located on what is now Crandon Park, hosted many species of exotic waterfowl for years after it was closed and the other animals were removed.  Many of the 30+ species of ducks, swans, geese, shelducks, etc. are now gone.  In 2002, I remember seeing 5-6 species each of swans and geese including Coscoroba Swan and Nene geese.  Many species of whistling-ducks including the Plumed whistling-duck  were present.  One of my favorite ducks, Chiloe wigeon was also there.  Most species were in pairs but breeding was not in evidence.  High numbers of turtles in the water and iguanas outside of the water may have had something to do with that.  A recent visit to the park revealed a much smaller variety of waterfowl species.  A pair of Coscoroba swans were there and one Nene was on a nest defended by an Egyptian goose.  The nest failed later, as reported by others.  Today the Egyptian geese are prevalent in urban areas from Miami to Palm Beach Counties and smaller numbers are found as far north as Brevard County.  (eBird range map for Egyptian goose)  Note that many sightings of Egyptian goose have occurred around the state over the years, likely from other sources.

So, I was supposed to write about the banding station.  I arrived at the station, after redetermining just where it was, just in time to miss the male Painted bunting that was the first bird to be caught in the newest net, number 21.  Several folks were at the station this morning and I was able to make runs with most of them.  Numbers were low this day with 13 birds of 11 species banded at the time I left.  Worm-eating warbler was one of the species.  This species has been represented every day since the nets opened in mid-August.

I left the station around 10:40 and conducted a hawk watch on the mound at the north end of the nature trail.  This spot gives a good view of the sky and could be a great spot to do a sister hawk watch to the Florida Keys Hawkwatch.  I hope to get out here in late August or early September to look for Mississippi kite for my Dade County list.  This day, I saw seven Merlins in a half hour.  There could have been more since they were flying low over the treetops.

After my lunchtime hawk watch, I headed to Palm Beach County for another blog entry.

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