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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Captain Forster's Hammock

Sometimes it's not about driving hours and hundreds of miles to find birds.  Sometimes I go birding as close as 15 miles from the house.  Such was the case today.  Of course, there was ever-present undertone of the chance of county birds.  We are in the window when Bay-breasted warblers move through the state.  Golden-winged warbler and Philadelphia vireo are also passing through, although their peak has passed.  All of these would be welcome additions to my Indian River County list.

With that in mind, I set out to bird Captain Forster's Hammock Preserve.  I rarely get out to this area despite its proximity to the house.  The preserve stretches from the Indian River Lagoon to the beach, mangroves to sea oats.  The parking area has a good deal of native plants and open, grassy edges.  There is a low, wet weedy/brushy area leading to an extensive Maritime Hammock, a habitat that is in short supply along the coast of Florida.

Upon arrival, I was met with many birds, mostly wintering birds like Gray catbirds, and House wren.  Right next to the parking lot is a large Ficus tree and a large Live oak with a clump of Virginia creeper, full of fruit.  The birds have taken notice.  Several warblers and catbirds were feeding in this clump.  Painted buntings winter in the brushy field and there were many here today.  Ovenbirds were in great abundance this day, throughout the hammock areas.  I found 11 species of warblers total including Tennessee, Magnolia, Black-throated green, and Black-throated blue.  The county has recently cleared a number of new trails, and I spent some time exploring many of them.  Ovenbirds were all along the trails and even in the field area.  There was one Northern waterthrush along a dead end trail in the SW corner of the property.  The Eagle Loop had several birds, as it often does, and I suspect there may have been more than I saw.  Density of the vegetation makes it difficult to find all the birds.  This is the best area on the property for Bay-breasted warbler, in my opinion.  Someday I will see one here, but not today.

I left without any county ticks but had a nice time walking and look forward to checking it out again soon.  I have seen Blue-winged warbler, Black-billed cuckoo, and Nutmeg Mannikin here in past visits.  The Mannikin is a popular caged bird that often escapes into the wild in Florida.  A wild breeding population has become somewhat established in the Pensacola area, spreading west into Alabama.  Other populations occur in Mississippi and Texas as well.   An unknown number also breed in the Miami area.  I have seen them a number of times at Matheson Hammock County Park.

Here is the eBird checklist I submitted through BirdLog:

Oct 16, 2013
Captian Forster Hammock Preserve
Traveling
1 miles
118 Minutes
Observers: 1
All birds reported? Yes
Comments: Hiked most trails west of A1A. Many new trails.
5 Double-crested Cormorant
8 American White Pelican
1 Great Blue Heron
4 Great Egret -- Flying high and south.
1 Snowy Egret -- Flying high and south. With GREG.
1 Green Heron
11 Turkey Vulture
2 Osprey
2 Belted Kingfisher
6 Red-bellied Woodpecker
1 Downy Woodpecker
8 White-eyed Vireo
3 Red-eyed Vireo
6 Blue Jay
3 Carolina Wren
3 House Wren
5 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
25 Gray Catbird
1 Northern Mockingbird
1 Tennessee Warbler
3 Northern Parula
1 Magnolia Warbler
2 Black-throated Blue Warbler
1 Black-throated Green Warbler
1 Yellow-throated Warbler
1 Prairie Warbler
1 Palm Warbler
2 Black-and-white Warbler
2 American Redstart
12 Ovenbird
1 Northern Waterthrush
6 Common Yellowthroat
16 Northern Cardinal
6 Painted Bunting
6 Common Grackle

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