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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Palm Beach County Birding 2013 09 30

Between the Cape Florida Banding Station and checking on the trailer in Clewiston, I decided to hit Snook Island Natural Area in Lake Worth.  The islands were created to provide mangrove habitat and oyster beds for fish and wildlife in the Lake Worth Lagoon.  There is a boardwalk with a gazebo at the end which provides shade and a great vista from which I have added many Palm Beach County Birds.  American oystercatchers breed here, thanks to this project.  I have seen them many times, but not every time I have been here.  It is the only place in southeast Florida where you can see oystercatchers on a regular basis.  I have seen Black and Surf scoters, not easy to find in south Florida, at this site.  Reddish egrets show up for other people, but not me.  They occur in various spots in the lagoon from here south to Boynton Inlet.  At low tide, as it was when I visited this day, there are shorebirds can be common.  The southernmost and closest island was recently completed and is not covered with mangroves, thus it is good for shorebirds.  The reason for this visit was a recently posted Red knot sighting.  Red knot is a very rare bird south of Merritt Island NWR in Florida.  I have seen one in Dade County, but not in Palm Beach.

When I got to the kiosk, I was greeted by a couple of locals who were escaping from the sun.  One of them was Demetrius Simpson who has a cousin named David Simpson.  I showed them some of the birds through the scope and on the Sibley App on my phone.  The Oystercatchers showed up while I was there.  I didn't hear or see them, they just appeared on one of the nearer islands.  The Red knot was present with a bunch of Black-bellied plovers (called Grey plover across the pond) and Least sandpipers.  I even FINALLY got a Reddish egret way in the distance.

This puts Palm Beach at 287, one behind Dade again.  Both of these counties will eventually hit 300, but it is tough to do when you don't live there.  Low density birds such as House finch, Connecticut and Bay-breasted warblers, Horned grebe, etc. continue to elude me.  House finches were introduced to the eastern U.S. (from the western U.S.) ca. 1940 when, as the story goes, a pet dealer released 40-50 birds to avoid being caught selling native wild birds.  Those birds spread throughout the eastern states eventually merging with the western population.  They spread to Florida ca. 1988 when they were found nesting in Tallahassee.  We fully expected them to be throughout the state within 5-10 years, but they seem to have hit a wall and have only very slowly spread to south Florida.  They have been found in every county in Florida and have probably nested in most, but they remain local and nomadic in most counties south of Gainesville.  Birds in southeast FL may have also come from a separate introduction in the Miami area.  Connecticut and Bay-breasted warblers migrate through in small windows of time.  Connecticut warblers are fairly common in the second week of May, less so the week before and after that.  Bay-breasted warbler is most common in the third week of October, although they may arrive in late September and linger through November.  I have yet to be in either county at the right time to tick these birds.  I was actually in Dade to chase a Townsend's warbler, which I got, when there were six Bay-breasted warblers in the same park, which I did not get.  Horned grebe is present is small numbers on Biscayne Bay in Dade, but I just haven't caught up with one yet.  I got one in Palm Beach County during an "invasion" year a few years back.  Some day I will hit 300 in Volusia (291), Dade (288), and Palm Beach (287) Counties.  A few people have achieved 300 in three different counties.  I hope to be the first person to hit 300 in four different counties.  The fourth county, Brevard, sits at 358 right now.

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