No CBC today, just traveling to get in position for tomorrow's Aripeka-Bayport CBC. On the way to Pine Island Park, I hit Bystre Lake east of Brooksville. On the way to Bystre Lake, I stopped along the road to check out a pond in a pasture, such is county listing. There was a flock of 250 Brown-headed cowbirds, and only Brown-headed cowbirds, moving from a dead pine to a small herd of cattle. Sometimes I spy a Bronzed cowbird or Yellow-headed blackbird among such flocks. Most of the time I do not. This time I found a few European starlings. 30 species in nine minutes. No new ticks.
At Bystre Lake I found 40 species in 17 minutes. Ducks were in short supply. I could not even find a coot or gallinule. The exception was four Ruddy ducks sitting low in the water and WAY out there. I have found quite a few county ticks at this lake, including Greater white-fronted goose last March at the first annual Nature Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. I checked the list, and Ruddy duck was new for Hernando, #191.
On to Pine Island Park to finish the day, but wait! There is another pasture pond along SR 50 east of Brooksville. I stopped to investigate the Black-bellied whistling-ducks, about 30, and to see if there were any more ducks lurking in the vegetation. There were a couple Mottled ducks and 11 Green-winged teal. The teal were new for Hernando, 192. 17 species in seven minutes, one new tick.
Finally, at Pine Island Park, I set out to scan the waters and hope for some shorebird ticks. Tide was HIGH, as I noted on the way out to the park. West winds were exaggerating the tide, but could make up for the loss of shorebird habitat by blowing in a Northern gannet. They did not. I found very little in the way of ducks in the bay and gulf. Only one Bufflehead, and a few Red-breasted mergansers. No loons, no goldeneye, no scoters. There were some distant scaup that were clearly not scoters, but I had a brief moment of hope. Two scaup were in the water closer and one was a Greater, TICK. I could not get on the other one. There were a few Sanderlings among the Dunlin on the artificial beach here. Florida's gulf coast is pretty much lacking in sandy beaches throughout the Big Bend area save for some man-made beaches here and there. Good thing for us county listers!
Most exciting happening of the day: I was scanning to the north along the tree tops and houses, looking for Peregrine Falcon. This species often sits atop dead trees, or even on buildings between bouts of chasing and eating the slowest 5% of the local bird populations. On a railing was a white lump, very much like an owl. A white lump, very much like an owl. We are experiencing another irruption year for Snowy owls (Florida hasn't had theirs yet.) Dee and I drove up to coastal Georgia to see a Snowy owl sitting atop a condo (I then drove back up to Tallahassee to see Florida's first Costa's hummingbird, and got a Razorbill in Florida, the same day!) Now I found a Snowy owl on my own? It's not moving. Still not moving. Looks kind of odd. Maybe I should keep scanning and see if it has moved when I come back. I scanned to the other end of the railing and there was a Greater wood-hawk sitting stock still on the other end. Dang artists! There is still time to find a Snowy owl in Florida this winter. I have hope.
Coolest thing of the visit was showing a kid, about 5 I'd guess, the gulls and terns and shorebirds. His dad was keen on showing him birds even though he was not a birder himself. He does have birder friends in Montreal, so hopefully this will be a future birder.
eBird Checklists for the day
Pond before Bystre Lake
Pond on SR 50
Pine Island Park