The entrance into the STA is actually in Okeechobee County, so I ignored the birds seen there to keep the list "pure"in terms of Martin County listing. Burrowing owls have been seen in the area, but only on the Okeechobee County side of the line in private property adjacent to the STA.
Nancy and Nancy are keeping an ever growing list of species for the site. We were able to add some species to the list this day and I was able to add about five to my Martin County list. Many of the species seen were the same we would see the next day at STA 1E. One Barn swallow was seen among the Tree swallows. Tree swallows, which primarily sustain themselves on flying insects, winter in Florida and the southern U.S. by switching to the fruits of Wax myrtle during cold snaps when flying insects are hard to find. Barn swallows generally do not have this ability, but in recent years a few Barns have been staying late into the winter or even all the way through. They are regularly seen well into November in central Florida and especially south Florida where a few have lingered through to February in recent years.
Shorebirds were not well represented here with only six species, but we did get a lingering Black-necked stilt. This species is a common breeder in shallow freshwater marshes throughout Florida. Most leave Florida in winter, but they winter in small numbers on south Florida and occasionally in random spots in central Florida.
Ducks were a little better represented here with nine species. The better of these were Northern pintail, Gadwall, and Ruddy Duck, some of which were new for me in Martin. American bittern, one of my favorite birds, was new for me in the county. We saw three as a group, but being bitterns, they were not seen by all.
Coolest, or not coolest bird of the trip was the two Purple swamp hens that flew over the marsh with their freakishly long legs and big honkin' feet, but did not sit out for further review. This was new for the STA and new for me in Martin. The species is not native to Florida, but has become part of our avifauna, for better or worse. Some are concerned that they will compete for limited resources with our native Galliformes the Purple gallinule or Common gallinule. They were introduced or escaped from captive collections in Pembroke Pines, FL ca. 2000 and have been moving out into the wild since then. Most of the expansion has been in Palm Beach and Hendry Counties, but a few have shown up in adjacent counties. Most recently, have been found breeding in Miami-Dade County in the storm water retention ponds around the Dolphin Mall. The retention ponds here are loaded with Eleocharis which swamphens seem to especially enjoy. Many of the mitigation ponds around Broward County have extensive plantings of Eleocharis which were selectively eaten by the swamphens.
After the trip, the Nancies, Bill and I went out the back door and did some more birding in the wooded section of the property were we saw lots of Indigo buntings, a couple Painted buntings, and four Blue grosbeaks. Painted bunting was new for me in Martin. Indigo bunting is one of my favorite birds. My first was on a family vacation in Leesburg where we saw a little blue jewel in the weeds. The more interesting birds to me are the young fall birds which are so variable, some with streaks on the breast, some with wing bars, lots of interesting variations to sort out. One of the birds we spied was so heavily streaked, I thought it had to be some sort of sparrow. Blue grosbeaks are the big brother of Indigo buntings. They used to winter south of the U.S., but in recent times they are being seen more often in more places in Florida all winter. On this day, we eventually tracked down four of them in the tall weeds. As we were leaving, all four were sitting up on a wire together. Strange sight for the time of year and locality.
It was a great trip and I hope to get back again sometime. Unfortunately, the next time our scheduled line up is February 16. 2014. So many opportunities, so little time.