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Sunday, January 12, 2014

County Listing Gadsden and Liberty and a little bit of Calhoun

CBC's over (I've never done a CBC outside of Florida, but the last two sure felt like it) now it's time to go do some county listing!  But first, I must sleep late and have a wonderful breakfast at the Williams' house in Tallahassee.  That done, I set off to do some Gadsden County birding followed by Liberty, then maybe some Calhoun County birding before ending up at Travis and Karens' place near Blountstown for the next night.  Jackson had moved ahead of Gadsden by a couple species after the two CBC's added five species.  Now it was time for Gadsden to get back ahead.  County listing is often about opportunities.  Shorebirds habitat in this area is hard to come by due to a lack of marshes.  A very wet summer and fall filled ponds that were dry for years and wetted fallow crop fields awaiting spring planting.  Opportunity knocks.  Most of what was added to Jackson was shorebirds and ducks.  My Gadsden and Liberty lists lack many of the same species.  Gadsden lacks some species that are only a few counties away from being on the All-County list.  One of my many goals for county listing in Florida is to get 100 species on my All-County list.  Some key species like Eastern meadowlark, Northern harrier, Wilson's snipe, and Least sandpiper are still missing for Gadsden.  The former two are probably there most years, the latter are best found on wet years like this.  So, I set out to fill some holes and do some exploring.  I scoped out (on Google Earth) some ponds in a business park off I-10 for the possibility of snipe, rails, and Marsh wren.  I was about to play my rail tape (iPod actually) when I realized that I had left my speakers in Rob's car the day before.  I managed to get Marsh wren in one pond, but not rails or snipe.  I arranged to meet Rob at Phipps Park to get my speakers.  As I was heading to the park, I spotted a Ring-necked duck in a pond north of I-10.  While heading back to get my speakers, I got Hooded merganser in the same pond.  After getting my speakers, I passed the pond again and this time, nothing at all.  list

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In the interest of time I will get on with this blog post instead of belaboring avery stop.  Perhaps highlights would be more in order.  The usual pace could likely bog down and result in no post at all.

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I was thoughts were wavering between heading up to Chatahoochee and checking the tiny corner of Lake Seminole that is in Gadsden or hitting crop fields and beaver ponds.  The lake will always be there, but the opportunity lies in the wetted fields and ponds.  It's all about opportunity.  I headed all the way to the state line and even looped just barely into Alabama in hopes of finding Horned lark (found next door in Jackson) or Brewer's blackbird.  I would not, but I handed out a couple cards to curious farmers.  I would a harrier either, but I did at least get Eastern meadowlarks in a farm field.  I also got a couple Dark-eyed juncos on a road bordered by brushy fields and full of silent sparrows.  I stopped and could hear the birds scratching in the bushes but most would not come out to be seen.

Eventually, I headed on to Liberty where I my list stood at 145, ever so close to hitting 150.  One of my main goals is to get to 150 in every county, so I wanted to get to Liberty on this trip.  Gadsden is hard for shorebirds, Liberty is even harder.  I really wanted to get at least a Least sandpiper or maybe some rails.  Habitat for either is virtually non-existent.  Two All-County candidates, Rock pigeon and Loggerhead shrike, are still lacking Liberty County on their lists. The pigeon is somewhat understandable since there are no major highways in the county and the biggest city is Bristol.  There are no dairies in the county.  Dairies are where you go to get Rock pigeons in counties that don't have interstate highways.  The only places in Liberty where you might find Rock pigeon is the bridge on SR 20 going over the Apalachicola River into Blountstown and the west side of the dam at the mouth of Lake Talquin.  Both structures are only half in Liberty County.  Anyway, I made several stops around barbed wire fences and timber mills that might host pigeons or shrikes to no avail.  I had a brief moment of excitement when two Eurasian collared-doves flew out over the old catfish pond in Hosford.  Nope, not pigeons.  The ponds were drained awhile back and have filled in with grasses and emergent vegetation.  It is marginally good for Marsh wrens or maybe rails, but I could not get any this day.  Last effort to add birds to Liberty was a drive around Lake Mystic, the only good place in Liberty for ducks.  Visibility is not great, but you can get a few vistas by peeking between houses.  I got about 20 Ruddy ducks, new for the county.  In past visits, I have found a few other species.  The interior lakes in the panhandle serve as rest stops for migrating waterfowl and you can add just about anything, or nothing, to your county lists on them.  Scoters, loons, grebes, you never know.

Transitioning into Calhoun, looking for Rock pigeons on the SR 20 bridge as dusk approached, I had one of those bi-county experiences.  A Merlin, new for both Calhoun and Liberty and difficult to find in the interior, flew from Calhoun to Liberty as I went the opposite way.

In Calhoun, I checked Lake Hilda, an impounded waterway in the town of Blountstown, for Black-crowned night-herons.  Much to my surprise, the lake was drained and there were mud flats and a stream.  No night-herons, but I would like to hit this spot in the daylight and maybe pick up a Least sandpiper.  Rain set in as I headed to the McClendon's place and I was done for the day.  It was a nice casual day in transition from CBC's to planning and scouting for the Day 1 of the 12 Day Big Year.




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