Friday, April 23, 2010
Northern Florida with Tom Neal
John and I along with our host Tom Neal got up at 5:00am, had a light breakfast with coffee, and headed south to Goethe State Forest. It took about an hour to get there where we checked in and paid for a day pass. While checking in, a Chuck-wills-widow called loudly nearby. We drove the Gas Line Road where the trees used by Red-cockaded Woodpeckers have been marked with a white ring. It took a few stops, but finally two woodpeckers flew in calling as they came. We saw two others during the drive. We were also looking and listening for Bachmann's Sparrow, but we didn't have any luck. A forest ranger came up behind us and asked if we had paid our fee. When we said "yes", he was surprised and pleased. He didn't know anything about sparrows, but suggested we could ask in the office back at the head of the road which we did. After being passed around through several employees, we were finally introduced to a biologist who took us to a map and showed us an area that had been fairly recently burned. She suggested we might find the sparrows there. We thanked her and drove north to her designated spot. We parked, got out of the car, and three sparrows were singing. Nice when it works that way.
We headed to Lower Suwannee NWR where Tom had learned there was a pair of Short-tailed Hawks. I had seen a pair in January when I visited Florida, but John still needed that bird. On our way there we passed two Gray Kingbirds on wires. We drove the refuge road stopping several times and scanning the sky. We reached the end of the road where there is native American shell mound of impressive proportions. We turned around and headed back along the same road. I spotted a raptor that seemed about right, so we stopped and piled out of the car. But the bird had disappeared behind the tree line. However, it popped back out and indeed it was a dark-phase Short-tailed Hawk with a couple of missing primaries.
We then tried a track in the Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve for Florida Scrub Jay, another catchup bird for John, but we dipped. We then made tracks back toward Gainesville to drop off Tom. We hadn't gone very many miles before we had two Swallow-tailed Kites over the car.
Tom had to break into his house since he didn't have a house key. After our goodbyes, John and I drove south on I-75 to an area where some of the last remaining countable Budgerigars are found. But not by us. We tried another spot with similiar luck but at least we enjoyed dinner while watching the wires where they were supposed to land. John did see a Green Heron which was new for him.
We drove on to St. Petersburg where we got a motel for the night. Tomorrow we'll visit Fort De Soto Park. The year's total is now 475.