Monday, 16 April 2018

Mexico: Day #1 and #2, Resort Stuff

Day one was pretty much a travel day, but our flight did get into the Zihuatanejo (Zi-Wat-En-Aye-O) Airport around 4 local time, so I still had some birding time. As soon as I stepped out of the airport, the 30 degree heat hit me, which I'd have to get used to, because this was the exact weather we'd be getting every single day of the trip. I got lifers Great-tailed Grackle and Tropical Kingbird while waiting for the rental car to get sorted out (which didn't seem to lock, welcome to Mexico!). We then made a quick grocery run, and then headed to our hotel/resort. The grounds themselves proved to be quite good for birds, and from our hotel balcony alone, I got harder birds such as Western Tanager, Short-tailed Hawk and Orange-breasted Bunting.

Female Western Tanager, I unfortunately couldn't manage a pic of the male, but even the female was quite nice!

A really stunning bird! Personally, I like them better than Painted's.

I almost missed this guy come past, the alarm calls of the resident White-throated Magpie Jays drew me back outside!

With a good number of birds off the list already, and a hotel room list of a modest 25 species, with only a few hours of stationary observations, I was pretty happy! I couldn't wait for what the morning would hold, as the high heats during the day apparently make birding not very good in comparison, but I'd disagree!

Starting off at 7 am, me and my mom worked our way up the beach, which yesterday had been filled with snorkelers, sunbathers and parachuters, but it was now pretty much deserted. A good number of Willets were spread along, intermixed with some Whimbrels. But one bird caught my eye, being much longer billed and lighter than the rest, a Long-billed Curlew!!! I didn't really even know that this species was a possibility, and when I checked eBird later, it turned out to be a very occasional coastal migrant with fairly few records! 

And the bill can get even longer! A very cool bird :)

The "Western" subspecies of Willet, possibly soon to be split with the "Eastern"

Splash! Photo ops like this make me remember why I love shorebirds so much!

So many photos too choose from to put on the blog... Oh well.

I finally tore myself away from the photogenic shorebirds and entered some different habitat. A little estuary held some Black and Yellow-crowned Night Herons, and I also got a very poor glimpse of a Red-billed Pigeon! It flew away before I could get a very good look at it, but I was certain with the few ID points I saw, the studying was paying off... We made our way to a road that had ok forrest habitat on both sides, and we saw Groove-billed Ani, Brown-crested Flycatcher, the "Long-crested" subspecies of our Northern Cardinal, and some more Yellow-winged Caciques and their nests.

Grooves on the bill- the name explains the bird!

We walked quite a bit further, and ended up getting a little lost, but it turned out to be a good thing, as we encountered several White-fronted Parrots, my first Parrot species, as well Great Kiskadees, Social Flycatchers, Painted Buntings and Streak-backed Orioles! A very friendly stray dog also tagged along with us for a while.

The 'big' Social Flycatcher; Great Kiskadee! Search up Social Flycatcher and you'll see what I mean!

White-fronted Parrots, very noisy birds!

We headed back to the hotel, and ate some breakfast. I did some more observations from around the hotel, and added Brown Booby, Rufous-naped Wren and Neotropic Cormorant among many, many others. 

We also did a proper grocery stop, and while my parents were buying food, I decided to poke around outside of the store. I was absolutely stunned! I got harder species like Ruddy-ground Dove, Lesser Goldfinch, Western Tanager, Short-tailed Hawk, Scrub Euphonia and White-collared Seedeater!!! Unfortunately I left my camera behind, wrongfully assuming that the grocery store wouldn't be good birding. Welcome to Mexican birding!!!

First two days summary: 57 species, 31 lifers

Friday, 6 April 2018

Goose Galore

For some reason I felt like I'd already used this title for a blog, but apparently not. The name's just too good... But it perfectly describes my last couple weeks! It all started the day before I left before Mexico, when I found two Cackling Geese at Columbia Lake in Waterloo, a county lifer for me. Then of course I was away for a week in Mexico, but during that time, a Barnacle Goose showed up back home in Ontario near Schomburg! Although I desperately wanted the goose, I was perfectly happy birding for Mexican endemics every morning... But as soon as I got back, the Barnacle Goose came to the forefront of my mind. I waited an agonizing week while it was still being seen, and I kept getting comments about how wild it acted, and how likely it was to be accepted by the OBRC (Ontario Bird Records Committee). So I went about my goose-less weekdays, anticipating my trip up to Algonquin Park for some boreal birding, where I was hoping to stop at Schomburg along the way up or down. I quickly began calling Schomburg, 'Scumberg', because I found out that I'd have to wait another few days, because we couldn't stop on the way up, and with big warming events coming the day I was hoping to see it, things weren't looking great. Algonquin was great, and I got year birds Grey Jay, White-winged and Red Crossbills, and although we dipped on Spruce Grouse and Black-backed Woodpecker, it was still a very enjoyable trip. So eventually the day arrived. We got to the lagoons it had been frequenting at about 4:30, supposedly a good time to see it, as it seemed to have a habit of flying off with it's Canada Goose friends at almost exactly 6 pm everyday to feed in the nearby fields, which would make it much harder to find. I scanned the first pond many times, but could only pull up a handful of Canada's, along with some FOY (First of Year) Ring-necked Ducks. I noticed another car driving out of a gated area behind the main pond, so we decided to go check out that area. It turned out to be the sewage treatment yard, which had another pond visible from it's lot. The people there had just seen it! It was a surprisingly easy pick amongst the Canada's, I didn't think that it would stand out so much!

It tagged along with some of the Canada's around it, and they didn't seem to mind. I found this interesting, as many of the previous Barnacle Geese reports I've read about across the continent
often describe them associating with Cackling Geese. There was Cackler's around, but the Barnacle never got too close to them. One of the 8 Cackler's was trying super hard to look like a Canada:

See which one it is? It's a tricky one!

As the sun got lower and lower, the Barnacle seemed to be more comfortable with our presence, and came quite close.

Anyways, truly and awesome goose all the way from Greenland and beyond, and my 430th life bird, as well as my 271st Ontario bird (I plan on increasing this a lot this year!). 

And it doesn't stop there, just last easter weekend, I went up to my chalet for some family time, as well as some patch birding. After a couple of hours birding at "the lagoons", I decided to head back up the hill to our chalet. I was already feeling good about getting Redhead, but just before I left a large flock of Canada Geese flew over. I quickly scanned through them, and found 3 Cackling Geese in a little subgroup of the flock! Not only a patch bird for me, but also a new county bird! The next day while birding there, I bumped into a friend also birding. He told me that he'd had several swans (of all 3 species) at Lake Eugenia, just south of our chalet, as well as 5 Snow Geese! Needless to say, we took a little "detour" out of our grocery run. On one side of the road Trumpeter, Tundra and Mute Swans were all still present, along with tons Ring-necked Ducks, and a good assortment of other waterfowl. And across on the other side of the road... Many many geese! I scanned through, and a single Snow Goose stood out! Apparently the rest had decided to leave. But not only was there many Canada Geese and one Snow Goose, there was also 13 Cackling Geese! My highest count ever of this species!

Here's 5 of the Cackler's. Smaller size, lighter colours, stubbier bill and steeper forehead are all great ID features.

And here's a different 5.

The Snow Goose was a little farther out, but still really nice to see because I don't see them often in Ontario, and when I do, it's usually a lot farther away or just a flyover!

All in all, a very goose packed few weeks, with 18 Cackling Geese, thousands of Canada Geese, a Barnacle Goose and a Snow Goose! Too bad I couldn't split this up into a few more properly organized blog posts, but Mexico trip writing is already catching up on me. And before we know it, May is gonna be on us! I've already seen plenty of spring migrants, as I'm sure you have too!

Expect Mexico posts to be coming out soon! Good birding, and see lots of geese!

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Mexico Intro

I had studied for nearly a year. Calls, ranges, plumages and habitats. I was finally ready, and the time had finally come. A vast amount of biodiversity awaited me in Mexico, and I wasn't going to let it slip through my fingertips because of unpreparedness and lack of ID skill. So by the time march break rolled around, I felt ready. I had corresponded with nearly a dozen people who either lived in or had frequently visited the Zihuatanejo area of Mexico, and I was felt confident about the trip. The city we were going to be staying in, Zihuatanejo, used to be a small fishing village on the South-West coast of Mexico, but the tourism industry had since boosted it to a thriving city, sister to another nearby city, Ixtapa. Having the coast on one side provided habitat for coastal dwelling birds such as shorebirds, but the inland is a vast expanse of rolling thorn-scrub, with some foothills extending all the way down from the Sierra Madre, a massive mountain range to the north packed with endemics. Unfortunately, my trip would be restricted to the coast, or at least very limited interior birding, but thanks to Mexico's insane amount birds, the coast was enough of a challenge as it was.

This map shows my available  birding area. Mainly Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa, but I also had access to Troncones, a small village to the West, and La Barra de Potosi to the East.

My trip was going to be from March 13 - 17, so I hoped that I would be able to get some of the local, year round endemics, but also some early North American migrants.

West Mexican Chachalaca
Golden-cheeked Woodpecker
Lilac Crowned ParrotYellow Headed ParrotSan Blas JayStreak-backed Oriole
Rufous-backed Robin
Doubleday's Hummingbird (endemic subspecies of Broad-billed Hummingbird)
Colima Pygmy-owl

I felt I had a good shot at all of these species. Some would be commonplace, like West Mexican Chachalaca and Streak-backed Oriole, but species like both the Parrots and San Blas Jay would be much harder, with the others somewhere in between.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Florida: Day #3, Canaveral National Seashore

Finally, the last post. For only three days of birding, this has taken way too long to write, and I haven't even started on my Mexico trip yet, and I went to Algonquin last weekend, and Pelee will be upon us before we know it, so I better pick up my pace!

After departing from Hal Scott, we made good time to the seashore. Our first stop was a little outlook onto the Haulover Canal, a fairly well known West Indian Manatee viewing location. When we got there, a Birdwatcher's Digest Magazine birding group was there on a tour, and had also stopped to look for Manatees. I talked a little bit to the trip leader, who I have a feeling is someone really famous, or at least locally famous, leading a Birdwatcher's Digest outing and all... Anyways, they said that they hadn't seen any Manatees, but had had a Bonaparte's Gull cruising the canal area earlier, a species I didn't have for the trip yet. After only a few seconds of talking, a Manatee surfaced right in front of us! It only came up for a few seconds, and I only saw it's back, but still, they are a magnificent animal! They're a lot bigger than I thought they would be, and a lot more... barnacle-y.

I didn't have time to switch lenses, so this shot was all I could manage with my 200-500mm

A while after this excitement, the Bonaparte's came by again. So with one mammal lifer, and a new trip bird, we headed to the Black Point Wildlife Drive. The drive is known for it's waterfowl, wading bird and shorebird numbers, as well as variety. The group I had talked to earlier said they had a Reddish Egret here only a few hours earlier, so I thought we had a good chance at this one. We drove fairly quickly, so as not to waste the fairly small amount of daylight left in our day, so most of the stuff we saw along the way was repeats of previous trips. We arrived at a little pull off area, and I quickly spotted a large flock of shorebirds and waders out in one of the lagoons nearby. I scoped through them, and they revealed to be mainly Least Sandpipers, Dunlin and Semipalmated Sandpipers, with a few Greater Yellowlegs mixed in. There was also good sized flock of gulls, with a single Laughing and several Bonaparte's mixed into the Ring-bills. My dad called me over to ask for the camera to take a picture of an unusual Egret. I rushed over, and standing only a few yards in front of us was a Reddish Egret! This was my last (regularly occurring) North American Heron/Egret, so I was pretty happy! It fed for some time in front of us, allowing for awesome pictures.

We kept moving, as our next stop was a reliable Florida Scrub Jay location, but light was fading fast. On the rest of the wildlife drive, we saw another Reddish Egret, a couple Killdeer, and a single Black-crowned Night-heron, among the usual stuff. When we arrived at the seashore access spot, they told us we had less than half an hour before we had to be back out. My parents decided to drive out to the Ocean first, before stopping for Scrub Jays, and I reluctantly agreed, eyeing the dangerously low sun. We sped out to the coast, and watched the sun start to touch on the horizon. A Black-bellied Plover, a Ruddy Turnstone and some Sanderlings. An adult Northern Gannet also came in for a few moments before continuing North! We booted back to the gate, I spotted a medium sized bird perched high up in the scrub on our right. We stopped the car and we were greeted by a family of very inquisitive Florida Scrub Jays! I photographed until the sun was down (which was only a few minutes). Phew! I sure was getting worried, and we'd cut this species pretty darn close! Having the only endemic of the state was a very good feeling :)

These birds were very hard to active and photograph, especially with the setting sun!

So, in summary, on this trip I got 19 lifers and 27 ABA (American Birding Association, basically Canada and the US) lifers, bring my cumulative total up to 328 ABA and 345 life. Awesome!

eBird lists:

Scrub Jays
Black Point
Haulover Canal

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Florida: Day #2 and #3, Rock Springs Run State Reserve and Hal Scott Regional Forrest

After Apopka, we headed even farther North to the Rock Springs Run State Reserve. The aim of this trip had originally been White-eyed Vireo and Yellow-throated Warbler, but due to my morning success, that was unnecessary and I could turn my focus to some other targets. I felt I had a pretty good shot at Carolina Chickadee, given the habitat was supposedly quite good in the area. My other two targets were Brown-headed Nuthatch and Bachman's Sparrow. The first walk was fruitless, and only turned up 5 species, that I'd already had on the trip several times. Our next stop was a horseback riding place within the reserve, so I was still optimistic. Half way through our ride, I heard something that sounded pretty Chickadee-like but I couldn't be sure, as I'd heard Titmouse the day before making very similar sounds to a Chickadee. But then less than 10 minutes later, I heard a Carolina Chickadee's very distinct song! So much different than our Black-capped Chickadee's! The Carolina Chickadees song is a four very simple whistled notes. You can listen to it here. For the rest of the ride we didn't see or hear much, but just before we finished, I heard an Eastern Bluebird give a few calls, and several Eastern Meadowlarks got flushed up. Back at the stables, I was treated to a tame "Florida" Red-shouldered Hawk, and a flock of trip bird Chipping Sparrow!

On the way back to the resort I saw a Gopher Tortoise just outside of the reserve, but it flashed by the window to quick for a picture.

The next day, we woke up semi-early to head off to the east coast. But before we made it there, I had a little detour planned. My remaining few targets were Bachman's Sparrow, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, and Florida Scrub-jay. The first three of which prefer semi-open, longleaf pine forrest- which is a pretty uncommon habitat. The nuthatches are a lot more variable in habitat, but the other two strictly prefer this. And the Hal Scott Regional Forrest, which happened to be right on our way, was an excellent example of this rare habitat. So we arrived there around 10 am, which was already too late for Bachman's Sparrow, which are only visible when singing, which is only in the very, very early morning. But I still had hopes of flushing or pishing them out. After about a half hour of walking, and very few birds to prove it, I heard the little toot of what sounded like a tin horn. A Brown-headed Nuthatch! A few more flew in, and the tooted their cute little calls, before moving on.

Another half hour later, and we'd seen and heard several more nuthatches, but nothing else. We found some trees with white paint markers on them- which indicates that a Red-cockaded Woodpecker has nested in this tree, but there was no woodpeckers around to show it. The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is the rarest woodpecker in North America, if not the world, so I guess it wasn't too surprising that we missed it. 

I've got some catching up to do blog-posting-wise, after just coming back from a birding/family trip to Mexico! 

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Florida: Day #2, More Resort Birding and the Apopka Wildlife Drive

In the morning I woke up early again, to see if I could hit some of my last Passerine targets; White-eyed Vireo and Yellow-throated Warbler. Both were a bit of a nemesis back home, after missing Yellow-throated Warbler in my own county, and White-eyed Vireo countless times at Pelee. It sounded extra birdy this morning, so I had high hopes. Likely the same juvenile Cooper's Hawk I had seen yesterday made another appearance, allowing me to get quite close.

The way you can tell this bird is through the breast streaking. An adult would have horizontal solid barring, as opposed to this fine, vertical streaking.

A Little Blue Heron was having success fishing, and I watched it catch a pretty big frog. It didn't seem to know exactly what to do with it, and awkwardly maneuvered it around until- gulp! Right down it's gullet! I'm sure it has lots of experience doing this, as frogs seemed to be everywhere!

You can just see the legs disapearing...

I walked over to the next pond, and to a spot that had seemed quite birdy the day before. I noticed a small bird heading vertically up a tree. Black-and-white Warbler? Yellow-throated Warbler? Yes! I was very happy to see the latter of the two quickly making its way up a dense tree. It proved very hard to photograph, and I only managed a few IDable shots:

Might not be the best shot, but hey! I'm definitely not complaining!

Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers made up the majority of the rest of the flocks, as well as the ubiquitous Blue-grey Gnatcatchers, Carolina and House Wrens, and even a few Grey Catbirds. I found a tree that seemed to be filled with birds, and I saw many warblers flitting around. I pished (yes, that's a verb) a bit, and a ton more birds flew in! I kept doing it, and while getting some weird looks from early morning walkers, I noticed something different flitting about. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet! And then right next to it, a White-eyed Vireo!! I couldn't believe my luck! It was fairly cooperative, but the sheer amount of movement, and large amount of foliage made it hard to track, especially with the camera. 

Beautiful bird! I love the little accents, like the yellow lores, bold wingbars and the olive to bluish back. My favourite Vireo now!

A male Prairie Warbler also came up in the flock, along with a few Pine Warblers, and a single Black-and-white Warbler. I was ecstatic! And now for Apopka!

The drive there was pretty uneventful, although I did pick up a trip bird Sharp-shinned Hawk. We soon were on the shore of Lake Apopka, and the habitat change was instant. Big trees, dripping with spanish moss everywhere, big water with small reed stands, and tons of little sloughs by the road. Once we got to the gate, the habitat had sort of reverted to more marshy habitat, but there was still a few open spots of water. One of the main birding areas of the wildlife drive, is actually the entry gate. In the week leading up to the trip, Long-tailed Duck, Yellow-breasted Chat, Ash-throated Flycatcher and a few other really good birds had been seen right at the gate. When we got there, we were told that the Long-tailed Duck was tucked into a culvert under the road, that was unviewable! I literally must have been within 2 meters of the duck, but I couldn't see it! After a bit of waiting, and poking around for the other birds, we decided to move on, but not before getting a couple Common Ground Doves, and a handful of Swamp Sparrows, a trip bird. We slowly drove to the next checkpoint, keeping a close eye out the window. Most of the same stuff as before was present, but with a much larger presence of Gallinules, and also a good number of Coots. All of the same herons as before were present, but I noticed that Limpkin was lacking, as well as Wood Stork. Blue-winged Teals were also quite numerous amongst the winter vegetation.

It was really nice to see these guys in breeding plumage again!

The habitat I found was noticeably different than Circle B Bar. Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive used to be a massive expanse of farmland, but the government purchased it back, let it return to it's wetter state, and than introduced some native plants, so the habitat was pretty linear. The next checkpoint supposedly contained the legendary female Vermilion Flycatcher, which had been frequenting the road for some time now. There was several signs around asking people to keep their distance, as the bird had apparently become very used to people. We walked up the little side road, pretty much just a lump of gravel and dirt piled in a line, surrounded by water, with powerlines running up the side. There was lots of confiding Yellow-rumped Warblers, and someone noticed a Wilson's Snipe all tucked in out in the marsh.

Pretty well camouflaged, and nearly impossible to notice from far away!

Someone farther up the road called us over, and said that they 'had the bird' (kind of a weird saying I think). We hurried up, and sure enough, she was flitting around at the back of the section of marsh, catching insects!

The strawberry red is really nice, and sticks out quite a bit in the middle of browns and grays!

She really didn't seem to be having that hard of a time, at least compared to what Ontario's Vermilion Flycatcher had to go through... And speaking of that bird (and my missing it by a day), this one was a much appreciated consolation. And this I think would have been a lot nicer to watch, no matter how rare something is, I still don't like the feeling of getting enjoyment out of something that I know is ultimately going to die... Like pretty much all of Ontario's winter rarities. 

A little taste of the habitat, multiply this by a million, and you got Apopka!

Just up ahead from there was the historic pump house, which was directly next to the actual Lake Apopka. Here there was a trip bird Forster's Tern cruising around the more open marshes. There was also a few gators in the area, including a young one right next to the road with a tail injury- it must've gotten too close to a car at some point. Here's a closeup of it's head:

This was as zoomed out as I could get it- that's how close it was to the car! Also how big my lens is I suppose...

The rest of the drive was relatively empty, as we (fairly) quickly sped to our next location. On the way we saw quite a few more Fish Crows, and also some Cattle Egrets.

Maybe it's just me, but Fish Crows seem so much slimmer and glossier than their American counterparts. I'm going to have to keep my eyes more peeled in Ontario...

Another species I need to watch for more in Ontario, Cattle Egrets also seem to be expanding North, so in a few years we may be getting them even more regularly!

And before I knew it, we were to the end! All in all I was a little... not exactly unimpressed, just a little bit surprised, of course I would have gone even if it was just for Vermilion, but still, between Circle B Bar and Apopka, I'd choose Apopka without a second thought! After going there, I think that Apopka is a little overrated, and Circle B Bar is definitely underrated. So if you're ever given those two choices, I'd definitely recommend Circle B Bar. So in total, Apopka added 8 species to my state list, bringing it up to a cumulative 86 species. Not bad for two days! And with another trip that day, and one day left, I thought I had a good shot at the rest of my targets (except Snail Kite)!

More to follow soon (hopefully), before I leave to Mexico, in four days

Friday, 16 February 2018

Florida: Day #1, Circle B Bar

After my very successful morning birding, I was eager to head South to Circle B Bar, a large marsh complex, with also some prairie, lake, and semi-open deciduous forest habitat. The drive there was quite productive, seeing many thousands Turkey and Black Vultures kettling, with the odd Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, and even some decent sized flocks of American White-Pelicans and Anhingas mixed in! One kettle contained all of these species, and is by far the most diverse kettle I've seen. The Anhingas really threw me off... 

I could never get them all in one picture, but this frame has mostly Turkey Vultures and Pelicans in it. Can you spot the Black Vulture?

We eventually arrived, but not before seeing my lifer Limpkin while driving, as well as some Cattle Egrets. I stepped out of the car, and was immediately blasted by near-midday Florida heat. And they call this cold! We walked over, and spotted a large group of photographers, photographing a calling Barred Owl! I took a few decent shots, saw a second bird, and headed out onto "Heron Hideout" the main marsh trail.

Barred Owl preening - This is one of the only species of owl that I have heard calling in the day

Immediately upon walking out onto the trail, I was amazed by the amount of noise coming from the marsh. Wails, grunts and screams came from nearly every direction, the sound of hundreds of marsh birds. I found that the majority of sound was coming from Common Gallinules, but some was also coming from several Limpkins! They have extremely bizarre, scream like calls, much different from what I expected from a shy marsh bird! There was also some Wood Storks roosting in leafless trees, another lifer!

Very interesting birds! And even more distinct!

Common Gallinule - A very pretty bird, and the ones here were very tame!

After walking up the trail a little bit more, I had already seen almost all of the herons and egrets found in North America! Tricoloured was probably the most abundant, but Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Green Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, White Ibis and Glossy Ibis were all also present in good numbers. I spotted a very large pink wading bird up ahead- A Roseate Spoonbill! A real gem amongst birders, but really to the world in general. Although not particularly rare, it's a banner species for birds in general, everyone's heard of a spoonbill! 

After looking through photos, I really couldn't find any good Spoonbill ones, but that's fine. The bird speaks for itself!

Shortly after seeing the Spoonbills, my Grandparents caught up on their bikes, and talked to my mom, so I got ahead a little bit. But not for long, as my mom walked up and told that she had seen a rail! She wasn't sure what kind, all she knew that it was semi streaky and had a yellow bill. I rushed back, but it was nowhere to be found. She looked through the guide, but couldn't come up with anything that quite fit! Just as we were about to keep going, she spotted some movement deep within the aquatic vegetation... A Purple Gallinule!!!! One of my bigger targets, and after hearing from a friend several times, they are quite hard! It stayed very hidden for a few minutes, but the shy bird slowly came out into the open, balancing carefully on a thick reed. 

As you can see, an incredibly distinct bird, very different from the Common Gallinule!

I was shocked by the vividness of the natural colours, this photo looks like I went crazy with the saturation, but it's 100% unedited! Combination of bright lighting and an even brighter bird!

While the bird was up, a group of kids on a nature walk came up behind us, and one of the asked "Is that a Cockatoo?" No joke! I got the whole thing on video, and I will forever remember this moment. Cockatoos might be pretty, but in my opinion, nothing compared to this!! As the Gallinule went about its business, a Rail flew across the open water and landed only a few feet away from me! Although it was only a few feet away, it was completely obscured by grass. I inched closer, and a little Sora popped up! 

I got my mom on it, and she said that this was the same bird she had seen earlier. Phew!

On my walk up to the next intersection, I saw a good sized flock of Black-bellied Whistling-ducks, my first ever whistling duck! I also got some respectable head shots of a Limpkin with an Apple Snail in it's beak.

There was some other wildlife besides birds as well, a family of feral pigs were foraging at the intersection. Although they can be detrimental to an ecosystem, they were pretty darn cute:

And I hate to say it, more food for the Gators! Of which there was many along this section of the trail, including this lil' one:

I finally got some ok shots of Black-bellied Whistling-ducks, which really do sound like they're whistling, it's the cutest duck call I've ever heard I think! There was also some undetermined turtle species, but I'm pretty sure they were River Cooters.

A big 'un

The trail eventually opened up a little more, and a lake appeared. There was lots of Pelicans on the lake, along withs some new trip species like Double-crested Cormorant, Cattle Egret, a tame Snowy Egret and a lone Royal Tern! 

Lots of Fish Crows were calling as we walked back, and several Red-shouldered Hawks did flyovers. We slowly (but surely) made our way back to the Visitor Center for lunch, content with our walk. The grounds around the Visitor Center were actually really nice fore birding, and there was several Carolina Wrens, Northern Mockingbirds, American Robins, and both subspecies of Palm Warbler around. I got decent shots of both subspecies, so you can really see the difference!

Yellow subspecies on top, Western on bottom

My mom seemed to be having lots of luck finding birds, and on her way back from the washroom, she came upon a male Painted Bunting! One of the most highly sought after birds by photographers, birders, and unfortunately even by pet traders, who capture this bird in Central America to be sold on the pet trade. As a result, the species has been listed as sensitive on eBird, so no one is allowed to access exact locations of these birds, or many details at all about it. Because of this I didn't really expect to see one, or even know if it was possible. I rushed over and got some very poor shots, of what turned out to be a pair of birds!

Male on left, female on right

I called a couple other birders/photographers over, but I couldn't relocate them again. I still had a few more targets that I wanted to see if I could hit in the prairie habitat (mainly Bobwhite). After a quick bike around, I came up mostly empty, the only new additions being an American Kestrel that flushed up 8 Wilson's Snipe, and a Bald Eagle on a nest. The Sandhill Cranes I saw before appeared even more photogenic than before, so I took some extra headshots:

A single Black-bellied Whistling-duck also decided to perch up on a stump for me, and later, I came across my first ever (alive) Armadillo snuffling around in the weeds! 

So... cute? I looked away for a second while taking this guys picture and it stepped on my foot!

I booked it back, realizing that I was supposed to meet up with my Grandparents to go back to the resort fairly soon. Unfortunately, there was lots of distractions along the way!

Black Vulture Pair and White Ibis

Black-bellied Whistling-ducks and Turtles sps.

Anhinga and Glossy Ibis

Grey Squirrel and Limpkin

And it turns I was ahead of schedule getting back! I wandered around the parking area for a few minutes, and spotted a blur of green, blue and red whizz by, then land right in front of me! The Painted Bunting! It was soon joined by it's female companion, and they fed quite close to me with barely any sign of nervousness. 

Beautiful male! Too bad my Grandma missed it again!

Although nowhere near its mate, still a very pretty lemon coloured bird!

Right after I found a different female, and then a Common Ground Dove! What a day!

Common Ground Dove- I always think they look like baby morning doves

And then to top it all off, a very obliging Northern Mockingbird!

You probably don't even need me to say this, but I would 100% recommend Circle B Bar to anyone going to Florida, it's great for photography, and it has an amazing selection of species! I had my best list by far here, with 61 species!