Saturday, September 24, 2016

June Challenge Recap - June 30, 2016

Last year, I never expected to see as many as 88 species again in Hernando County during the month of June.  This year, however, I knew many more places to go and started on June 1st.  That first day of June, I got 65 species, and the last day I saw 62 (although only three were added to the list that day).  The same birding couple who won last year (I got second last year too) was way out ahead again this year, but I noticed several others on Ebird were doing just as well as I was, not sure why none of those people submitted their results, but they sure helped me find many of the birds I was looking for by posting on Ebird!

After preparations at the start of the month, I was hoping for a total of 100 birds, and I ended up with 106, and 100 of those photographed!  I saw three life birds for Florida: brown-headed nuthatch, hairy woodpecker, and clapper rail.

 These are some of my favorite moments:
  • June 1: At the first spot of the day (Bayport) I find a common loon and three horned grebe. Both are winter birds in Florida, and I saw neither last year.  June challenge is off to a great start.  
  • June 3: A tiny baby clapper rail runs out into the road at pine island drive and I pull over and get out to chase it (my first clapper rail in Florida).
  • June 7: Saw three hummingbirds together (and one more later in the day) after tropical storm Colin moves through the state.
  • June 10: Another winter species found, white pelicans on Bystre Lake, and then later in the day, a rare sighting of a Mississippi Kite soaring over Lockhart Rd.
  • June 13: Driving around dirt roads before work at Richloam area of Withlacoochee State Forest and find a brown-headed nuthatch, the second life bird of the month.
  • June 19: A flicker woodpecker in the same patch of trees as last year in Chassahowitzka WMA
  • June 24: Found one baby Eastern Kingbird on Lockhart Rd. and realized it was another successful nesting season for the kingbird family there.
  • June 30: Early fall migrants, two kingfishers are around Bystre Lake.  I was the first one to see this species in Hernando during June!  

Actually, several of my favorite moments this month were not even bird sightings:
  • Family of river otters playing at Jenkins Creek
  • Baby water snake hunting for food in the water at Linda Pederson
  • Terrapin turtle nesting at Pine Island, a life reptile, :)
  • Bobcat in the road at Chassahowitzka 
  • Walking through the fog at dawn in the quiet old forest at Withlacoochee Croom Tract
  • Photographing beautiful light streaming through the trees at Withlacoochee Richloam Tract
Still think there is a chance to beat this total next year, but it will be very difficult.  Looking forward to it already!

Hernando Birding - June 30, 2016

For the last day of June Challenge, I was able to report 28 locations to Ebird (some were very close to each other, and a few places visited twice during the day).  I also ended up with 3 additional species to complete the June Challenge today!

First stop, Bystere Lake: Last year I had luck here, also on 6/30, with the Egyptian Geese sighting.  This year, it was a pair of belted kingfishers (very early).  I also enjoyed watching about 50 sandhill cranes take off from the other side of the lake and fly over my head.

After checking out the Withlacoochee Richloam Tract (separate post for this one), the next stop was the Silver Lake Recreation area to look for some pigeons.  I found them!  I had never been so excited to see a pigeon.  One more bird to add to the list.

The next stop was Croom, where I saw about 5 woodpeckers all together making very strange noises.  I was hoping it was a family of RCWs (Red Cockaded Woodpecker), but at least the one I was able to photograph, was a Hairy Woodpecker.  Now, I thought I had seen hairy woodpeckers twice in my life before today, but this one was different, so perhaps in the past they were just downys at an interesting angle.  So, this was both a life bird, and one more for the June Challenge.

Next up was McKethan Lake where a very interesting swallow-tailed kite was back at it again, diving for something in the water.  This is very strange behavior to me for a swallow-tailed kite, first seen on June 1st.
Also got a few good shots of him soaring...
In the Hernando Beach neighborhoods the best photo was of this barn swallow on a wire...

Next, went to Linda Pederson, Jenkins Creek, Bayport, and Pine Island along the beach areas, but nothing of note.  Once it is afternoon the birding slows down significantly.  So, I went back inland to a few lakes: Spring Lake, Neff Lake, and Mountain Lake, all north of Dade City.  The most interesting sighting of the three lakes were these two fighting black-bellied whistling ducks in a group of about 25.

After that, at Lockhart/Powerline Roads, just found the two adults of kingbird family.  I know it was about time for the baby to leave.  A nice way to end the day, and probably the last good birding until Fall.  Also pictured is a Loggerhead Shrike along Kettering Road nearby.

Photographing Light - June 30, 2016

Ok, so all photographs are of light, but getting these photos from this morning at Withlacoochee  Richloam Tract really made my day!  What a great way to start off the last day of June Challenge.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

WeekiWachee Preserve - June 25, 2016

The park was open to drive in today, so I went down a different path then usual.  The habitat was upland, and nice that no one else was around.  32 total species today listed on Ebird, which includes one for June Challenge, the Northern Roughwing Swallow.  It was a good thing I was able to snap a photo because it went by too quickly to identify it while there.

 Eastern Towhee
 Red-tailed hawks
Bluebird family
red-tailed hawk and mourning dove

Birding Hernando - June 24 2016

First stop this afternoon was Bystre Lake, not too much there in the hot afternoon sun.  Next was the kingbird family at Lockhart Road.  This was the first time the baby was out, and although he is full-grown, he was still begging for food.  Last year the kingbirds here had two sets of babies.  The first at the end of June had two fledglings.  The second was end of August and had three.

 There were 5 red-tailed hawks between Powerline and lockhart road.  4 were together, a family, and this is one of the juveniles.
 At Lake Townsend, there were a couple swallow-tailed kites and this red-shouldered hawk up close at the boat ramp
Finally at the Brooksville water treatment plant, I finally saw the baby black-necked stilts, although they were quite a distance away (you can see one in the smaller photo).

Birds in Hernando - June 23, 2016

Had to work today, but stopped by to see the Eastern Kingbird family at Lockhart Rd. and found a Summer Tanager family at the Masyrktown Cemetery.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Afternoon at Chassahowitzka WMA - June 19, 2016

Went back again to the park late in the day, but had to leave before getting much of the park look done because of a thunderstorm.  Definitely a worthwhile trip though, as I got good looks at a bobcat just before the storm.

red-bellied woodpecker (juvenile), great crested flycatcher, brown thrasher, and black swallowtail

female summer tanager

Morning at Chassahowitzka WMA - June 19, 2016

What a great drive at Chassahowitzka this morning.  Finally added towhee to the June Challenge list, and saw a Northern Flicker in the same patch of trees where I saw him last year.  Also came across this amazing patch of woodpeckers and got good photos of red-headed, but there were also downy, red-bellied, and heard both flicker and pileated from the same spot.

red-headed woodpecker
flicker woodpecker (above) and red-bellied woodpecker (below)

Withlacoochee, Richloam Tract & Hernando Birding - June 13 & 15, 2016

My first visit to the Richloam Tract of Withlacoochee State Forest.  Although I was never able to find the road I was looking for, I did find a brown-headed nuthatch, which is not only a bird to add to June Challenge, but also one to add to my Florida list.
Also found a cute baby white-eyed vireo, which since I had never seen before, I thought might be something new and unique!
Also added one more bird to the list today, a pie-billed grebe in Brooksville, so not bad for a day where I still worked 10 hours.  One more nice shot of the morning light streaming through the trees.

With the month half over, it is getting more difficult to add new species to the list.  I tried my luck at the Richloam Tract again this morning, and did get one more bird: the yellow-throated warbler.
Also got a few nice shots of a turkey vulture in morning light

Next, it was off to the Westlake neighborhood nearby in Ridge Manor to look for limpkins to add to the June Challenge list, and sure enough they were there, along with little blue heron, black-bellied whistling ducks, and red-shouldered hawk.
Finally, at the water treatment plant in Brooksville this morning, got some nice shots of a swallow-tailed kite.  Then, it was off to work.  Hard to do June Challenge while working full-time, but definitely possible to still get an impressive number of species.  At this point, I am getting very close to my goal of 100.