Last weekend we were in St. Pete Beach, FL, on the Gulf Coast. But that post will have to come second, even though this is really the second weekend in a row we’re visiting Florida.
This visit is really to see our daughter’s new apartment in Hollywood Beach (and it is GORGEOUS!). But, as usual, we had to mix in a bit of birding.
I DO have to say we found the fall migration much more evident on the Gulf Coast. In fact, after visiting several parks in the Hollywood area, we’re coming a way a bit disappointed. Birds were few and far between, and the best birding park was the one which only recommended a single species of bird to its name. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Since my daughter was working today, we rented a car from Enterprise. They picked us up, we signed some papers, and off we went.
Our first stop was John U. Lloyd Beach State Park. It was recommended in A Birder’s Guide to Florida by Bill Pranty, as well as by an area contact on birdingpal.org. We paid our $6 fee and slowly drove around the area, looking and listening. SILENCE!
To be fair, it wasn’t completely devoid of birds. We came across a lovely flock of graceful White Ibises bathing and preening in the water from last night’s rains.
Checking the beach, we saw a couple of juvenile Sanderlings – very striking with their lovely black and white patterning.
The only other bird we heard was a busy Northern Mockingbird.
Our next stop was the northern portion of West Lake Park. Again we drove. Again we were greeted with silence and no visible movement. We began to wonder if the East Coast of South Florida had overdeveloped to the point of depleting the necessary requirements of migrating songbirds. Of course, it could also just be a case of wrong place, wrong time.
We decided to try for a “sure thing” and continued driving along Sheridan St. to the Brian Piccolo Park. We heard there were several Burrowing Owls there, their burrows being marked with wooden stakes and flagging tape. As we entered the park we saw the roped off areas. The burrows are marked with wooden stakes. However, instead of the flagging tape, they’re now using yellow rope.
We checked a few burrows; but many of the owls were tucked deep down with grass and weeds growing over the opening, obscuring our view.
Finally, we came on one burrow with a clear opening and one of the “cute” Burrowing Owls near the entrance.
The park also holds several communal Monk Parakeet nests by the electric lines.
We were lucky enough to hear the Parakeets up in nearby trees, since they’re extremely difficult to see, blending in so well. So I took the opportunity to get a few shots of them up close and personal.
We also saw a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (FINALLY, a migrating songbird!).
Our final stop was the south side of West Lake Park. Another nice flock of White Ibises and a Tricolored Heron greeted us as we drove in.
Again, the park was quiet. We stopped at the boating ramp and added a Great Blue Heron and a Spotted Sandpiper to our day list, which wasn’t very extensive. I tried for a better photo of the Sandpiper. But it was off in the distance, so this is the best I could do.
All in all, not a superior day of birding. But any birding makes for a superior day. Right?