Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve Field Trip, 20 February 2024

Eight CCAS members arose with freezing temperatures (33^F and frost on ground in Crystal River and along Rt. 19N) to bird the Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve on Tuesday February 20, Bob Ross leading.  Some 33 species were found on a mostly quiet trail, though a pair of bald eagles and several black vultures got into a vocal tussel right from the start.  Unlike the previous 2 years, no obviously migrating birds were seen (an eastern kingbird was on the tidal marsh last year); today’s visit was much earlier in the season.  No flycatchers were found at all (no fly in its right mind would be flying in those temperatures!).  The boardwalk did produce mourning doves, both crow species, chickadees/titmice, a bluebird and robin, a couple catbirds, a cardinal, and four species of warbler: yellow-rumped, yellow-throated, pine, and palm.  Waterbirds on the tidal marsh and boatramp included three common loon, both pelicans, four species of heron, three red-breasted mergansers, two greater yellowlegs, a spotted sandpiper, a solitary sandpiper (see photo below by Lisa Graham), ring-billed gulls, royal tern, four kingfisher, and a couple dozen boat-tailed grackle.  Solitary sandpipers (genus Tringa) do winter in south Florida but don’t start their migration in big numbers through Florida until April, then are gone by mid-May, nesting in the boreal forests of Canada/Alaska.  Their long migration takes them largely to tropical America, as far south as Argentina.  A spotting scope would have pulled in more distant birds on the Gulf.
Text by Bob Ross, photo by Lisa Graham, additional photos forthcoming.