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  • A Perspective on Cedar Key Field Trip

    by Jan Bailey

    Going on this field trip with the Audubon Club was like being a kid again.  Remember when you and your pals used to leave after breakfast and go exploring in the woods.  If someone found a weird looking caterpillar, everyone came over and examined it.  Then, it was on to the next discovery and adventure – a beautiful red cliff made of clay that we all slid down — imagine the laundry.  We found birds, butterflies, snakes and all matter of wildlife.  We called our friends over to look at it in wonder.  We never went home for lunch – our parents would be lucky to see us for dinner.

    There was also a flock of white pelicans that flew by and, at one point, half of the flock was flying in one direction and the other half was flying opposite.  How they can do this without crashing I don’t know.

    This was similar to our field trip – except we did do lunch.  Everyone shared the birds that they saw…and the butterflies and the snakes. Molly brought her scope so we could see the birds farther out on the water. 

    Bob Oswald pointed out a peregrine falcon that flew quickly by us and an osprey eating a fish up in a tree.

     Fred led the way to many locations in Cedar Key to find different birds.  The water on the Gulf was as smooth as glass – a huge contrast from when hurricane Idalia went through.

    We had a delicious lunch at Steamers in downtown Cedar Key and then went home to be grownups again.

  • Homosassa Wildlife State Park Field Trip, 13 April 2024

    Homosassa Wildlife State Park Field Trip, 13 April 2024

    Some 15 enthusiastic birders joined the Pepper Creek birdwalk on Saturday morning 13 April 2024, a beautiful sunny day with a chilly 50^F start.  In addition to the usual two species of crows and the now-usual red-shouldered hawk, a loud brown thrasher entertained us vocally right from the start.  He gave all of us good views finally and opportunities for photos.  A downy woodpecker scaled trees nearby.  Warblers found included northern parula and two new to the walks this season: American redstart and praire, a hyperactive little bird which Bob was able to capture in the corner of one of his few shots (photo below).  Both red-eyed and yellow-throated vireos were found and sang for us while they foraged, as did a blue-headed.  Two great-crested flycatchers were also active and vocalizing in the canopy.  Young Hanna Mae and only a couple others found a brilliant blue indigo bunting along the trail.  Waterbirds included a green heron with bright orange legs, cattle egret, sandhill cranes (heard but not seen), and the reliable wood duck at end of trail.  Several gulf fritillary butterflies fed on nectar along our path.  In all 30 species of birds were recorded and documented by Joyce Lewis in her eBird report.  Thanks to Elaine Roche for her lead this season and all birders who joined us on these monthly forays into this popular state park.

    Text and photos by Bob Ross

  • Recap – Cedar Key Field Trip

    A group of 15 avid birders joined in the fun of discovering species to be found at Cedar Key. This is our last of the season field trip and it did not disappoint. The day was windy and a bit on the chilly side, but there were hungry birds about. We were not able to go to the mounds due to the reconstruction of the area. We, instead, met at the Scrub Jay Park where we had always met in the past. There were several birds calling; Common Yellow Throat, White-eyed Vireo and Carolina Wren to name a few.

    Next stop; the mud flats. There were no disappointments here. White Ibis galore, Barn Swallows, many Roseate Spoonbills, Marsh Wrens and a tremendous showing of White Pelicans were on the move.

    Our next stop was at the Mulberry Tree. This in the past was one of the best areas for migratory birds. But the Mulberry tree was missing which was probably due to hurricane intervention. A family of Osprey was the excitement for photographers instead.

    We then went on our excursion to the Cemetery. The Gray Kingbird was very cooperative for photographers. We met a young man who informed us of a nest of Clapper Rails. He volunteered to show us. We in turn told him of the Kingbird which he was thrilled to “shoot.” He said that earlier there were two adults and 2 juveniles. They were not visible when we arrived, but we were able to see the nest with more eggs and a snake identified as a Marsh Snake.

    We then made our way to the museum. There were just a few warblers, such as Prairie, Black & White, and Palm, but the bonus was the Peregrine Falcon that flew over us and lit in a tree very close by.

    A fantastic day for birding and then a time to have lunch and reminisce the days adventure. We tallied 58 species  Here is the ebird checklist link: https://ebird.org/checklist/S169966092

  • Ahhochee Hill Field Trip, 5 April 2024

    It was a gorgeous morning on April 5th and the second day after a major cold front passed through. Fifteen bird folks gathered and were greeted by Christie Anderberg and Billie.  We were also greeted by a Summer Tanager singing high in the oak that we were parked under.  We spent time trying to see it but to no avail.  Northern Parulas were in the trees on the edge of the yard.  A Swallow-tailed Kite gave us a brief look at it.  A female Ruby-throated Hummingbird showed itself.  Perhaps twenty Cedar Waxwings hung out in the tree tops waiting for us to leave the area of the Mulberry tree.

    We made our way down through the meadow and to the excellent habitat for woodpeckers. Red-bellied Woodpeckers were heard but, strangely, were not seen. There was no sign of a Red-headed for the first time in many years. And no Downies. But other species cooperated. Pileated Woodpeckers sounded off. A second Summer Tanager sang high in a Long Leaf Pine. We got to it before it flew off. It was on a mostly shaded limb, but it did provide the chance ​for a long range photograph.

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    Then we had a nice visit with a pair of Great Crested Flycatchers.  Although they were up high, we got good looks. Several folks got photos. They shared their boisterous vocal repertoire.  On the way
    back a Black Vulture flew up onto a snag and posed for photographs.  Near the end of the birdwalk another Summer Tanager sang for us, but it was too far into the trees to try for visually.
    Finally upon exiting the forest we saw and captured the elusive Rey-Wells’-Widow resting on a snag (last photo).  It was a most enjoyable morning in great company at a wonderful property.  Thank you, Christie!

    Text and photos by Rey Wells and Bob Ross

  • Homosassa State Wildlife Park Field Trip, 9 March 2024
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    Ten birders including two knowledgeable teenagers joined leaders Elaine Roche, Joyce Lewis, and Bob Ross for a steamy jaunt along the Pepper Creek Trail at the Homosassa SWP on 9 March 2024.  Two dozen species of birds, half a dozen fewer than a month ago, strangely enough, were found.  But right off the bat the resident red-shouldered hawk put on a performance as last time.  This time he attacked a great blue heron that, out of his normal foraging habitat, landed in a tall tree against the wishes of the hawk, who was probably defending his nest from the opportunisitc heron.  Other birds of note included Carolina chickadees, a ruby-crowned kinglet, a few parula warblers, who are now streaming north through our county in migration, and the faithful 5 wood ducks on the creek at the end of the trail.  A gorgeous giant swallowtail butterfly was also captured in photos by Bob.  See Joyce’s eBird report (www.eBird.org) for a complete list of birds found on the outing.
    ​Text and photos by Bob Ross.


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  • Ocala Wetland Recharge Park–8 March 2024
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    Some 19 enthusiastic birders from Citrus County descended on this well manicured landscape of tall oaks and recharge ponds with marsh habitats, led by Bob Oswald.  Over 35 species of mostly winter-resident birds were seen or heard, plus a few likely migrants heading north, such as parula warbler.  Standouts included a red-tailed hawk, osprey, a pair of kestrel courting then copulating (see photo below), a red-headed woodpecker (+3 other woodpecker species), and a greater yellowlegs working a mudflat with a single killdeer.  Also spotted was a peninsula cooter, but no alligator.  School children planted trees/shrubs on the grounds.  For a more complete list of birds found see eBird post by Joyce Lewis.  Bob Ross’ photos can be accessed via this link (https://1drv.ms/a/s!Ah59rKtHKmutgscqDqhFNOkgSvIacA).  Photos by Rey Wells are embedded in this post.


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  • Emeralda Marsh Field Trip, 16 Feb 2024
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    Ten bird folks enjoyed the four mile Emeralda Marsh Wildlife Drive. We had hoped to hear the first Northern Parula of the season, but that was not to be. Things got very interesting when we arrived at the large watery wetlands. Right away, a pair of Northern Harriers were sighted.

    A bit later, we came upon rafts of coots with many Ring-necked Ducks mixed in. Elaine Roche saw a dozen American White Pelicans circling in the distance. But the star of the show was this female Snail Kite. Leaders Rey Wells and Larry Best sighted and chased via SUV the kite that happened to be going our one day. Larry saw it perch on a low roadside snag. The bird rested there for quite some time, giving everyone a great opportunity for viewing and photographs.

    Instead of taking the right turn and exiting to Emeralda Island Road as we have in the past, we continued straight onto an even narrower one lane road with a grass strip in the middle. We hoped to see the white
    pelicans that Elaine had seen in the air. That didn’t happen, but we were treated to an Osprey feeding on a fish near the top of a snag. Seconds after this photo was taken, the Osprey lost control of it. No
    one got a photo of the fish falling from the Osprey’s grasp. Darn!

    We exited to Emeralda Island Road and headed for Leesburg for lunch before stepping directly into Venetian Gardens.

    Venetian Gardens

    On the way out of the lakeside Ski Beach restaurant, Bob Ross said that that he and Elaine had to leave. The remaining eight of us went looking for Purple Gallinules and other birds of interest. We sure found them.

    Purple Gallinules were plentiful and were engaged in pre-breeding activities. Lots of displaying and chasing was observed. But the highlight of the Purple Gallinule show was this bird that had just caught
    a large snail. Three other gallinules took turns attempting to partake in the feast.

    As we finally headed back toward the parking lot, Lisa noticed a hawk flying low with another bird in its talons. It landed nearby on the grass. The hawk was a Red-shouldered. The prey was a Purple Gallinule.
    Many photographs were taken as the hawk feasted on the gallinule.

    It was quite a day at Emeralda and Venetian.

    By Rey Wells, group photo by Larry Best

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  • February 21st, 2024
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  • 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.

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  • Pepper Creek Birdwalk, 10 February 2024

    Over 2 dozen birders of all levels of experience, both Florida residents and travelers, young and old, enjoyed a cool then warm morning on the Pepper Creek Trail for bird watching.  Twenty eight species of wintering and year-round resident birds were found, including a pair of mating Red-shouldered Hawks.  A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker tried but failed to elude us near the Visitor Center.  A N. Mockingbird sang loudly and continuously at the parking lot.  A visiting birder from New England snagged a “life bird” with good views of a Carolina Chickadee (she’s seen plenty of Black-capped Chickadees).  Several Ruby-crowned Kinglets gave us all “warbler neck” before the Black-and-White Warbler even showed up!  A small group of Wood Stork and the resident pairs of Wood Duck rounded out our tour at Creek’s end.  The following link will take you to  photos by Bob Ross in addition to those shown here (https://1drv.ms/a/s!Ah59rKtHKmutgsZAUOlIVVZi50W89g) and Joyce Lewis posted the complete list of species on eBird.  Thanks to Elaine Roche for leading this CCAS field trip monthly.
    Text and photos by Bob Ross

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  • Recap – Orlando Wetlands Park
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    The afternoon tram ride was a delight at Orlando Wetlands.  Riding the tram, we came upon an eagle sitting on the same nest that we viewed last year.  The bird of the day, spotted by CCAS trip leader Rey Wells, was a Sora Rail feeding out in the open near a Glossy Ibis. The beautiful early breeding eye of the Anhinga was spotted by Lucille Lane

    ​After the tram expedition, we all hiked out to the boardwalk.  The later afternoon light was great and led to wonderful viewings of spoonbills, ducks, Wood storks, Cranes, Merlin, N. Harrier, and other wildlife. Our viewing list for the trip was 25 species.
    Photos Courtesy Rey Wells

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  • Recap – MINWR
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    Rey Wells, Kathy Carter, Will Carter, Lucille Lane  Trip Leaders: Jim Meyer and Eileen Riccio.

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    It was a magical morning along Black Point Drive at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  Early in the drive, we enjoyed a few Bonapart Gulls that swam among some Northern Pintail ducks.  The distance and lighting were not favorable for taking a photograph.

    ​About halfway through the drive, we came upon a pair of Reddish Egrets close to the road and with the sun shining on them.  The one in the front has a small fish in its bill.  All told, five Reddish Egrets were seen.  ​Late in the drive, we came upon a small roadside pool with a feeding frenzy taking place.  The diners consisted of Wood Storks, Roseate Spoonbills, Little Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, White Ibis, a Snowy Egret, and a Glossy Ibis.  In the photo Jim Meyer can be seen at the upper right as he exited the car to begin his own frenzy – with his camera.  

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    We did manage to see 5 Reddish Egrets, 7 duck species (Mottled, L. Scaup, B-W Teal, Ruddy, N. Shoveler, Hooded Merganser, N. Pintail), W. Pelicans, Royal/Caspian Terns, and many Black Skimmers, Greater & Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Dunlin, Black-bellied Plover, Pie-billed Grebe, Belted Kingfisher, A. Avocets, and Loggerhead Shrike.


    We finished the day with a great late lunch at the Pier 220 Restaurant, which is almost under the tall bridge across the Indian River. We did yield 50 species for the trip. Photos Courtesy Rey Wells, Jim Meyer

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  • January CCAS Meeting

    The first chapter meeting of 2024 had a great turnout for Tom Hince’s lecture on his 2023 Big Year of birding in Citrus County. Of the 244 species he identified in the county, about half came in January. He showed photos of some of the birds he saw and clued us in on some of the most productive areas. (Hint: Fort Island Trail Beach and park, Inverness Airport, and the Inglis Dam area are just a few.) There were also updates on our projects and initiatives, like field trips (check our website calendar for updates), birding walks with other organizations, the new website (designer is working on it), and the Library Birding Backpacks. The Backpacks are so popular with Citrus County library patrons that there are waiting lists. With that in mind, we will be donating five more packs and binoculars, one for each library in the system. The library provides the printed materials. This is a fantastic way to get folks interested in birding at no expense to themselves. These projects take money and CCAS is always grateful for contributions to help your chapter make a difference. 

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  • Recap – Lake Apopka Field Trip
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    Only four of us showed up for this one.  The weather forecast likely kept some folks home.  Here’s a photo of us.  It was taken by a member of Hernando Audubon.  They were there, also.  We all “worked” together as we traversed the 11 mile Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.

    ​The weather and the birding turned out to be great from the get-go.    Right at the entrance, we got a southwestern bird—an Ash-throated Flycatcher—that had been reported there.  It’s a close cousin to our Great-crested Flycatcher.  

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    ​Soon after getting underway, we came upon a Northern Pintail Duck that was hanging out with some Ring-necks.  I don’t recall seeing a Pintail there before.  There was an American Widgeon, also.


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    We saw a few Northern Harriers, but the stars of the day were the Ospreys.  They were numerous and hunting hard.  We had several interesting observations of them.  Here are a couple.  Not long after leaving those uncommon ducks, we encountered an Osprey on top of a utility pole.  It was eating a fish.  A Boat-tailed Grackle waited patiently at the bottom of the pole.  A good-sized chunk of fish dropped to the ground.  It was grabbed immediately by the grackle.  Later on, an Osprey hit the water hard but came up empty.  As it flew low and toward us, it shook the water off its body even as it continued its wingbeats.  


    Usually, later in the Drive, we get Fulvous Whistling Ducks.  They were not in evidence on this day.  But Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were many.  Three flocks resting on a grassy dike totaled, maybe, 200 individuals.

    Late in the drive, after seeing hundreds of Common Gallinules, we found one lone Purple Gallinule.  It was a beauty. 

    By Rey Wells, with bird photos by Bob Ross 

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  • Homosassa River Garden Club FieldTrip
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    On Thursday, January 11, 2024, three members from Citrus County Audubon (Elaine, Joyce, and Pat) led the walk on Pepper Creek Trail. Although it was a cold day, the club enjoyed the excursion. The club gave CCAS a thank-you donation.

  • Recap – Wallace Brooks Field Trip
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    I woke up early on Saturday, December 2, for a walk around Wallace Brooks Park.  It was cloudy and humid for a December morning.  As I looked toward the sky, I wondered how the day’s birding trip would turn out since birding might be slow if the sun didn’t appear. 

    We decided to head on a new route by going to the boardwalk at Cooter Pond first, instead of going to Wallace Brooks Park.  This turned out to be a good choice because the first of many Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were seen flitting around. 

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    Soon a Swamp Sparrow showed up. ​​Next we were treated by a cooperative Wilson’s Snipe right off the boardwalk.

    We saw many Coots and Common Gallinules on the pond.  Someone spotted two ducks in the distance that turned out to be male and female Lesser Scaup.  Both cooperated at a close distance, which was a great teaching moment for all.

    Continuing our walk around Cooter Pond, we found Palm Warblers, White-eyed Vireos, Gray Catbirds, and a very cooperative Belted Kingfisher that put on an aerial display of its fishing technique. 

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    While finishing a nice lollygagging walk on the Withlacoochee State Trail back toward Wallace Brooks Park, we were treated to my first-of-season American Goldfinch, B & W Warblers, and then a Red-shoulder Hawk.

    ​We eight birding friends ended our walk at Liberty Park where the Saturday Farmer’s Market was going on. 

    All totaled the day turned out to be a great field trip.  We totaled 33 species, and it was a good day for all. 

    Text by Ken Spilios with photos by Bob Ross