Sandy Beach?!

So, my wife and step-son went for a 36 hour, 750 mile, mini road-trip to the Florida Panhandle.  We all had different agenda but we all had some fun.  Of course my main focus was birding.  I decided to do (as requested by eBird) “random” birding, whereby I’d stop at arbitrary locations along the way (mainly rest area, but also a Cemetery and a Hardee’s) and just jot down what was there.  By the time we got back I’d done 12 separate locations in 9 different counties.  On two occasions, had I waited another 500 yards I’d have submitted 11 counties.  So, I added Alachua, Bay, Dixie, Franklin, Leon, Levy, Wakulla and Washington to my ‘birded’ counties.  Now be honest, you haven’t even heard of some of them have you?!  That takes the Florida Counties that I’ve documented up to 18, but there are 67 so I still have nearly 50 to go!

Unfortunately, there weren’t that many birds around and those that were around weren’t especially amazing.  For example, most of the birds I saw at the beach (Panama City Beach to be exact) were Starlings, Feral Pigeons, Laughing Gulls and House Sparrows.  Not exactly a trip to the Panama of Central America!!  However, there was one highlight and that was a random stop off just before hitting I-10 at a place in Washington County called “Blue Pond Park” near Chipley.  I got out of the car, started to walk toward the lake and heard a weird cackling noise.  I turned to my wife and asked “Did you hear that?” and scoured the nearby tree to discover the source of the unrecognized bird noise.  And there, cooperative in the extreme, was a lovely Yellow-billed Cuckoo hoping about the branches looking for caterpillars.  When I submitted it to eBird they only showed Black-billed Cuckoos so I had to select “rare birds”.  Personally, I’d have been delighted with a Black-billed as it would have been a lifer for me, but having only seen a Yellow-billed once before I was thrilled to see it again (especially as my previous picture was quite poor).  Anyway, I’ll put in a picture shortly.  Also there (at Blue Pond Park) was a little gaggle of 11 Ducks.  There were 4 regular Mallard Drakes & 5 ‘Pekin’ white ducks, but also a very dark duck with a wonderful purple and brown “coat”, and another white duck with the ‘crested’ deformity.  I’ll add those pictures too.

So, the Cuckoo takes me to 196 species this year, so just 4 to go!!  And the trip takes me to 109 this month.  I also saw my first confirmed Northern Rough-winged Swallow today as it was kind enough to land so I actually get an in focus shot of it!

Now, onto SLB’s Whooping Crane news.  I read the story of how “#10” died on the Vet’s operating table after it broke a femur, but I can’t find out how it managed to break its leg in the first place.  I did a Google search (not happy reading as Whooping Crane deaths are far too common!) but I found nothing beside the Operation Migration website. If anyone hears more on this subject, I’d like to get a more thorough picture of what happened.

I did some quick birding today on home turf (well, WWP at least) and saw very little.  It was VERY windy and I’m guessing that is Sandy showing her strength.  Given that I’m the extreme West coast of Florida and the Hurricane is out in the Atlantic and heading North-East, I shudder to think what damage she’s going to do to the Eastern Seaboard when she decides to make landfall!  I hope Jenn is OK way over there on the Space Coast!?  Sandy is due to hit the coast just as the full moon pulls up an extra high tide, so this one could be very nasty!

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