Sunday, December 18, 2016

Babcock-Webb WMA 12/12--RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER, Loggerhead Shrike

Photo: Shari Zirlin
Karmela was our guide to this gigantic WMA in Charlotte County as she'd been there on a previous visit. Our two targets were Bachman's Sparrow and RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER. As you can probably tell from the typography, we got one of them. Since neither of these birds was on my radar, either one would be a coup, and if we were going to get one of them, I'd rather it be the woodpecker, which according to Sibley, has world population of about 14,000 birds and is only found in managed longleaf pine forests, of which Babcock-Webb is one.

The strategy to find the woodpeckers is to ride along one of the roads where the trees in which they have nested are marked and look for the birds. But, as it wasn't nesting season, this technique was not fruitful. The same road it also the place to find the sparrows, none of which were around as far as we could tell, but they are, according to Sibley again, hard to see and elusive unless they're singing.

There were plenty of birds about as we drove along seemingly endless dirt road with only a modicum of geographic certainty as to our whereabouts, including our first Loggerhead Shrike of the year. We invoked the "sincerely give up rule" and soon, after recording, a downy, a flicker, and a sapsucker, Mike spotted the Red-cockaded Woodpecker flying into a tree. We all got on it and many, many, photos were taken. None by me. I let Shari be the staff photographer on our outings. I can bird, or I can take photographs. I'm not good at doing both at the same time and I'd rather look at the bird if I can. It's a pleasure not to have the pressure of documentation when I encounter a lifer.

Of all the spots we birded on our trip, this spot, with it's varied habitat of forests, ponds, wetlands, and fields, yielded the most species. Not to mention quite a few gators:

46 species 
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Double-crested Cormorant  3
Anhinga  3
American Bittern  2
Great Blue Heron  2
Great Egret  5
Little Blue Heron  2
Tricolored Heron  3
Cattle Egret  2
Green Heron  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2
White Ibis  10
Glossy Ibis  6
Black Vulture  2
Turkey Vulture  50
Osprey  1
Red-shouldered Hawk  2
Limpkin  2
Sandhill Crane  4
Killdeer  3     Heard 
Greater Yellowlegs  1     Heard 
Mourning Dove  1     Wire
Belted Kingfisher  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1
Downy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  2     Heard 
Eastern Phoebe  2
Loggerhead Shrike  4
Carolina Wren  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1     Heard 
Eastern Bluebird  2
American Robin  50
Gray Catbird  2
Common Yellowthroat  1
Palm Warbler  10
Pine Warbler  20
Yellow-rumped Warbler  200
Prairie Warbler  1
Swamp Sparrow  1
Eastern Towhee  3     Heard 
Red-winged Blackbird  10
Eastern Meadowlark  2
Boat-tailed Grackle  3
American Goldfinch  1     Heard 

Sandhill Crane with Great Egret

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