Friday, April 23, 2010
Psittacidae and more!
I hope that the results of the first day of week #17 signals some good birding for this week. I needed to do some work on my computer this morning, so I got off to a very late start--9:45 AM on the road heading toward Hernando Beach and its few remaining budgies. On the way I stopped at Withlacoochee State Forest to look for bachman's sparrow and red-cockaded woodpecker.
These 2 species often are found in the same limited habitat. The key for the woodpecker is they need very mature (60 years old) pines, usually longleaf, to make a nesting cavity inside. They can do this because the heartwood of these mature pines is infected with red-heart, a fungal disease. It may take as long a 3 years to finish a cavity. The woodpecker also drills "resin wells" above and around the cavity entrance, which causes sap to run down the trunk. It is believed that the sap repels tree-climbing snakes, thus protecting the young in the cavity.
I had very good info from A Birder's Guide to Florida where to look for a cluster of cavities (the red-cockaded is a communal bird). I quickly heard and then saw a woodpecker working the trunk of a pine tree in search of food. As I was driving back out I heard the bachman's sparrow singing, and located it about 12 feet up in a tree. Both were new year birds with the Bachman's sparrow being the 499th new bird for the year.
I stopped at a clam shack I had seen on my way to see the birds and thoroughly enjoyed both some steamed littlenecks, and a pound of New England steamers. I then headed to Hernando Beach to search again for the budgerigars. You may remember that a month ago I tried to see this bird, but a driving rain storm made it impossible. So today was a critical stop if I was going to find another new year bird, and also a life bird. The picture at the top indicates that my search was successful today. I did some more research on the budgie, and found out that they estimate there are only 15 pairs left. I spent some time admiring this pair, and also saw a 3rd bird fly by.
I drove on down to Clearwater and checked in to my motel. I then went out looking for some black-hooded parakeets (bottom photo above). This parakeet has become so well established in the Tampa-St. Pete area that the Florida ABA has accepted it for its state list. For some reason the national ABA bird review committee has not, so this bird is not countable for my big year. It does not take away from the beauty of the bird, and the fun in seeing it. So between the budgie and the black-hooded it was a very good day for psittacidae (parrots and their allies). And since I also picked up a life bird--#16 for the year--and reached 500 total birds for the year, I would also call this another red letter day!
Week #17 starts out with 23 countable birds seen. Tomorrow I will be birding at one of Florida's reknowned birding spots during spring migration--Fort De Soto Park. Stay tuned!