Sunday, May 2, 2010
Home for a Bit
I arrived back in Chapel Hill this morning before noon, having driven over 1100 miles since yesterday morning to get home from south Florida. I am here until Thursday when my wife joins me to go up to Delaware and New Jersey, and then over to Ohio to bird together at some of my favorite places.
Yesterday my friend from NC and I stopped at Merritt Island NWR to search for white-rumped sandpipers. 2 had been reported being seen there a few days ago, and 3 others had been seen down near Florida City, so we were hopeful in finding some. We checked the spot along West Gator road where 2 had been seen, but all we found were a couple of hundred black skimmers resting on the mud flat. The next mudflat we found had black-bellied plovers, black-necked stilts, least and semipalmated sandpipers, but no white-rumps.
We then went over to Biolab road which runs along the edge of the ocean, and found again more least and semipalmated sandpipers plus semipalmated plovers. Also some little blue and tri-colored herons, and a few reddish egrets. We ran across an english birder who said that earlier in the morning he had seen 2 white-rumps on West Gator rd. and also one on the Black Point Wildlife drive.
So we returned to W. Gator and checked both mud flats again only to find the same birds there. Then we headed over to Black Point and began the 6+ mile loop drive. We kept finding deep water pools, but not the shallower pools favored by sandpipers. Then we came upon a shallower pool area and saw a few sandpipers feeding in the water instead of in the mud. We got out the scope and began to study this group. Our excitement kept building as the key markers for white-rumped sandpipers became obvious--longer wings that extended beyond the tail; streaking on the sides below the wings; size, head markings and coloration overall that matched this peep; and finally occasional views of the white rump.
We packed up the scope and drove to a restaurant called Dixie Crossroads in Titusville to celebrate our find. We went there because a birder I know from Orlando suggested that we would enjoy the place. We shared the shrimp platter special--broiled white, brown, red and rock shrimp. They were totally fresh and so delicious! They also were quite rich--I don't know how a single person could have eaten the 42 total shrimp on our platter. We also had a chance to say hi to the owner who is one of the key people behind the annual bird festival at Merrit Island NWR.
I had a really good time birding this past week with my friend from Chapel Hill, and I am so very happy to be home for the first time since Feb. 17th. The scarlet tanager shown above is one of the breeding birds here on our land. The week's bird count has grown to 75, and with the white-rumped sandpiper, the YTD number is now 521. I will be doing some birding locally before heading out again. Stay tuned!