Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Still Birding On a Whim.

There have been reports for a little while now about a Harlequin Duck at the Sebastian Inlet State Park and it is about 2.5 to 3 hours drive depending on traffic but I have been wanting to try for it. I have been watching the postings and someone posted on Friday that they had had good looks at this duck without a scope so I decided to try for it as long as the weather held out. I was a little concerned as to what the traffic coming home would be like what with all the Super bowl game traffic, so decided it might be best to go for it on Saturday that way I wouldn't hit all the Florida foot ball traffic coming home.

So before it turned light on Saturday morning my son and I were off and running. We packed the car with cameras, bins and a picnic lunch and off we went. No morning rain as predicted by the weather man but it was very cloudy, though it eventually changed and the blue skies and sunshine were the order of the day.

We were in such a rush to leave that morning that I forgot the directions I had downloaded and printed out a few days before. Well, I said, I remember seeing a big sign for it off 95 so was I certain we would find it. Then as we got closer my son asked me was it the Fellsmere/Sebastian exit we needed. "I don't know" I said.  So I just whipped out my I-phone and hit the maps app and punched in Sebastian Inlet State Park and it (the phone) pickup up our location and guided us right to the park. Ain't Technology Grand!

We got to the park and paid our fee $8.00 for the car. We parked right next to the river and got out and started scanning for the duck. There were lots of birds on the other side of the river and the rocks too were loaded with Anhingas, Cormorants and Brown Pelicans. There were two women to my left and they both had scopes. Something I want to get for sure. One woman was actively scanning then she said I've got the purple Sandpiper and the other lady said good for you and she looked at it through the scope. I wanted to ask if I could look but was hesitant and not sure I should ask. I waited a little then struck up a conversation with the women. One named Phylis and the other named Marilyn (from Maryland). Very nice ladies and as I was talking to Marilyn, Phylis had a Caspian Tern in her scope so Marilyn went to take a look then I was asked if I would like to look so I said yes and got a nice look. I already had this Tern on my life list but still appreciated the offer.

 The next thing we spot the Harlequin Duck fly by upstream and quite close to shore. So off we went to see if we could get a closer look.  I had to climb up on the bank to see down into the water from where we were but did manage to get good looks of this lifer and a couple of fair looking pictures. The trouble there was the winds were blowing quite hard in fact they caused me to loose my footing a couple of times so between the winds and the constantly moving Harlequin Duck I was happy with the shots I did manage to get. We watched the winds blow the duck away and waited for it to fly back up but he didn't he flew back to where we started from and the two women were waving us over not realizing we had gotten our looks. So I walked back just in time to see the duck fly away. I didn't care I had got what I wanted. Now I wanted to explore the park. So off we went to find whatever wonders this park held.

At first it seemed like we wouldn't spot anything as we walk the bank but soon little several little orange legged and calico patterned bodies appeared. They seemed to be all over the place happily walking along turning over stones and other debris in search of tiny tasty morsels. So intent were they on their search they didn't spot me at first when they began to walk in front of me then their little legs started running until they were well past us.

We moved on toward this little rock outcropping that was covered with Brown Pelicans of all ages and molts. I really enjoy watching these guys fish but this morning they must have already had their fill as they were content to laze around on the rocks in the sun.

We had also spotted a large group of Wood Storks and we were working our way toward them when all of a sudden they took flight. The reason being a little boy was running at them and making them fly away. Apparently the adults with him thought that was acceptable play. I did shout at him to stop and then one of the adults called to him. Of course by that time they had all scattered. A few had flown over by us but were quickly dispersed by a couple walking their dog.

 At this time we decided to move back toward where we had started, the plan being to walk out toward the jetties to see what we could see there.

Out on the jetty we saw more Ruddy Turnstones, a few terns and a gull or two but not much more. I was watching this one Turnstone and noticed it was hopping along and looked closer and it was missing a foot and there was a piece of line or string of some kind wrapped around the remaining part of the leg. This of course made me sad and then a little sadder as I took this picture. I wanted to somehow get down too him and help him but knew I wouldn't be able to capture him and would only stress him out, so I walked away and left him to care for himself the best he could, then we drove over to the other side and spent time looking at birds over there.

There we saw Lots of gulls & Terns, Black Skimmers and some Sanderlings at least that's what I think they were such cute little birds. We saw a Snowy Egret, a Great Egret, Willet and a Reddish Egret. I just love watching this Egret dance and fish.

After walking the beaches and the jetties on the North side we decided to drive down a little ways to where we had seen some picnic tables and check out that area. We ate lunch in the car while watching the activity on the water. It was way too cold & windy to eat on the picnic tables outside. This is where we saw the Little Sanderlings and the Reddish Egret. I was searching the rocks for the Purple Sandpiper but to no avail. Darn I had really hoped to see this one.

All in all it was a good birding day and I found yet another place to go and see a few birds. We also stopped at Pelican Island on the way home but really didn't see much there I suppose it just wasn't the right time of day. All in all I am glad I made the trip and I am glad too that I got to see the Harlequin Duck and add it to my life list. I also got a Common Merganser which was missing from my life list as well. So a great day birding was had and 3 nice lifers were added to my life list. Plus I got to meet some other wonderful birders. What more could I ask for.