Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Paynes Prairie State Preserve, Gainesville, Monday, May 6

I forgot to mention in yesterday's post that Nanday Parakeet is the seventh new bird for my ABA Area list, making my total 797.  It is officially a new Life Bird, even though I saw it first in the early 2000's in Florida near Loxahatchee NWR.  Back then as Black-hooded Parakeet, it was officially still an introduced species, not officially on the list.

Paynes Prairie State Preserve is very close to my motel near Gainesville and is perhaps the most southern breeding area for Mississippi Kite in Florida.  I was not sure that the kite was back on territory, but decided to make a short visit in the morning to try for Mississippi Kite.  The most likely area, according to A Birders Guide to Florida by Bill Pranty, 1996 Edition, American Birding Association, Inc.,  was La Chua Trail on the north side.  I arrived at abut 8:30 am and started down the trail.  The first part of the trail is wooded.  As soon as I got to the edge of the trees, I found Blue Grosbeak, a new bird for the year.  I walked to the end of the boardwalk and on to the grassy trail with a lady who was a relatively new birder and newly retired from the navy.  We met while she was enjoying a Red-shouldered Hawk being harassed by Blue Jays.  There were a lot of migrating Bobolinks on the prairie, as well as Indigo Buntings, which breed there, as well as long-legged waders, Snowy Egrets and Great Blue Herons.  There is a Great Blue Heron rookery visible from a viewing platform near the rim area.  There were fly-by White Ibis and a Wood Stork flew over near the end  of my stay.  Along the grassy dikes beyond the boardwalk, we found Common Moorhen and a Great White Heron, a sub-species of Great Blue Heron.  This is not a new species for the list, but is an interesting white morph of the Great Blue Heron, normally seen only in Florida.  I have seen this only once or twice before; thus, I mention a bird not to be counted on my Big year List.  See photos.
The first photo shows the heavy bill and raised crest feathers and dark on the upper mandible of a Great Blue Heron, a different bill than that of the similar Great Egret.  The second photo shows the yellow legs of the Great White Heron, a distinguishing field mark, because Great Egret has black legs.  When this bird flew, it called like a Great Blue Heron, another distinguishing field mark.
I met Mike Mannetz, a local expert birder, who has written a bird guide to the Gainesville area, on the trail.  He indicated that the Mississippi Kites should be back and that scanning the sky near the north area of the trail, the rim, would be a good strategy.  Mike also helped to solve a mystery.  He provided the name of the man I met at Key West Tropical and Botanical Garden, who was also looking for the female Western Spindalis.  The man was Lloyd Davis, who eventually got to see the Western Spindalis.  Congratulations, Lloyd,.....this just in case, you are a reader.  Mike also told me that a Kirkland's Warbler was found yesterday near Gainesville.  He took my cell phone number just in case it was still being seen.  If I did not hear from him, the Kirkland's Warbler was not present on Monday.  I never got a call, but thanks, Mike, for the thought. 

In the last hour or so, I stayed near the north end of the trail where I could view the sky above the wooded area for soaring or flying Mississippi Kite.   I did not find a
Mississippi Kite.  Later in the day is probably better for this bird.  It was quite cool, in the high 60's, and I saw no dragon flies and heard no cicadas, common prey insects for Mississippi Kites, until I got back in the wooded part of the trail, where I saw a few dragon flies and heard a cicada.

As I waked to the parking area, Brown Thrasher, Northern Parula and Yellow-billed Cuckoo were singing.  I left the La Chua Trail area at about 10:30 am. 

Blue Grosbeak makes the total, 392. 

It was a 11-12 hour drive to Cincinnati from Gainesville.  I arrived home at 11:30 pm.  The only problem encountered was a heavy rainstorm near Lexington, KY.  To keep alert during the drive, I kept track of the birds I saw in each state during daylight hours.  Only three hours of the drive were after dark.   

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