04 March 2008

RCWs and Space Coast

I had high hopes for the Hal Scott Preserve Field Trip at the Space Coast Birding Festival. The day started off great with THREE Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers emerging at daybreak. If you haven't camped out under the pines in the early morning hours to watch these active birds, then you're missing out. I rank it right up there with watching massive sea turtles nest and alligators bellowing. It's just one of life's great moments. Once one bird emerged, two more quickly joined in for a little ruckus. Then the Brown-headed Nuthatches and Bluebirds joined in and off they flew through the pines. But they gave us killer looks before departing.

These were Florida birds for me. I had seen them previously at the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge but the sighting was brief. Most places paint their active trees with white circles like the one above. It definitely makes it easy to find these great woodpeckers.

Hal Scott has quite a few active holes but they also have installed some man-made boxes. It's kind of weird to see these pre-fab nests placed in the pines. After the hurricanes that hit Florida a few years back, quite a few of these trees fell due to the boxes making them weak. I guess the same is true of bird made cavities. It certainly makes the pine more susceptible to high winds felling it. RCWs are wonderful birds but without protected pine forests they are quickly diminishing. I count myself lucky to have seen them.

I guess when the day starts on such a high note, the rest may be a bit of a disappointment but no one knew that it would be so eerily quiet. The preserve has some great swamp land scattered with pines and cypress trees alike. We saw Belted Kingfishers, Bluebirds, and heard a few wrens but once inside the forest, it was silent. Now, I've been birding where it seems like all the birds were hiding but this place was so quiet that it was a little spooky. I think that our guides were a little frustrated to say the least. We had some good birders with us but try as they might, we just couldn't find any birds to see. Below is a photo of Paul Lehman and Larry Manfredi discussing birds in South Florida. I guess on a day when the birding is slow you have to dream of better places.

Well this is the final conclusion of my birding festival...it only took me a little over a month and a half to actually finish it. I don't know how the other bloggers out there get so many entries in each week. I'm definitely not a blog ant or grasshopper; I'm more like a snail in the blogging world.

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