SHOREBIRDS

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Click on any of the photographs below to see a larger version.

The gigantic, multi-species flocks of sandpipers, plovers, and other Charadriiform birds that I had hoped for never materialized, but there were a few welcome additions to my bird lists that I was happy to see.

          

Black-necked stilts arrived during the second week of March, and though I never saw more than a half-dozen or so birds on any one census (I was hoping for hundreds), they are so unique and conspicuous that the place wouldn't seem the same without at least a couple around.  I nearly always see them in pairs, and the pairs are often quite pugnacious and territorial towards each other.

            

The bird above is a pectoral sandpiper - nothing spectacular, but not a common migrant in my experience in Florida.  I never saw more than a couple of birds on any census, and only for a couple of weeks in March.   Exciting enough just to see, but that I was actually able to get close enough to get recognizable photographs was a great stroke of good fortune.

Here's the miscellany part ... just a few other birds photographed between March and April.

On the left is a male red-winged blackbird.   Handsome birds at all times, but not nearly as impressive as when they are all puffed up and showing their colors.  On the right is another savannah sparrow, a wintering bird that can be quite abundant along the grassy and open areas of the dike.   By late April, most have left.  Left center is a small flock of tree swallows, which are also declining in abundance throughout the spring.  Seeing flocks of hundreds of these birds packed onto a single scraggly looking stem of last year's Amaranthus is a sight I'll miss once they've all left.  Right- center is another of the truly spectacular birds of Emeralda - the purple gallinule.  These dazzlingly iridescent birds are seen at a number of locations within the flow-way and in the canals and bonnet beds of Lake Griffin outside the flow-way, but almost always where there is a thick covering of some sort of floating or emergent vegetation.  Unlike their relatively bold cousins, the moorhens, the purples are, in my experience, quite shy.  They usually run full speed for cover if I stop to photograph or observe one that is closer than 50 meters or so from one of the dikes.

It is now May 1 as I write this, and the arrival and passage of the migrants continues.  Yellow-billed cuckoos, blue grosbeaks, eastern kingbirds, and indigo buntings all appeared on-site for the first time last week, along with flocks of hundreds of one of the most ebullient and seemingly joy-filled icterids on the continent, the bobolink.  These transcontinental migrants are present in Florida for only a short period as they pass on to their northeastern breeding range, so its entirely possible that I won't see them again this spring.   I'm keeping my fingers crossed that at least one or two of the photos I took will be of at least marginal quality..... naaaah, no chance.

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