I went down to St. Marks NWR this morning to scout for field trips that
I’ll be leading there on Saturday. I spent 6.5 hours starting just before
6:00 am and logged 73 species of birds. Winter residents are continuing to
filter in, but ducks are slow arriving. I only had 128 ducks, mostly teal.
For night birds I had Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl (an immature calling
down near Headquarters Pond), King, Virginia & Clapper Rail, Sora and a
calling Wood Duck. Except for the Clappers all of these were heard at the
East end of the Double Dikes around 7:20 am.
Walking out the Stony Bayou II North levee around 7:30 am, I saw what
looked like smoke at the end of the Pool. Binoculars showed it to be a
long, ropy murmuration of Tree Swallows. I estimated 1,500. They rose high
in the air as the flock twisted, broke apart and coalesced, shedding small
groups of Tree Swallows who took off on their own. When I got down to the
end of Stony Bayou II, there were still large groups of swallows sitting in
Stony Bayou II is safely walkable. I had lots of Coots, Green & Blue-winged
Teal, Wood Duck, Shoveler and Redhead on it, as well as, my first Horned
Grebe of the season. The levees are thick with Swamp & Savannah Sparrow and
Marsh Wren. I also found one Sedge Wren, Wilson’s Snipe and a Killdeer.
The East and North sides of Stony Bayou I had most of the shorebirds;
Black-bellied & Semipalmated Plovers, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Western &
Least Sandpipers, Dunlin (over half of the 815 shorebirds I counted were
Dunlin) and both Dowitchers. The Vermilion Flycatcher is still at the
intersection of the Double Dikes and Lighthouse Road. Sometimes he’s less
obvious, but if you don’t see him, be patient and he’ll pop up.
The East River hammock at the Double Bridges was slow with only
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Yellowthroat and Palm Warbler.
I had Gadwall on both Picnic and Headquarters Pond, where I also found a
lone Purple Gallinule. The Gallinule is a first-year bird, already starting
to show adult purple. Harriers are around and I had a Kestrel hunting
through the pines near Mounds Pool III. There are a lot of Monarch
Butterflies near the Lighthouse and a surprising number of Buckeyes on the
Support your local refuge and enjoy some nice Fall weather by going birding
at St. Marks.