Thursday, March 26, 2015

Its All About the Journey- California to Florida

What an adventure we had on our way to Florida. Last spring we were inspired by fellow birders to make the trek to the Gulf Coast to experience spring migration of the neotropical birds as well as see birds in the east we have never seen before. We follow fellow birders' blog, Raven and Chickadee, that were in the Gulf Coast last spring for migration. They have been our inspiration and source of much needed advice:)

We began in Marin when we picked up our trailer after our Hawaii trip. In addition to catching up with family we had the opportunity to visit our local Snowy Plovers spending the winter on Stinson Beach. 

If we had a favorite it would be GOGO. The banding sequence used takes the first letter of the colors on the left leg from top to bottom to the right leg top to bottom- thus the bird's name Green Orange Green Orange - GOGO.


Our first destination was Cottonwood, Arizona to visit my brother and his wife Sheryn. One of our stops along the way to Cottonwood included Kingman, Arizona.

I have an app on my phone that tells me where birding hotspots are within 20 miles of my location. When we arrive I check to see if there are any nearby places to bird and go for a walk. It ends up there was a cute park in town where we took a walk and saw some fun birds and then had a great dinner at the local diner.

This immature Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was a rare bird for the area.

It was being chased around by the local Red-naped Sapsucker
We also had a number of Lesser Goldfinches. This male & female looked like they were getting ready to set up house.
My brother, Johnny, & his wife, Sheryn live in a beautiful part of the country. We stayed in an amazing state park in Cottonwood located on the Verde River. It was a wonderful opportunity to visit and see their home, art studio and fabulous art displayed in local galleries. They have created a sweet home for themselves.

Weather became an issue. It seemed that we were one step ahead of cold wet weather- really wet we ended up pulling out a day early because the rain hit and was expected to continue for days and turn into snow-yikes! Good thing we did because the Verde River experienced flooding and  there was snow for a few days in the Cottonwood area.

Here are a few of our photos from Deadhorse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood.

A male Anna's Hummingbird
Check out the hairdo on this Ladder-backed Woodpecker
What an amazing being! This Bald Eagle was watching every move Bob & I made.

Wood Ducks swimming in the Verde River.

We headed south to get out of the weather. We landed in one of our favorite spots in Sierra Vista for a few days to let the weather pass. We had beautiful weather and wonderful birding at Fort Huachuca, the San Pedro House & Patagonia State Park. Here are a few of the highlights.

These male Northern Shovelers were putting on quite the show- swimming around each other in circles.....
..then raising up and making quite a raucous.
The Pied-billed Grebe paid them no attention and just kept on swimming by. did this lovely male Gadwell

This male Hepatic Tanager was having great success hunting insects.

What a presence this Curved-billed Thrasher provides

A few Rufous-winged Sparrows were enjoying a feeder at Patagonia State Park
We came upon this tree full of Chipping Sparrows at the San Pedro House on the San Pedro River. We wonder if they were migrating?
These Savannah Sparrows were hanging out with the group as well.

We were lucky enough to spot this Plumbeous Vireo while hiking along in Patagonia State Park. 
The Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were in almost every tree

The Cassin's Kingbird is a winter resident of the area. We saw this Cassin's Kingbird in Patagonia State Park.

This male Acorn Woodpecker was tapping away right over my head while we parked our truck at Ft Huachuca.
The Painted Redstart is one of my favorite warblers. It is so full of song and life flitting around feeding in the oaks.

This Bridled Titmouse was letting everyone know where he was:)
Bob is so good at spying the flycatchers. He spotted this Gray Flycatcher dipping its tail and sallying back and forth to the ground feeding on insects. Both of those behaviors are good indicators you are looking at a Gray Flycatcher. It also has the pinkish-orange bill at the base of the lower bill.
There were so many Ruby-crowned Kinglets flitting about - we are always on the look out for the Hutton's Vireo. We found this one because it was acting so different from a Ruby-crowned Kinglet- moving more methodically verses flitting about. The larger bill and two white wing bars confirmed it.

This Cassin's Vireo was acting photogenic with its conspicuous white spectacles.

We chased these two female Eastern Bluebirds around thinking they were some type of flycatcher...then they stood still and aren't they a pair:)
We left Arizona, traveled through New Mexico and entered Texas. We quickly fell in love with Texas state parks. If we were not staying at a state park there was usually one within 20 minutes of our campground that we could go explore.....

Ft Davis State Park is a gem located north of the Big Bend National Park. Most of the parks have bird blind areas where they provide food and water for the birds and a viewing area for the humans.

This is an interior subspecies of the Bushtit- note the brown patch on its face. The holes in the post were filled with suet/peanut butter. It was a favorite for the birds.

These Pine Siskins were having the time of their life.

What incredible views of a Black-crested Titmouse

By far the best view yet of the crown of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet

White-winged Dove were definitely the "bossy pants" of the seed on the ground. They were so busy trying to chase the other birds away. They are beautiful:)
What a view of a Ladder-backed Woodpecker

A female American Goldfinch still in winter plumage
Lesser Goldfinch males chowing away

We were staying at a campground in Junction,Texas. South Llano River State Park was not too far away so we decided to check it out. WOW...we ended up having more weather issues so we stayed an extra day and had some wonderful bird walks in the park :)

Our first look at a Field Sparrow!
An old familiar friend - a male Spotted Towhee

Our first look at a Carolina Chickadee
Armadillo! Our first and only look on this part of the trip. We were so lucky to get to see this amazing creature.

We were now seeing a combination of Black Vultures and Turkey Vultures. This is a Black Vulture.

Another first- the beautiful Golden-fronted Woodpecker (there is a yellow nape patch along with a yellow spot above the bill)

This Canyon Towhee was standing guard as we entered into the bird blind area.

The Black-throated Sparrows were enjoying the seed on the ground that the finches were throwing around .

Feral hogs or should I say piglets....had strayed down to the river's edge. The Mama started calling and they ran back to her.
Our first of many Red-bellied Woodpeckers. They are plentiful and gregarious

Crossing into Texas, we have entered into Yellow-bellied Sapsucker territory.
We stayed in a campground just west of Houston. They had a nice pond with Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.

 Another amazing Texas State Park-The Stephen Austin State Park was close to our campground so we went exploring....they had experienced quite a bit of flooding the day before so most of the trails were closed but that doesn't stop the birds or the birders.

A Carolina Wren- what a singer:)
Male Eastern Bluebird was one of many feeding on the ground and in the oak trees.

When we hit Florida, we overnighted in a campground in 
the small town of Marianna. My trusty bird hotspot app indicated there was a nearby greenway. So off we went....

This was a new bird for us right outside our trailer- a Pine Warbler feeding with a Palm Warbler (not pictured)
We found this beautiful treasure- the Chipola River Greenway right outside of town

A Bald Cypress Forest lines the river

Apparently Blue-headed Vireos are common in the southeast. This was our first real look. Not a great photo, but it hung out so we had some wonderful views.
We were now getting into the heart of Florida. We stayed at a great campground in the town of Ocala that had endless trails to explore. 

We heard a bird's incessant calling and could not figure out who it was. We ended up tracking down this male Eastern Towhee. They have different songs and calls than its western cousin, the Spotted Towhee, but just as varied! Note the white-yellow iris: it is a unique trait indicating a Florida subspecies.
The Northern Cardinal males were busy establishing their territory - singing and calling all day long.

Well as Dorothy said "We are not in Kansas anymore"! We have made it to Florida and have had a wonderful time along the way:)

The world is full of beauty & wonder,

Turtle & Hawk  

1 comment:

  1. What a fantastic array of birds you've been seeing and photographing! Great capture of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet -- we've never managed to photograph one displaying the beautiful red crown. So happy that you two are enjoying the Gulf Coast spring migration. :-) Laurel & Eric