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Day 3: Picayune Strand SF & Pelican Bay

Collier County, FL

semi-overcast 81 °F

Today, my dad and I birded Picayune Strand State Forest southeast of Naples in search of two prospective life birds: Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Short-tailed Hawk. The hawk was a long shot and we basically would have to get lucky to see it, and the woodpecker is a pine forest specialist and we had a few specific locations to try for it.

As soon as we arrived to the general area where the woodpeckers are known to be, I knew it looked good because we were surrounded by (mostly burnt) pine flatwoods. We immediately found this beautiful RED-HEADED WOODPECKER:
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Immature BALD EAGLE:
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Every time we found a woodpecker my heart started to race — alas, this guy was just a YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER:
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DOWNY WOODPECKER, a close relative of the hoped-for Red-cockaded:
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Then, I heard some drumming on a tree behind us and lo and behold a beautiful female RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER was picking at the bark of a pine tree. Too cool — life bird!!!!!
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We then headed back to the car and on the way back I found this little toad which promptly jumped out of my hand:
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The next stop was Sabal Palm Road on the other side of the state forest where we would cruise along the road and hope to get lucky with our Short-tailed Hawk. We did find this COOPER’S HAWK:
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NORTHERN FLICKER, our seventh woodpecker species of the day. The others were red-bellied, red-headed, downy, pileated, red-cockaded, and the sapsucker.
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There were a few WOOD STORK alongside the road:
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An adult BALD EAGLE perched nearby:
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GREAT BLUE HERON:
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A flyby PEREGRINE FALCON was nice — it was turning into a lovely day for finding raptors.
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On nearby Morgan Road we found a CRESTED CARACARA, a Florida specialty that is much more common south of the US border. Cool!
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RED-SHOULDERED HAWKS:
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This CATTLE EGRET was found perching atop a horse:
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Flyover ANHINGAS:
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This SWALLOW-TAILED KITE flew by. Along with the kite, our raptors were Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered, Cooper’s, & Red-tailed Hawk, Osprey, Peregrine, Caracara, and Black & Turkey Vultures if you count those as “raptors.” Alas, we never found the Short-tailed Hawk, but ten raptor species isn’t too shabby!
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Then, this late afternoon & evening my mom dropped me off near Pelican Bay and I was hoping to find waterbirds, shorebirds, and a nightjar called a Chuck-will’s-widow.

I immediately found this alligator:
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SNOWY EGRET:
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WHITE IBIS and a great find, a ROSEATE SPOONBILL, a bird I hadn’t found yet this trip that I was hoping to see!
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SPOTTED SANDPIPER:
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WHITE IBIS:
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TRICOLORED HERON:
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SANDERLINGS:
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RUDDY TURNSTONE:
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WILLETS:
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Here they are with SANDERLINGS:
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ROYAL TERN:
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OSPREYS:
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The mangroves glowed in the late-afternoon light:
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Then, a perfect formation of BROWN PELICANS flew over:
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FORSTER’S TERNS:
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SNOWY EGRET:
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The sunset was beautiful:
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As I was listening for the Chuck-will’s-widow calling post-sunset (and swapping the many mosquitoes away), I spied this YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, another species I was hoping to find this trip:
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Unfortunately, I never heard a Chuck-will’s-widow, though it was not for a lack of trying as I probably swapped away thousands of bugs tonight.

Overall, a swell day of birding! Bird-of-the-day to my life bird Red-cockaded Woodpecker with runner-up to the Crested Caracara. I’m leaving Florida tomorrow to head back to Chicago for the rest of spring break, but it sure has been a great trip!

Also, I would love to invite you to my FRESHMAN RECITAL in Chicago! I will be singing and playing piano and this show will feature a few of my friends from the area, as well. Would love to see you there!
Saturday, March 9 @3pm
Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church
744 Fair Oaks Ave, Oak Park, IL 60302

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 970 Species (1 life bird today: Red-cockaded Woodpecker)

Posted by skwclar 16:42 Archived in USA

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Wow, what a great bunch of pictures of all the lovely birds - thank you!

by Mary Stevens

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