Friday, September 13, 2013

Field Trippin' With the Audubon Society

I've been a card carrying member of the Audubon Society Since I was in the fourth grade. I had a book about bird gardening, and in the back of the book, there was an address for the National Audubon Society. I wrote them, telling them I was in the fourth grade and asked for a membership packet. About two months later, I got the packet, and I ponied up the fee out of my own money. I've been a member since, usually remembering to re-up, occasionally forgetting, mostly, I get a gift membership every year from my parents for my birthday or Christmas. When we moved to Jacksonville, FL from Louisiana in 1989 I discovered the wonderful joys of going on the Local Audubon Society chapter field trips. Until then, birding had largely been a solo pursuit for me, and I quickly discovered that having people with you when you went out really made the birding fun, especially when there were people who are better birders than you.

On the 7th, I introduced the two eldest kiddos to Audubon field trips. We went with the Lake Region Audubon Society to Saddle creek. Hey, it's the local warbler spot. It's reasonably close to the house, and doesn't have an entry fee, what's not to like?

The LRAS puts on several fall migrant walks at Saddle Creek. The next one is on September 21st and the final official one of the season is October 26th. They promptly start at 8AM. We arrived about 10 minutes late, because I was still sleeping when the girls were almost ready to go. At 7:20, I felt a tap tap tap on my leg, peeked open my eyes, and saw Emma:
"Dad, it's time to get up and go birding."
Yes Sweetheart.
Sometimes, I really dislike having a second shift job. Saturday mornings are one of those times. When I operate on my natural rhythm I am asleep by 10pm, and awake by 6am. Since college however, I've been shoehorned into jobs and other activities that have kept me out. Right now, it's hard to get to bed early on my day off, but when I do, it's very easy to get up.
Last Saturday was not easy to get up, but get up I did, and get coffee flowing through my veins. After feeding the kids, we were off.

The group was still close to the gate so to speak, glancing hopefully upward in the trees, hoping to catch a passing migrant. As we approached the group, someone pointed out a mockingbird on top of the plastic owl by the county facilities at the park entrance. The girls got a kick out of seeing this peculiarity. Walking up the big hill, we saw our first migrants, a red eyed vireo and yellow throated warbler. KT especially liked the warbler, and said it made the list as her favorite bird of the day. Another ovenbird appeared at the same spot it did the week before. Someone reported black crowned night herons by the creekside (yep, there is an actual Saddle Creek!), but we missed it. We did however see a black and white warbler.
There were more vireos. And then there were more vireos! all of them were red eyed. come to think of it, I've seen a lot of red eyed vireos all this week. They must all leave for points south at the same time. We had to leave early so I could get to work, and on the way back, just after we passed the ovenbird spot on the way to the hill, I spied a bird on the ground, waggin' it's tail, looking like a waterthrush. I raised my 'nocs to see a streaky breast, overall yellowish bird with an eyestripe that lead me to conclude "Northern Waterthrush" I was really hoping for a Lousiana. Any waterthrush is worth the view, but Louisiana seems to be my nemesis bird for the area. The Audubon group had it on it's list, but no Northern. The bird I saw was too yellow, and the eyestripe was off for a Louisiana. I guess I can take comfort in that they didn't have Northern on their list.

Once in the car, I directed the girls to the top of another pole where a red shouldered hawk surveyed the lakes and all around. When we got on the road, and to the bait shop, right before getting onto Memorial Highway, a Great egret gave us a really close look. Emma was impressed, and said it was her favorite bird of the day. We also laughed at the "No tail Grackles" that were singing and flying around.

It's late Friday night as I finish this up, and the morning is coming quick. I have a feeling that I'll be getting another nudge. I think tomorrow morning we will go to Lake Hollingsworth though, I spied some terns on some bouys that need perusing on the way to work the other day.

Our list:
Northern Mockingbird
Yellow Throated Warbler
Red-eyed Vireo
Northern Cardinal
Red Bellied woodpecker
Black and white warbler
downey woodpecker
northern waterthrush
carolina wren
red shouldered hawk
mourning dove
white ibis
great egret
boat tailed grackle (no tail grackles)
tricolored heron.

Didn't make it to Lake Hollingsworth with girls, but I did drive by on the way into work. There were no terns on the southside bouys when I rode by at 11:40 AM today.

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