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Hi FloridaBirders,

Decided to see (for the first time after all these years of living in the
Panhandle) the Hickory Mound Unit (Taylor County) of the Big Bend Wildlife
Management Area. The Hickory Mound Impoundment is located about 15 miles
west of Perry and about 8 miles south of U.S. 98 accessed by Cow Creek
Grade, a graded but fairly rough road.

I put my kayak in just before 10 at the east boat ramp and lazily paddled
down a fairly wide but shallow channel south to the Gulf. An outgoing tide
and a north tail wind kept me moving with little effort. The salt marsh
between the impoundment and the Gulf is part of the Big Bend Aquatic
Preserve Marsh Buffer. On a good day with a high tide, there are a lot of
narrow winding channels to explore and yes, get lost in. But the low tide
brought out the mud flats and oyster bars and the birds to go with them.

The best find were a pair of Great White Herons (white morph of the Great
Blue Heron). The last one I saw up this way was approximately 12 to 15 years
ago at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park on Cape San Blas. These 2 took me by
surprise since generally any white long-legged bird I see in these parts is
a Great Egret and unless it is feeding or active in some way, that is
generally the end of the observation. But as I slowly glided toward one of
the morphs perched on an exposed crab trap, the grayish yellow legs and the
massive bill stood out in the bright sunlight. I was able to observe the
bird from about 30 feet away before it flew and met up with the second bird.
The two birds allowed my presence for a good 15 minutes while I studied them
studying me.  Another feature of the one bird caught my attention. A very
light hint of darker feathering could be seen in the primaries and
secondarys.

After checking out the increasingly exposed oyster bars, I decided to head
back in early fearing that if I stayed out any longer, I might be dragging
my kayak across the mud flats and oyster bars to get back to the boat ramp.

During the 2 hours I was on the water, the following birds were seen:

* Double-Crested Cormorant - 1
* Great Blue Heron - 4
* Great White Heron - 2
* Great Egret - 3
* Turkey Vultures - all perched on the embankment road as I launched
  the boat.
* Northern Harrier - 1 male
* Black-bellied Plover - 2, perched on the exposed outer oyster bars.
* Greater Yellowlegs - 1
* Solitary Sandpiper - 3
* Willet - 30+ perched on the exposed outer oyster bars.
* Dunlin - 60+ perched on the exposed outer oyster bars.
* Short-billed Dowitcher - 12+ perched on the exposed outer oyster bars.
* Laughing Gull - 6
* Ring-billed Gull - 50+ perched on the exposed outer oyster bars.
* Belted Kingfisher - 1
* Tree Swallow - 2

From around noon to 1400 hours, I slowly drove the impoundment road past the
observation tower (presently closed), the west boat ramp and back into the
beautiful cabbage palm hammocks north of the marsh. Three large otters
stopped on the road to investigate me (from a distance) while I birded both
the marsh to the south and the impoundment to the north. The one thing I
noted was the lack of ducks in the impoundment. Very few were observed.
Birds seen during the drive were:

* Double-crested Cormorant - 5
* Great Blue Heron - 4
* Great Egret - 11
* Little Blue Heron - 1 adult and 2 juvs.
* Tricolored Heron - 12
* Turkey Vulture - 16 (soaring)
* Gadwall - 1
* Lesser Scaup - 1 male, 2 females
* Hooded Merganser - 1 female
* Osprey - 1
* Bald Eagle - 3 adults
* Northern Harrier - 2 females
* Red-shouldered Hawk - 1
* Red-tailed Hawk - 1
* King Rail - 1 heard
* American Coot - 30+
* Greater Yellowlegs - 8
* Lesser Yellowlegs - 3
* Laughing Gull - 8
* White-winged Dove - 1 on the northwest side of the impoundment
  nearing the cabbage palm hammocks.
* Belted Kingfisher - 3
* Red-bellied Woodpecker - 2 males plus 1 heard.
* Carolina Wren - 1
* Northern Mockingbird - 8
* American Pipit - 4
* Palm Warbler - 2
* Eastern Towhee - 1 male plus 2 heard.
* Savannah Sparrow - 8 on the impoundment road.
* Seaside Sparrow - 1
* Song Sparrow - 5 on the impoundment road.
* Northern Cardinal - 2 males and 1 female.
* Common Grackle - 30+
* Boat-tailed Grackle - 10+

But what really made this Thanksgiving was not the birds out in the marshes
but having to slow down for 3 wild turkeys standing in the middle of U.S. 98
just west of the Aucilla River this morning. I ended up honking the horn to
get them to move off the road. They were a beautiful site on this very
special day.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and to all, have a great birding holiday.

Harry Hooper
Tallahassee, Florida





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