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At 11:00 AM 12/18/2003, Noel Wamer wrote:
>Since December 6 I have been at the Six-mile Landing in Guana River WMA (
>northern St. Johns County) from 4 am to 1 pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays,
>working the duck-hunter check station.  This has allowed me to make a
>regular "point surveys" of the local birdlife.
>
>To me, the most surprising observation so far has been the number of Least
>Bitterns present in this area.  All detections were the "kek-kek-kek"
>call.  The birds are calling when I arrive on-site at 4 am, and continue to
>call regularly until about 1/2 hour or so after sunrise.  I have rarely
>heard them later in the day.  Judging from the directions and distances of
>the calling birds I am guessing that there may be six or so bitterns within
>hearing range of this site.  Since I am sampling only a fraction of the
>cattail marsh habitat in the impounded area of Guana River, I can only
>assume that there many bitterns in this area.
>
>This runs counter to the conventional wisdom that this species is rare in
>north Florida in the winter.

Least Bitterns were yard birds for several years when I lived on Lake
Seminole in Pinellas County.  In winter, the only way I knew they were
there was to hear them calling well before sunrise.  On rare occasions I
would hear one call after sunset and even  more rarely (probably less than
once a year) I would happen to see one fly from one cattail stand to
another.  On cold or foggy days  sometimes none would call.  The call is
kek-kek-kek as Noel described.  Sibley says they give a single note flight
call but I've never heard it.  I've always wondered if more birds winter in
northern parts  of Florida and are undetected as birders are not in the
right habitat at the right time or if they are, they may be attributing the
calls to the King Rail.

Kris




--------
Kris Nelson
Largo, FL
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