Hi Folks,

Let me tell you what Team Punk did last weekend.  We participated in 
the first annual Charlotte Harbor 100, a birdathon to raise money for 
Peace River Audubon Society.  The idea was hatched last year when Jeff 
Bouton and Paul Holmes found 100 species within Charlotte County during 
a casual six hours of birding.  This year, Paul set up a birdathon in 
conjunction with the spring meeting of FOS.  Since Andy and I were both 
attending the meeting, we decided that we would challenge the home town 
champions.  I have little time to devote to Big Days this year.  The 
unique nature of this Big half Day was intriguing.  The competition 
starts and ends at the same location and runs from 0600 to 1200.  All 
species must be within Charlotte County.  I was familiar with the 
hotspots of Charlotte County from many Big Days and one trip with Mr. 
Bouton himself.  A six hour birdathon in this county was too much to 
resist.  So Andy and I gathered a few pledges and set ourselves to the 

I had but one day to scout for this competition, since I wanted to 
check out the field trips during the meeting.  I arrived near dawn 
Friday and began the campaign to topple the hometown heros.  I had 3 
1/2 hours during the drive from Rockledge to contemplate the game plan. 
  Babcock-Webb WMA would figure prominently in the competition.  Given 
my familiarity with the site and the birds present, I decided to 
concentrate my limited scouting on areas with which I was less 
familiar.  It was still dark when I arrived in the couny, so I wandered 
out to Ponce DeLeon Park on the south side of the harbor.  My intention 
was to find out when the gates open.  Upon arriving at 0545, the gates 
were already open.  I sat in the parking lot wondering if I should 
begin daylight here or continue on to the Aqui Esta Ponds.  I decided 
it was best to check the ponds to see what remained of the winter flock 
of Hooded mergansers.  The pond hosted an impressive number of Hooded 
mergansers, many of which stayed the morning.  Also present in the pond 
were moorhens, a Pied-billed grebe, Ring-necked ducks, and three Lesser 
scaup.  Who knows which of these would be key on the CH 100?

The other area of interest was the park located on the southeast corner 
of Aqui Esta and Bal Harbour.  This park could hold some seemingly 
uninteresting but significant species for a birdathon of limited 
geographic extent.  There were House wrens, gnatcatchers, a ground 
dove, a pair of Cooper's hawks, and a singing Prairie warbler.  The 
warbler could be significant.  If we can get it here, we may be able to 
cut out Ponce DeLeon Park and recoup some time.  I don't know the 
status of Cooper's hawk in the county, but this pair seems to be 
attached to the area.  They were flying and calling to each other like 
a nesting pair.

My next target area was the Harborview and Deep Creek areas east of 
I-75, north of the Peace River.  En route, I checked a dock on the east 
side of SR 41 and north side of the Peace River.  There were many Royal 
terns, Laughing and Ring-billed gulls, but no Sandwich terns.  Lesser 
scaup were present in numbers, but no Red-breasted mergansers or loons 
save one flyover Common loon.  I did see a flock of turnstones on a 
distant dock.  I wasn't sure yet where we would find our coastal 
species on Sunday, so turnstones might be significant.  As I passed 
over I-75, I noticed a dirt road heading south of Harborview Blvd.  I 
decided to check the area as an alternate for scrub jays.  The habitat 
was pretty bad, but it is near the Deep Creek/Harborview population.  
If I could find an alternate spot, we could cut out the Deep Creek loop 
and save more time.  As it turned out, I would not find any jays.  I 
followed the road back until it ended (for 2WD vehicles) at a borrow 
pond.  The pond held little of interest with the exception of some 
roosting Black-crowned night-herons.  I continued the search for 
alternative scrub jays sites south of Harborview Blvd. across from Deep 
Creek Elementary with a similar degree of success.  I did finally pick 
up an alternative scrub jay spot in route to Harborview Park.  The park 
was still closed due to damage from the hurricanes, but I was able to 
see the nesting Yellow-crowned night-herons Andy and I found last 
summer.  Nice to have one in your pocket. I continued through the Deep 
Creek area and found many scrub jays, shrikes, and a Brown thrasher.  I 
don't know if these will be significant or not, but I have learned 
through experience to keep everything in mind.  You never know what 
turns the day will take.

The next area on the list was Washington Loop Rd.  This road loops east 
from US 17 north of I-75.  I traveled north on Kings Highway, looping 
through DeSoto County on CR 679 and 671 before heading south on US 17 
back into Charlotte County.  I have had caracara on US 17 en route to 
Arcadia in the past.  I don't remember if they were in Charlotte 
County.  There is certainly some habitat, but no caracara today.  I 
found a Snail kite in DeSoto County, but that won't do us any good on 
Sunday.  Hathaway park, located on the south side of the loop was the 
next stop.  This would likely prove the only place for songbirds.  It 
is a good backup for Limpkin if the bird at Webb fails us.  I missed 
the north end of the loop, so I started up the south side.  Red-headed 
woodpeckers can sometimes be found near a farm on this side.  On this 
day, I would not see or hear them.  There are still some suitable trees 
and some hurricane-killed trees that will soon be suitable.  Robins 
were still present in good numbers, I saw a flock of 200+ cross the 
road.  Lynn Bates, our local guide to the secret spots of Charlotte 
County, called while I searched for the missing woodpeckers.  We 
discussed some plans for Sunday.  I decided that she would be in charge 
of the north side of the harbor, since I would not likely be able to 
scout that area.  We set a meeting time and agreed that we would fill 
in the gaps in my knowledge with her 31 years of local experience.  I 
continued to Hathaway Park where I immediately found titmouse, 
Great-crested flycatcher, Northern parula, and screaming Limpkin.  The 
Limpkin was down by the river, of course.  I didn't see it at first, 
but spied another bird across the river.  The more visible of the pair 
was standing on a branch preening herself.  I say herself, based on the 
aloof behavior.  This attitude in contrast to the screamer, perched on 
a branch amongst a tangle of vines above and to my left, led me to 
believe that this was a courting pair.  The screamer was alternating 
between the characteristic piercing wails of his species and bouts of 
bill clicking and careful arrangement of the vines around him.  It 
appeared that he was building a nest and showing off this fact to his 
prospective mate and any predators that my be within hearing.  Nesting 
Limpkin is an even better backup!  I walked all of the trails at the 
park, a first for me.  I found kinglet and goldfinches, but no other 
migrants.  This spot should prove useful.

I continued around the loop hoping for more scrub jays and White-winged 
dove.  I came up with none of either, but did find some interesting 
habitat on the east side of the loop.  Serene Drive, bisecting the 
loop, had an old orange grove that was yet to be developed.  This 
habitat was in short supply in my limited knowledge of the county.  I 
didn't find anything interesting at this time, but it was getting late. 
  Sunday we planned to be here earlier.

There wasn't much else to see on this day.  I checked a flooded pasture 
for shorebirds and spotted only Killdeer.  I timed a route out on SR 74 
to SR 31 and down into Lee County.  If we were really doing well on 
time, we could try this route for caracara and Swallow-tailed kite; 
both of which I saw on this trip.  My final note was a Bald eagle on a 
nest on the east side of Jones Loop, not far from the starting and 
ending point of the competition.  Another backup spot.  After this, it 
was on to the FOS meeting.

Sunday, Team Punk and Lynn Bates would make our run at the record.  
That story will have to wait as I need my sleep tonight.

David Simpson
Rockledge, FL
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David Simpson
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