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    The torrential rains that pelted Northwest Florida last week produced a birding bonanza. About 11 years ago a similar event occurred when the spray fields (Ft. Walton Beach Spray Field, see Pranty), normally a dry, short grass habitat, was converted into a series of fresh water lakes in a short period of time. Almost immediately, migrating shorebirds, herons and egrets and ducks began using the area. There was great birding for many months. Again the fields are flooded and full of birds. A trip there today yielded 15 species of shorebirds including 9 Golden Plovers, as well as a Fulvous Whistling-Duck, 10 White Ibis, and many Blue-winged Teal. As the season progresses, birding there may improve even more.

    Birders MUST check in with the office before entering the fields and are now PROHIBITED FROM DRIVING INTO THE FIELDS until the perimeter roads are dry. But birders are allowed to walk in and can easily scope the wetlands from dry ground. We found that although many species were spotted this way, a walk along the perimeter of the wetlands yielded many more species than seen by a scope sweep. Waterproof boots are recommended. 

Bob Duncan
Gulf Breeze, FL

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