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Ola!

Ross McGregor and I set out at 6.30am this morning to partake in a spot of big day birding. 
We had a great time and saw a lot of birds, but not enough, bah!

I picked up the scotsman and we headed north to Tall Timbers arriving a little before daybreak. 
Unfortunately there were no owls hooting, screeching or otherwise vocalising but as the 
sun came up to reveal a day more typical of our fair Island we starting ticking.

The highlight of our hour and bit was at least 1 Bachman's Sparrow near the end of the 
Henry Stevenson trail. We also had a bunch of White-throated Sparrows, Red-headed 
Woodpecker, both nuthatches and a Turkey. The feeders at Gannet Pond were a bit low 
on food so there weren't many birds around except for a couple of Chipping Sparrows. 
Northern Flicker, Blue-headed Vireo and small numbers of American Goldfinches were 
had on the way back to the trailhead.

Onward to Waverly hills and the house and yard of Mary Huggins and Susan Teisciero. 
After a 10 minute wait the first yr male Baltimore Oriole came down for some jelly and 
we also had our only Brown Thrasher of the day! Thanks guys you rock!

We had successfully missed rush hour and headed south across the capital for Tallahassee 
beauty spot number 1, Church's Chicken pond (no homeless people foraging today!) but 
we did have Hooded Merganser, Ruddy Duck and a few Lesser Scaup. Unfortunately the 
Northern Rough-winged Swallow had left.

Tallahassee beauty spot number 2 was next although the stench wasn't as bad as usual today. 
Highlights at Springhill included at least 4 Vesper Sparrows, Stilt Sandpiper, 30-40 Long-billed 
Dowitchers, 18 Cattle Egret and our only Loggerhead Shrike of the day.

With 100 species almost under our belt we whizzed down to St Marks NWR where we had 
a great 3 hours.
8 American Avocets were feeding near the road on Stoney Bayou. A decent sized group of 
about 20 Glossy Ibis were feeding by the road a little further along and we checked them for 
White-faced of which one was present. At Headquarters pond we lucked in on 
2 Northern Rough-winged Swallows feeding over the water with a bunch of Tree Swallows. 
Black-crowned Night Herons were roosting at the back but the water levels still remain very 
high after Dennis the Menace's storm surge, meaning no Purple Gallinules or Sora.
Whilst searching for sparrows and wrens along the shoreline down at the Lighthouse we spotted 
a female Common Goldeneye close in offshore. Several Sedge Wrens showed well and we also 
had Orange-crowned Warbler and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Whilst scanning for ducks, loons and 
grebes offshore I picked up a distant line of large birds heading inland. Our telescopes revealed a 
flock of 21 Sandhill Cranes, a real bonus for the day. Another stomp around the Lighthouse revealed 
a very confiding Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow and a Reddish Egret fussed at us from the channel. 
Marsh Wren and Clapper Rail were duly ticked off and a scan of lighthouse pond revealed a whole
swarm of Canvasbacks, Lesser Scaup, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, American Wigeon, Bufflehead 
and a few Greater Scaup allowing a nice comparison to the Lessers.
We returned to HQ carpark and searched for songbirds, a Black-and-white Warbler obliged as well 
as a butt load of butter butts, White-throated Sparrows and Brown-headed Nuthatch. No White-eyed 
Vireo or Yellow-throated Warbler, bah!
The Snow Geese (23) were mooching around near the pagoda carpark but no sign of the Ross's. We 
decided it wasn't worth trudging out to Mounds 3 for 1 species.
We then walked out for a ways along the dike at Stoney Bayou and scared up a couple of Spotted Sandpipers
 but no sign of any Black Ducks amongst the many Mallard, Pintail, Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal. 
We wanted to walk further to search for flycatchers and more duck but it was fast approaching 3pm and we still 
had the helipad and Bald Point to visit.
2 Henslow's Sparrows were seen at the helipad along with a bunch of Savannah's and Songs as well as Sedge Wren
 and Common Yellowthroat.

St Marks soon disappeared in my rear view mirror and we arrived at Bald Point around 4pm. The weather had 
unfortunately closed in and conditions deteriorated rapidly, damn it was cold exposed to that wind.
3 Piping Plovers were a nice addition to the days total down at the state park as well as the usual assortment 
of shorebirds. No Marbled Godwit but we did have a couple of Caspian Terns roosting on a sandbar.
The rest of the day was a washout and our chances of adding more species all but vanished. Despite spending 
a good 30 minutes seawatching (and in Florida it is sea watching!) we didnt get any scoters offshore altough
there were a good few scaup and Redhead floating around, we did have Northern Gannet and a couple of 
Bonaparte's Gulls which was our final tick of the day.

A respectable total of 134 species had been seen with less than 175 miles driving. A really enjoyable day. 
Look out Dave Simpson Im getting a taste for this Big Day mullarkey!

Bon Soir

Andy Wraithmell & Ross McGregor
Tallahassee

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