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Afternoon Florida Birders,
   
  Took advantage of a beautiful day on the water yesterday.  Another paddler and I put in our kayaks at St. Marks around 10:15 yesterday morning just at low tide, a very low tide.  Motor boaters were having some difficulty getting out of the small channel leading from the boat ramp to the bay. 
   
  A common loon briefly kept us company just outside Spanish Harbor as it would dive to feed, reappearing and checking to make sure we were not intruding, then dive again.  After clearing the immense oyster bar extending south way beyond the old shipwreck, we paddled eastward on a mirrored surface with just a slight breeze out of the southeast.  Hundreds if not thousands of finger mullet? would swim and splash just in front of our boats not allowing us to approach close enough to actually confirm their species.
   
  Flats were exposed for hundreds of feet from the shoreline, if not farther.  As we paddled a thousand feet south of the shore, we still would brush the grass beds in the very shallow water.  By the time we were south of Big Cove, the flats were covered with long-legged waders, Great blues, Greats and tons of ibis.  The further east we paddled, the more flats that were exposed with a proportionate increase in waders.  
   
  By the time we were approaching Slough Island, the flats were covered with hundreds and hundreds of great egrets.  Great Blues were interspersed amongst the Greats.  Several Reddish Egrets performed their clownish acrobatics to liven up the landscape.  As we glassed further to the east, again hundreds of ibis and egrets would appear.  But due to atmospheric trickery, all appeared to be standing a few feet above the water's surface, a nice balancing act. 
   
  An interesting feeding behavior of the waders was that each appeared to stake out a small territory in a couple of inches of water, 20 to 30 feet from its competitor and all seemed to be facing west, standing perfectly still.  Each was quietly waiting for its dinner to swim by within striking range.  And then  Ring-billed gulls, waiting patiently nearby would pounce on the lucky, or should I say unlucky wader trying to convince the bird to relinquish its catch. 
   
  And then there were hundreds of shorebirds, peeps and plovers, most too far out on the flats to ID.
   
  Plus Monarchs, Gulf Fritillaries, Cloudless Sulphurs, and others all heading south over the bay.
   
  By the time we started back from Slough Island, the flats were covered by Apalachee Bay.  We could paddle up to the marsh grass without worrying about grounding the boats.  Willets, flocks of 50 or more would fly close to our boats as they were heading west to their evening roosts.  Any small exposed flats we scanned on the way back were covered with willets, terns and gulls, all probably well fed and enjoying the last rays of a beautiful day before the dark, the stillness would creep in from the east.
   
  Then as we loaded up our kayaks and equipment, the no-see-ums enjoyed feasting on us.
   
  Birds seen were"
*Greater Scaup - on raft of 50 t0 70 birds
*Bufflehead - 2 males, 5 females
*Common Loon - 1
*American White Pelican - 4
*Brown Pelican - quite few, adults and juvs.
*Double-crested Cormorant - hundred +, primarily covering several oyster bars
*Great Blue Heron - 30+/-
*Great Egret - too many to count
*Reddish Egret - 5
*White Ibis - hundreds if not more
*Roseate Spoonbill - 12
*Wood Stork - 2
*Bald Eagle - 1 adult
*Sandhill Crane - 8 flyover
*Willet - hundreds +
*Dunlin - 3 plus probably hundreds more, too far to ID
*Laughing Gull - 20 +
*Ring-billed Gull - 10 +
*Herring Gull - 3
*Royal Tern - 30 +
*Barred Owl - 1 heard in the cabbage palms adjacent to the boat channel
*Belted Kingfisher - 4 male and female
*Fish Crow - 4
*Northern Mockingbird - 1
*Northern Cardinal - 2 male and female
*Red-winged Blackbird - 20 +/-
*Boat-tailed Grackle - 3
   
  Harry Hooper
Tallahassee, Florida
  
 

 
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