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Today I had planned to make an overdue spring scouting visit to the agricultural areas south and east of Lake Okeechobee and escape from all those brightly colored migrant warblers, tanagers, and buntings near the coast, but it turned into a good day of birding despite my contrarian efforts.  Among the highlights were four Buff-breasted Sandpipers at two locations and two White-rumped Sandpipers.  The White Rumped Sandpipers were in a rice field about a mile south of the Barn Owl Grove.  The first Buff-breasted Sandpiper was west of “Roth Sod Road” and the other three were in the King Ranch Sod Fields east of US 27.
 

I arrived at the Barn Owl Grove before dawn and was able to get good looks at least two Barn Owls as well as an adult Bald Eagle, Merlin, and about seven Yellow-crowned Night-Herons.  The rice fields that begin just south of the grove were recently planted and flooded, allowing good views through the sparse growth.  They held several hundred shorebirds, mostly in alternate plumage.  The most numerous were Stilt Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Least Sandpipers, along with lesser numbers of Long-billed Dowitchers, Solitary Sandpipers, and Semipalmated Plovers, and a few Semipalmated Sandpipers and Greater Yellowlegs.  Surprisingly there was only on “flyover” Black-necked Stilt.  The White-rumped Sandpipers were near the south end in the section closest to the road.  The Barn Owl Grove is located across the Miami Canal from the west end of CR 817 about seven miles west of US 27 south of South Bay, to get across the canal turn right at the T and cross to the bridge about a ha!
 lf a mile to the north.  It can also be reached via the road that runs south from US 27 along the west side of the Miami Canal.

 
My next destination was the Belle Glade Marina and Campground where with the low lake level and a major event going on I spent little time.  The highlights of a drive around the marsh impoundment that was almost entirely dry as was the perimeter canal were a Limpkin, about 55 Black-necked Stilts, and 8 Purple Swamphens.  Extensive mud flats were visible in the distance on Lake Okeechobee but were well beyond scope range.  It looks like they have finally reopened the campground, which was closed because of damage from the hurricanes the year before last.

 
From there I went to “Roth Sod Road” (not its official name but what is on the only sign marking it) which goes south from 880 about 6.6 miles east of Browns Farm Road which also goes south from 880 and is about 5.8 miles east of the intersection with 80 in Belle Glade.  The Buff-bellied Sandpiper was with some Black-bellied Plovers in the sod fields on the west side of the road a half-mile south of the turnoff from 880.

 
A check of Browns Farm Road on the way back to Belle Glade turned up little besides a flock of about 200 mostly male Bobolinks just south of a microwave tower about 7 miles south of 880.

 
The other three Buff-bellied Sandpipers were in the King Ranch Sod Fields across the canal on the east side of US 27 south of South Bay a couple of miles south of the CR 827 intersection.  They were with Black-bellied Plovers near the back of the first field east of the tattered banana clump between two gates at the south end of the sod fields.  Coming from the south on US 27 there is a prominent microwave tower about fifteen miles north of the Broward/Palm Beach County line, I usually cross the bridge on the right 3.4 miles north of the tower and the sod fields begin a little over a mile further to the north.  There are also sod fields around the microwave tower but they held little this afternoon besides a few Black-bellied Plovers and Eastern Meadowlarks.

 
The last notable sighting of the day was a Peregrine Falcon hunting low between the canal and the road along US 27.  

 
To wrap things up, four Northern Harriers were seen in various locations during the day, none of which were adult males and all of which were in what looked to be faded plumage.  There were swallows around for most of the day and while I didn't spend much time studying them they appeared to be mostly Tree Swallows with only a few Barn Swallows.  All the locations mentioned are on DeLorme page 108 except for the Barn Owl Grove, which is on page 107.


Bryant Roberts
Davie, Fl

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