Levy and Dixie County: This past weekend we conducted shorebird surveys near Cedar Key and Shell Mound in Levy County and near Shired Island in Dixie County. Although our primary target was migrant Red Knots, we noted multiple species at all sites. On this occasion, the region was experiencing the odd tides known for the area and water levels fell little from high water lines. Off the road shoulder just east of downtown Cedar Key, we found 700-800 Short-billed Dowitchers foraging up to their bellies in soft mud. With them were several hundred Dunlin and similar nos. of Semipalmated Sandpiper that struggled to feed in the sticky substrate. Also present were 20 or so Willet. The gulf west of town held few birds on the exposed oyster bars and rakes and the vast tidal bars never exposed at low tide. At Seahorse Key we enjoyed the aerial show of Magnificent Frigatebirds holding station over the pristine island. 

To the NE at Shell Mound, on a tiny offshore Key, we found a few roosting Red Knots, Ruddy Turnstone, Short-billed Dowitcher, Royal Terns, Black Skimmers and 15 Am. Oystercatcher. Of the latter, several pair were nesting on the Key along with a pair of Wilson's Plover. After documenting this activity, we hastily departed to avoid disturbance. A couple of kayakers were present, were informed of the situation and asked to depart with us. Regrettably, the bird's respite was short-lived with the arrival of yet another recreational vessel and two bait fisherman. (observed from a distant vantage point) This circumstance demonstrates the unfortunate status of most such coastal breeding sites in this state with very few remote areas free of highly adverse disturbances from the recreational public. By promptly reporting our observations to oversight authorities, it is hoped that greater protection is secured for this highly exposed and vulnerable site. 

On the outer beach of Hog Island, we found several hundred mixed species of shorebirds including: 1 Piping plover, 16 Marble Godwit, Willet, 3 Whimbrel, Short-billed Dowitcher, 62 Black-belly Plover, Semipalmated plover, Wilson plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Sanderling, various larids and one Reddish Egret.

To the north in Dixie County, we visited a site near Shired Island and found similar species and numbers of shorebirds and a flock of 40 Am. Oystercatchers that included a banded NC bird seen there in late winter. Amongst 33 Red Knot at this site, were two birds banded in SW Florida in winter 05-06. 

Doris and Patrick Leary, Fernandina Beach, Nassau County

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