Nine birders joined Paul Bithorn and me this past weekend for Tropical 
Audubon's annual winter trek to the Florida Panhandle. Paddy Cunningham brought an 
additional six birders; John Kellam and Karl Edwards met up with us once in the 
Panhandle. In spite of Saturday's heavy rains, and frigid temperatures on 
Sunday and early Monday, we still managed to tally 135 species.

Our first stop was on Ranch Road in Astatula, on the northwest side of Lake 
Apopka in Lake County, where after a few minutes of searching, we found the 
Say's Phoebe discovered there several weeks ago. After lunch, we headed north to 
O'Leno State Park in Columbia County, where a Fox Sparrow was reported earlier 
in the week. We could not locate the Fox Sparrow, but Paddy Cunningham did 
spot a Winter Wren along the trail to the river sink. Unfortunately, the wren 
could not be relocated. We also saw the first of many Red-headed Woodpeckers for 
the trip.

Saturday morning began at Torreya State Park in Liberty County, where just 
like last year, we easily located a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos in front of 
Gregory House. Heavy rains associated with a passing cold front prevented us from 
birding the park extensively, so we moved on to the home of Ray Dennis in 
Blountstown, Calhoun County. After only a few-minute wait, the spectacular adult 
male Broad-billed Hummingbird that had been banded there made an appearance. 
White-throated Sparrow was also seen while there. We continued west, where the 
rains forced us to break early for lunch. The rains finally abated, which allowed 
us to visit Hightower Road, near Vernon in Washington County. After 
considerable searching, we found and eventually had crippling looks at one of the Fox 
Sparrows previously reported from that location. Next stop was the home of Dara 
and Lloyd Dobson in DeFuniak Springs, Walton County, where we had to deal 
with frigid post-front conditions. The Dobsons graciously provided coffee and a 
space heater while we waited for their banded female Anna's Hummingbird to 
arrive. After a short but seemingly endless wait, this adorable little hummer 
finally made an appearance. Our last stop of the day was at Ponce de Leon Springs 
State Park in Holmes County, where we added Golden-crowned Kinglet and Brown 
Creeper to our trip list.

Sunday began at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Wakulla County. We 
searched for Rusty Blackbirds at bridges along the first stretch of the refuge 
road, but found none. Driving on, we spotted a bobcat crossing the road near the 
trailhead for the refuge's primitive trails. At the helipad near the 
trailhead, we managed in-flight looks at both Henslow's Sparrow and Sedge Wren. 
Brown-headed Nuthatches were seen near the trailhead. Three Black-necked Stilts were 
at Stony Bayou Pool #1; a few Northern Shovelers, Lesser Scaup and Bufflehead 
were in Mounds Pools. Duck numbers were highest at Picnic Pond, where we found 
several Canvasbacks, Buffleheads, Hooded Mergansers and Ruddy Ducks, plus a 
lone female Gadwall. Four American Avocets were feeding along the shore. After 
a delicious picnic lunch, generously provided by former Miamian Jean Quincy, 
her daughter Lynn and Apalachee Audubon President Elizabeth Platt, we headed to 
the lighthouse area at the end of the refuge road. Red-breasted Merganser, 
Common Loon, Horned Grebe and American White Pelican were found in the bay, 
while Nelson s Sharp-tailed and Seaside Sparrows as well as more Sedge Wrens were 
flushed from adjacent salt marsh. A Clapper Rail was heard, but not seen, by a 
few participants. We stopped at the visitor center on our way out of the 
refuge, where we found a flock of Rusty Blackbirds, as well as a few Wilson s 
Snipe feeding along the edge of the pond behind the visitor center building. From 
St. Marks, we headed west to agricultural fields east of Malone in Jackson 
County, where we hoped to find Horned Larks. We failed to find the larks, but did 
find good numbers of American Pipit and Vesper Sparrow.

Monday began at Tall Timbers Research Station in Leon County, where former 
Florida Keys resident and now Tall Timbers employee Chris Borg helped us to 
explore the property. We failed to find any of the recently introduced 
Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, but we did see several White-breasted Nuthatches, Eastern 
Bluebirds and Red-headed Woodpeckers, plus Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and House 
Finch. Our trip ended at the home of Tallahassee resident Fran Rutkovsky, where we 
saw Rufous Hummingbird, Western and Summer Tanager, and Bullock's and 
Baltimore Oriole, plus Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Downy Woodpecker, White-breasted 
Nuthatch, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted 
Titmouse, Pine Warbler, Chipping Sparrow and American Goldfinch, all coming to 
feeders in her amazing backyard.

Brian Rapoza
Field Trip Coordinator
Tropical Audubon Society
Miami, FL

Start the year off right.  Easy ways to stay in shape.

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