Mike Parsons, Eli Schaperow and I visited River Lakes Conservation Area (Brevard County), Viera Wetlands (Brevard County) and Ponce Inlet (Volusia County) Friday.
We saw a very good number of American Kestrels at River Lakes Conservation Area.  Earlier in the week, another group of us saw good numbers of American Kestrels at Three Lakes WMA.  At the Florida Keys Hawkwatch, we saw 3,242 American Kestrels for the fall 2012 season compared to 2101 for the fall 2011 season.  None of this means the decline in this species has stopped, but we all like to feel positive about things like this.
An adult male Northern Harrier was at Viera Wetlands, always a real treat to see, plus two Crested Caracaras.
A report by a local who seemed credible said she saw a Swainson's Hawk at the parking lot at the end of the road into River Lakes Conservation Area.  If you are in this venue or nearby Viera Wetlands, it is at least worth looking out for.
At Ponce Inlet, others reported Scoters early in the day but we failed to see them.  We did see Northern Gannets.
For the ID challenge yesterday, here are the answers:
Image 1:  Hooded Merganser, male, Viera Wetlands
Image 2:  Red-shouldered Hawk, juvenile, Viera Wetlands.  Aged by brown vertical streaking, not russet horizontal barring.
Image 3:  Purple Sandpiper, juvenile, Ponce Inlet.  Aged by feather details, white fringe on coverts--better seen on other photos--and buffy scapulars.
Image 4:  Hooded Merganser male on left, Hooded Merganser female on right, Viera Wetlands.
Image 5:  Ruddy Turnstone, Ponce Inlet.  This was difficult for some since all you see is top-side and tail feathers, no head or underwing.  This is the photo of a rear view, in-flight, with tail fanned and wings spread revealing excellent feather detail.  As O'brien, Crossley and Karlson say in "the Shorebird Guide", a "pied pattern on the upper parts similar in all plumages."  I thought the rocks would be a giveaway for location.
Image 6:  American Kestrel, male (blue wings), River Lakes Conservation Area.
Image 7:  Info same as # 4 except the two switched places.
Image 8:  American Bittern, Viera Wetlands.
Image 9:  Savannah Sparrow, Viera Wetlands.  That funky looking crest was pretty cool.
Image 10:  Info same as #3.  Nice view of side with wing lifted.
Image 11:  American Kestrel, female, River Lakes Conservation Area.  Sexed by russet wing color and tail banding pattern.  The subterminal tail band is wider on the male.
Image 12:  Snow Egret, adult, Ponce Inlet.  
Image 13:  Info same as #3.  If this were an adult Purple Sandpiper, it would appear more dark and more "purple".  The white fringe on the tertials and coverts gives it a brighter look than the "dark adult".
The buffy fringe on the scapulars changes quite a bit depending on posture.  I have some photos showing more buff color here and the same feather receding showing very little, depending on the posture.

Image 14:  American Goldfinch, female, River Lakes Conservation Area.  Sexed by coloration in and around the auriculars--a male would have a bit brighter/yellowish marks here.  If somebody has a different sex, please let us know.

Image 15:  Info same as #12.  

Image 16:  Info same as #11.

Image 17:  Red-shouldered Hawk, adult, River Lakes Conservation Area.  Aged by visible red shoulder and by russet/reddish under wing linings.

Image 18:  American Goldfinch, male, River Lakes Conservation Area.  There were about 20 in the flock.

Image 19:  American Kestrel, female, River Lakes Conservation Area.  Aged by uniform color to wing and mantle, coverts, scapulars.  Also, the subterminal tail band (black) is not much larger than the other bands.  The male has blue wings and a much larger subterminal band on the tail.

Bob Stalnaker
Longwood, FL

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