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The northwest corner of Escambia County, FL, has a reputation for some
really great birds this time of year.  Today was not disappointing.

 

What was disappointing is that most of the catfish farms are now defunct*.
Many ponds are now dry and in brambles, broomsedge and various grasses. (We
were told by one of the catfish farm owners that the price of feed went up
exorbitantly once corn was grown for ethanol, and the smaller farmers just
couldn't make a profit.) The remaining ponds hosted a fair number of ducks,
most of which were Hooded Mergansers, but we had 9 spcs of ducks anyway.
Missing were the high numbers of Bald Eagles that formerly feasted on
catfish remains. Even worse (for birding), almost all fields were planted in
cotton, not peanuts.

 

Sparrows were plentiful and everywhere, as were American Pipits and
Killdeer. A sprinkling of Brewer's Blackbirds were in two post-harvest
peanut fields with starlings and redwings.

Behind the Van Pelt Dairy on 99, Bob, Cecil Brown and I tromped for
sparrows, looking for Bewick's in this traditional place to find it and
hoping for a "good" flycatcher. But no dice.

 

Beyond the small pond on the northeast corner of the dairy property we
flushed about 20 meadowlarks into several bare trees. Just as a fluke, I
decided to play the Western Meadowlark song on my iPhone (using iBird Pro).
Immediately, I heard another "western" call, and thought it was in the
background of the digital recording. Cecil thought it was an echo from one
of the old buildings. Bob was just as confused, and I turned off the iPhone
after three song renditions. The song continued, and came from the bare
trees! Stunned, we started scanning for the singing culprit. Just then, all
the meadowlarks flushed and flew to the distant field. Well, all but one...
This bird continued to sing intermittently, a distinct song identical to the
Western Meadowlark song on the recording.

 

Access to the Van Pelt Dairy (on SR 97, at the east  end of Pelt Road):
Once you drive in to the dairy, you must park out of the way and find
someone in the big shed, tell them what you're there for, and ask
permission. They run a cattle operation there, and aren't keen on folks
walking around when they don't know who you are and what you're doing. 

 

Good birding,

Lucy & Bob Duncan

Gulf Breeze, FL (just south of Pensacola)


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