Friday, April 11, 2008

Babcock-Webb WMA, FL - 05 Apr 2008

After returning from the Ft. Meyers Beach area Dr. Shell, Robin and I had lunch at Famous Dave's then headed north along US-41 to Punta Gordo and the Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area. The pine flatwoods area hosts the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Brown-headed Nuthatches can also be found there, so we decided to try our luck. It was sunny, hot and humid with forecasted T-storms, and a strong breeze was blowing. The middle of the afternoon is not a good time to look for RCW's, but we tried anyways (and failed). Driving slowly along the gravel road past two marked RCW loops, we listened and looked for any signs of life. It was extremely quiet, and only a single Bachman's Sparrow singing in the distance provided avian entertainment. As we approached a small stand of dead trees next a wet field we spotted a Black Vulture roosting in a snag. Just above it a Tri-colored Heron was acting as a sentinel and provided a few photos.
At one point I stopped the car and Shell and I walked into a wood stand where we saw and heard a Great-crested Flycatcher, and a couple of deer. Eastern Meadowlarks were also singing nearby, but no luck finding woodpeckers. A Loggerhead Shrike flew from a nearby perch and headed for the trees, and for a moment, its black-and-white profile raised our hopes of a RCW.

Still, we managed a couple nice photos of it (2) on way out. A Northern Mockingbird also posed long enough for a quick photo.

Just as we reached the exit a flock of (3) Brown-headed Nuthatches appeared beside the road, and I quickly tried to grab some documenting photos. A couple of the birds found us not threatening and fed nearby in the pines, where I managed a couple of keeper images.

As we returned to the car, Robin pointed to the west and alerted us to a group of fighter jets flying in formation. The Thunderbirds Airshow was going on in Punta Gordo, and the jets were using the WMA as a staging area. So we got to sit back and watch as groups of jets flew in formation and passed nearby!

Leaving the area we saw (3) Glossy Ibis feeding in a ditch next to the road. However, I was too slow in getting out of the car to get any pics. Bummer!

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