April 19, 2016

On Sunday, April 17, I went to Saint Marks National Wildlife Refuge for the first time.  At the visitor center parking lot, I met volunteers Matt and Cyndi Johnstone, who were about to lead a birding tour of the refuge.  What luck!   Seven of us, including the Johnstones, spent the next three hours traveling around the refuge by truck (and trailer).  Early on, across from the Tower Pond, Cyndi spotted an adult bobcat.  Matt trained his scope on it, and we all got good views of the bobcat out on the sand.  At the Tower Pond there were all sorts of shore birds, many firsts for me.  Throughout the tour we saw a Scarlet Tanager, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Whimbrel, a Clapper Rail, Dunlins, Black-necked Stilts, Black-bellied Plovers, Least Terns, Eastern Bluebirds, a Caspian Tern, a Forster’s Tern, Snowy Egrets, Bald Eagles, a Northern Harrier, Ospreys, a Great Blue Heron, a White Pelican, Tree Swallows, Barn Swallows, Purple Gallinules, Common Moorhens, American Coots, an Eastern Kingbird, Belted Kingfishers, Meadowlarks, Bobolinks, Turkey Vultures, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Savannah Sparrows–and more.  We also saw lots of young alligators sunning on the banks, and even a raccoon loping along the double-track.  Thistle was blooming everywhere, as was lantana.  Cyndi pointed out a leather flower, whose small purple flower had the texture of leather.

On Tuesday, April 19, I went back to the refuge and retraced the tour on my own, this time by mountain bike.  Again, the weather was beautiful, and I spent fantastic four hours out on the refuge.  Other than a few people on the Tower Pond Trail when I started, and a couple heading north by the Mounds Pool #3 when I was returning, I saw no one–but I did see plenty of wildlife!  A little north of where we saw the adult bobcat, I spotted a younger bobcat in the grass.  Again, there were many alligators, and the odd turtle.  As I rode along the pools, alligators sunning themselves on the banks, but obscured by grass, dived into the water.  Splash!  Splash!  I saw many of the same species as on Sunday, and also a Common Yellowthroat, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, and a hummingbird (species unknown, but probably Ruby-throated).

The pictures below are all from Tuesday, the 19th, except for the Purple Gallinule and Black-necked Stilt.



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Snowy Egrets


American Coots


Black-bellied Plover


Purple Gallinule


Black-necked Stilt


Belted Kingfisher


Caspian Tern


Forster’s Tern


Red-winged Blackbird


Northern Harrier


Spotted Sandpiper



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