I am back with a bit better Internet connection. Not 3G fast but its OK.
Sunday We went to hunt for two birdies that were being seen an hour away from the area we were camped. The Harris Sparrow and the Masked Duck both rare birds for Florida.
We first drove to Paynes Prairie Preserve to see the Harris Sparrow. We met a bird photographer as we started walking La Chua Trail. He had seen the Harris Sparrow a week or so earlier and had some nice photos. (Check out his Photos)
We went to the area the birdie was supposed to be hanging out but had no luck. We decided to move on and check out all the Sandhill Crane action. We were told that there are around five thousand cranes here this year. They were flying over head and foraging on the ground.
These birds are very noisy.
We saw them feeding...if you check out the video you can see how they feed and how deep they look for food in the soil.
Here is some info from the Sandhill Crane Foundation
Habitat & Ecology: Sandhill Cranes are primarily birds of open fresh water wetlands, but the different subspecies utilize habitats that range from bogs, sedge meadows, and fens to open grasslands, pine savannas, and cultivated lands. Sandhill Cranes occur at their highest breeding density in habitats that contain open sedge meadows in wetlands that are adjacent to short vegetation in uplands. Mated pairs of cranes, including Sandhill Cranes, engage in unison calling, which is a complex and extended series of coordinated calls. While calling, cranes stand in an upright posture, usually with their heads thrown back and beaks skyward during the display. In Sandhill Cranes the female initiates the display and utters two, higher-pitched calls for each male call. While calling, the female raises her beak about 45 degrees above the horizontal while the male raises his bill to a vertical position. All cranes engage in dancing, which includes various behaviors such as bowing, jumping, running, stick or grass tossing, as well as wing flapping. Though it is commonly associated with courtship, dancing can occur at any age and season. Dancing is generally believed to be a normal part of motor development for cranes and thwarts aggression, relieves tension, and strengthens the pair bond.
Diet: All cranes are omnivorous. Sandhill Cranes are generalists and feed on a wide variety of plant tubers, grains, small vertebrates (e.g. mice and snakes), and invertebrates such as insects or worms. Sandhills find these foods in uplands and in shallow wetlands. Like most cranes, flightless chicks forage primarily on a diet of insects and other protein filled foods during their early stages of rapid growth. The Sandhill's tendency to feed on plant tubers creates conflicts with farming. Sandhill Cranes are adept at probing in the ground and finding planted agricultural seeds such as corn. When large flocks of cranes feed on planted fields, the damage they cause to an unprotected crop can be severe enough to force the farmer to replant the entire field.
Listen to this video ...these guys make allot of noise...Also check out the landing...it looks like a cartoon to me.
We were pleasantly surprised to see distant views of Whooping Cranes..a life bird for us.
On our way out of the preserve we looked for the Harris sparrow again but it was no where to be seen.
So we left for another half hour drive to Alligator Lake to see the Masked Duck.
As luck would have it there were many other birders and photographers looking at the duck
..which saved us time finding it...(we tried to find it a few days before with no luck)
Another Life bird .....rare to the United states. Read here
We did catch a nice sunset on our way back to Homey....and then caught most of the Superbowl Game.
We are in Destin..Just arrived at Henderson Beach State park where we will camp for two weeks
Lets go see what we can find..