Here is the continuation from my last post on my Panama City Beach trip. Another list will be added later with other wildlife sightings (I found 5 new butterfly species and a couple of interesting mammal sightings).
Laughing Gull - Florida's most common gull species and the most abundant ocean bird during my trip. No matter where I was along the beach, there were always large flocks of Laughing Gulls on the beach (nonbreeding with a handful of 1rst winter birds thrown in). It never ceases to amaze me how large this hooded gull is, only a bit smaller than Ring-billed. However, the dark mantle separates it easily. I still need this species for Ontario. One of my favourite features on nonbreeding birds is the small red mark at the end of the bill.
Ring-billed Gull - I actually saw very few Ring-billed Gulls on the trip at the Gulf of Mexico. Most were flybys of single birds.
Herring Gull - A single dark, immature bird flying by. There were very few seabirds along the coast besides pelicans and Laughing Gulls, which was quite disappointing.
- although Royal and Sandwich Tern and Black Skimmer were target species for my trip, I only saw one group of terns and they were across the bay at St. Andrews State Park. Even with a scope, identification would have been difficult and I only had my binoculars. This was particularly disappointing because Royal Terns should be common year-round in the Panhandle.
Rock Pigeon - The most abundant species from family Columbidae. No big surprises here.
Eurasian Collared Dove - When I was in Jacksonville, Florida almost a year ago, I was amazed at how many Eurasian Collared Doves there were but there are much fewer in Panama City Beach. Mourning Dove still outnumbered this species. According to the ABA guide, their greatest numbers occur in the Central and South Peninsula but the species is spreading. I still need it for my Ontario list. After colonizing southeastern Florida after a few dozen birds were released in 1974 in the Bahamas, this species is now easy to find over most of Florida (and has apparently reached the west coast). I doubt they'll become as successful as the Rock Pigeon, but it wouldn't surprise me if we had some birds start to colonize Ontario in the near future. This is one of my favourite species to observe in Florida.
Mourning Dove - Quite common, especially in the more rural areas at the outskirts of the city.
*Common Ground-Dove - A lifer that shouldn't have gone unseen on my first trips (in my defense, the second was not a birding trip and I was just getting into things during my first time in Orlando). These guys are noticeably smaller than Mourning. I had a group of about 8 Mourning Doves in a closed water park (after ignoring a no trespassing sign) along with 2 Ground-Doves. The scaled patter on their head and neck stands out and they are more colourful than the Mourning as well. However, size is the giveaway. They're about half the size and look tiny in comparison. I was even able to see them fly, revealing the rufous underwing, which is somewhat hard to see because their wingbeats are fast. Note the scaled head and neck, the colourful body, and small, stout frame.
Belted Kingfisher - 2 birds; one perched next to a pond adjacent to the highway as we drove into Florida and another at the Wal-Mart pond (yes, sadly, this was one of the hotspots in the city).
- One of the highlights of the trip was the number of woodpeckers I was able to see. This is one of my favourite groups of birds and in Apalachicola National Forest in one day, I ended up listing 6 species.
Red-bellied Woodpecker - The most common woodpecker of Florida and unmissable. No matter where I was, I could always count on seeing at least one Red-bellied. I also noticed that many of the birds were intermediates between the Northern and Florida subspecies. One bird in particular had a gray forehead instead of the red crown extending all the way to the bill and much less white on its rump than in the Northern subspecies. The white rump extended about halfway down the tail, but was not as limited as the extremes in the South Florida subspecies. In the ABA guide, the quote next to this species reads, "If you miss this one, you should turn in your binoculars" (Lane 1981). The red belly is hard to see in the field; rather, the bird was named back when ornithologists studied species by hand.
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - The most frustrating bird of the trip. Every time I thought I might have a Red-cockaded, it turned out to be a sapsucker. As always, plumage in most birds was ratty and worn. This was the second-most common woodpecker after Red-bellied.
Downy Woodpecker - The first Downy I had, I got excited and called out Red-cockaded...only to notice that it had a white back...and no white cheek patch...and it was too small. Grrr.
*Red-cockaded Woodpecker - I'll give this species its own entry soon.
Northern Flicker - A single bird at Apalachicola.
Pileated Woodpecker - 2 birds on the same tree; an amazing bird. I first heard its loud, deep call before hearing heavy drumming. I was able to locate the birds easily and we all had great views. My parents were fascinated with their size and striking pattern. I love this species.
Eastern Phoebe - One of the most abundant forest birds. I saw a ton of phoebes where I was and many were calling. There is a quote in the ABA Florida guide: "If you miss this one, your life list must be under 100" (Lane 1981). I can see what the author means.
Well, I think I'll end there until my next post.