Saturday, January 16, 2010

Day 3 (continued)- Ivory-billed Expedition 2010

The swamp is a marvelous canvas of quiet flowing water, exotic bird calls, and tall trees that drape over the water in every direction.  Spanish moss hangs from oaks, and bald cypress knees sprout up out of the water - sometimes 4 ft high.  We listened for the tell-tale Ivory-bill "kent" call or the "double-knock" as we ever so slowly made our way down the channel toward the mammoth and enveloping Choctawhatchee River.

We searched the landscape for sounds and for trees that would indicate the nest hole of an Ivory-bill.  Tanner wrote in his 1942 Research Report that Ivory-bills were found feeding in the pine woods bordering the cypress swamps.  So, we looked for evidence of feeding among the trees as we made our way down the channel.

Day 3 - Ivory-billed Expedition 2010

Up at 5:15am... breakfast at Sally's... location strategies with expedition leader, John Ruthvin...

 and Dave and I headed out to Seven Runs on the Choctawhatchee Swamp -

freezin' my toootsies, and excited as hell!

Day 2 (continued) - Ivory-billed Expedition 2010

After checking into the Ponce De Leon hotel and tossing the canoe onto the lawn, we headed south toward the beach!  You go to Florida to beat the cold Indiana winter, right?!  Wrong!  34F and breezy!! First stop was across the bridge over Choctawhatchee Bay in Walton County, FL.

Only a crazy birder would stop on the side of a highway and make himself the next available roadkill!  Luckily, this area is full of birders, and the drivers we kind enough to swerve away from us.  I took this picture of a Royal Tern through that scope above.

I don't think I've ever seen a Royal Tern, but I don't have my life list with me.   Although, I'm sure my husband, the "lister" remembers if I've seen it.  I don't mind not remembering life birds, because then I am always thrilled when I see a "new" bird!  No matter how many times I've seen it!  LOL!

As we continued our drive to the beach, we meandered our way through the massive condominium complexes of Destin, FL.  The place reminds me of the hotel zone in Cancun.  One massive structure next to another...and across the street, every high-end retail shop you can think of!  I was imagining retiring in one of these lovely, beachfront, low maintenance residences, when the truck came to a skidding halt, throwing me into my seatbelt and sending my binocs flying into the dashboard!  The cooler slid from the backseat onto the floor and Dave yelled, "Those are Ring-necked Ducks!"  Once I had retrieved my glasses from the floor of the truck, I did indeed confirm that he had seen a cute little group of Ring-necks swimming among the landscaped waterway between condos.

We finally made it to the absolutely breath-taking white beaches of the Florida Panhandle.  It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, and I think I could definitely live here!  Probably not in one of those fancy condos, but definitely by the water!

We found Topsail State Park and took a hike out to the lake.  No birds on the water, but the woods were full of Kinglets, Cardinals, Downy's, Red-bellies and Flickers.

Back at the hotel, the other team members we assembling and we packed our gear for our first day in the field searching for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Day 2 - Ivory-billed Expedition 2010

We got a little bit of a late start leaving our hotel in Montgomery, AL this morning.  26oF.  Record lows all across the South.  Outside the window at the hotel, we saw a Eurasian Collared Dove puffed up on a wire.  Sure is cold!  We decided to get off the interstate and take back roads down to Ponce De Leon, FL, so we hopped on Hwy 331 S and headed toward Brantley.  This is a beautiful scenic drive with lots of pine plantations and patches of mixed oak.  Spanish moss hangs off branches of the oaks and little clusters of Mistletoe can be seen like puff balls in the tops of the oaks.  Very cool and odd at the same time.  The pine plantations remind me of Michigan and northern Wisconsin, except that here in AL, there are rolling hills instead of the flat northern Wisconsin landscape. 

We stopped for gas in Elba, AL and found this cotton field.  I'd never seen one before, so, naturally, we had to check it out!  We've seen Loggerhead Shrike, Black and Turkey Vultures, Red-tail Hawks, Brown Thrashers, a Pileated Woodpecker, flocks of Robins, Starlings, Sparrows and Red-wing Blackbirds as well as quite a few Mockingbirds.

By noon we were in Florida - 725 miles from home.  A balmy 34oF and a gorgeous adult Bald Eagle flew across the Highway.  Taking Hwy 87S from Elba is very scenic and its hard to keep track of all the birds we are seeing.  White Ibis in a pond and a Great Egret flying overhead.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Day 1 - Ivory-billed Expedition 2010

So, a few months ago, my husband, the Birder, tells me that he has been asked to be the "Bird Dog" on an Ivory-billed Woodpecker Expedition to Florida.  Seriously??????  Yep, totally.  Within a month, I was going too.  So, here we are, January 9th, packing the truck heading for the swamps of the Florida Panhandle to search for evidence of an extinct - critically endangered bird. We left Ohio today with the canoe strapped to the top of the Excursion... 23oF and about 6 inches of snow, heading for the Choctawhatchee Wetland.  The best thing about being married to a birder is going on trips!!