My last visit here was back in January, which was quite a bit different from today's visit. American Kestrels heavily populated the park at that time, with not a single one in sight today. Just before reaching the entrance, I spotted a Northern Bobwhite meandering along the side of the road. I was greeted at the entrance of Buffer Preserve Drive by a family of Sandhill Cranes foraging together through the wet grass. I watched them for a short time as I listened to several Eastern Meadowlarks singing from a nearby perch.
Before heading off down the drive, I spoke to the park ranger to see if he had any tips for seeing the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers that reside here. He notified me that they would be having a prescribed burn today, so the trails would not be accessible. My best bet would be to scan the marked trees that are visible from the road.
Despite the trails being closed, I was still able to see a great variety of birds along the drive. The first raptor I encountered was a Red-shouldered Hawk in a Pine. The hawk was being harassed by a unhappy Mockingbird! A little further along, I came upon several Pine Warblers, a few females/ immatures, as well as one male, foraging, where else, but in the Pines!
|Catch me if you can!|
Swallow-tailed Kites are also common visitors in the spring and summer. I spotted one Swallow-tailed Kite patrolling the area from the sky, which is where the kites spend the majority of their time.
As I approached the end of the drive, I saw some trees marked to indicate they are occupied by nesting Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. I didn't observe any woodpeckers coming or going from these trees. There are only a handful of the trees visible from the road, the rest are only visible from the trail.
The next area I stopped at was the parking area for the trail head. Brown-headed Nuthatches were foraging along the branches of the Pine trees. In addition to the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, the Brown-headed Nuthatches also dwell in the Pine woodlands habitat. The Nuthatches are quite amusing to watch, as they twist around the branches of the tree while foraging.
While Nuthatches forage on live Pines, they nest in standing dead trees. I happened to see one coming and going from this cavity.
I also saw this Nuthatch fledgling eagerly awaiting a meal from its parent.
In close proximity to the Nuthatches, were several more Pine Warblers, including these two juveniles.
A lone young Bachmann's Sparrow was also seen in this vicinity. These sparrows reside year-round at the park.
The drive ends at an overlook of the St. Sebastian River. In the winter, this is a very popular place for manatees to congregate. However, since it isn't the slightest bit cold here, there were no manatees. I did see three Wild Turkeys walking along the bank though. I will continue my quest to see a Red-cockaded Woodpecker on my next visit, which I hope will be very soon!