Well, yesterday went a little better than predicted–the world didn’t end, and I had a great time at the Zellwood/Mt. Dora Christmas Bird Count. I was in the area around Lake Apopka–particularly to the north and east of it. It was a cold (by Florida standards) and blustery day, but it was a great day for raptors. We began the morning with a couple Barn Owls, and as morning broke, we also had Osprey, Bald Eagles, dozens of Northern Harrier and Red-tailed Hawks, many Red-shouldered Hawks, several American Kestrels, and one Merlin. As the sun was setting, we found a couple more Barn Owls and at least one Short-eared Owl. But the biggest highlight, though, was a Krider’s sub-species of a Red-tailed Hawk.
Ducks and water birds were also there. We had 18 Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and several Gadwall, Mallards, Mottled Ducks, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, and Northern Shoveler. We also found numerous Double-crested Cormorants, Anhinga, Pied-billed Grebes, and one Sora.
We had all the normal herons and egrets, but I couldn’t believe the number of Black-crowned Night Herons we’d seen. In one area (behind the pumphouse by the shore of Lake Apopka), we counted 15 in flight all in one place. We also had many White and Glossy Ibises.
We had hoped to see more flycatchers. All we saw throughout the day were Eastern Phoebe, though around sunset, we did pick up several Western Kingbirds and one Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. We also found one Prairie Warbler among the many Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers.