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Snowbirds!

Friday, November 30, 2012 · Nature

Both the human and avian kind; are arriving to partake of the lovely Highlands County weather.

The fall weather is seeping into south central Florida, creating days that just beg you to head outdoors! Gone is the heavy humidity of our summer afternoons, replaced with those pleasant fall breezes that make hiking, biking, running, or birding, simply a delight.

Over Lake Jackson; scan the skies for those impressive birds of prey-Bald Eagles and my personal favorite; Northern Harriers. Watching these large predators hunt ducks along the lakeside is an impressive sight! Harriers can easily be spotted by, well, their spot! A large brown (juveniles); or grey (adults); bird of prey, they have a white patch on the upper side of their body, just above the tail (white rump patch). They hunt by kiting, or lazily flying, along the shoreline, prepared to dive at any moment on their unsuspecting prey below.

Around residential areas, watch for Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers on maples, oaks or sweet gum trees. Keep an eye around your neighborhood for other incoming fall birds such Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Solitary Vireos or even American Robins! If you’re on a canal, you’ll also probably hear the mewing calls of catbirds. These grey birds with a black cap on the head are common in the fall months and often seen in neighborhoods.

For those with a keen eye and a desire to find some more elusive species; head over to Highlands Hammock State Park to search for warblers flittering about the tree canopy. Black and white Warblers, and perhaps even a Black-throated blue, may be yours if you search diligently. Easier to check off on your list are Palm and Yellow-rumps. Watch any open area of leaf litter for flocks of these easy to spot warblers. A favorite location for watching seasonal species is the park’s Cypress Swamp Trail. Follow the boardwalk to the third sitting area just before Charley Bowlegs Creek. Stop and sit awhile one of these splendid afternoons and enjoy the show! Park admission is just $6.00 per vehicle, so load up some bird nerd friends and come add some birds to your list! Bird checklists and loaner binoculars are available at the ranger station. Be sure to ask the rangers for specific species you may be searching for, or offer a copy of your checklist for their compilation.

Wherever you are in Highlands County during the fall season, you will delight in the beautiful weather, friendly faces and laid-back lifestyle.

Happy Fall Ya’ll! Enjoy!