The pair of American Wigeon at the Tierra Verde lingered until Mar 26th (R.Smith). Black Scoters had never been recorded at Fort De Soto Park (FDP) beyond February, but this year there were several reports there including two still lingering by the Gulf Pier through the last day of the month. Three female Buffleheads were somewhat late at the Wm. Dunn WRF on Mar 29th (E & P Plage) and two were nearby at Honeymoon Island SP on the same date (D.Gagne). Tom Mast had a nice count of 35 northbound Common Loons at Fred Howard Park on Mar 13th. Pairs of Swallow-tailed Kites and Short-tailed Hawks returned to Sawgrass Lake Park this spring and are assumed to be back to nest. Broad-winged Hawks were found in Pinellas more often this winter than in any years in recent memory. One was over the St. Pete NE WTF on Feb 7th and another (photographed) was at the east end of FDP on the 11th (E.Plage) and yet another over Boyd Hill on Mar 19th (J.Clayton).
Not a county record, but a really good count of 33 American Avocets visited FDP on Mar 23rd (G.Williams). Another was at the noth end of the park on the 31st. The wintering Solitary Sandpipers were still present across from the Brooker Creek Preserve as late as March 16th (T.Mast & J.Wells), with three at the Old Keystone Road retention pond Mar 29th (E.Plage). Others were at Honeymoon Island Mar 19th (C.Langan) and by the county dump Mar 29th (R.Smith). Our wintering Long-billed Curlew at FDP was present on/off throughout the month. If you were worried that you hadn’t seen the mega-rare Bar-tailed Godwit this winter it showed again on Mar 30th at Fred Howard Park (B.Pranty) after a six week hiatus. A nice count of 108 Marbled Godwits were at FDP on Mar 6th. A nice flock of 14 Stilt Sandpipers came in on a severe cold front to FDP Mar 17th along with three PectoralSandpipers (E.Plage). Two were seen the next day.
Bonaparte’s Gulls still numbered 50 at Lassing Park in early March and the Franklin’s Gull found at FDP Dec 3rd (D.Irizarry) was still around as late as Mar 28th (fide R.Smith). An extremely early high-count of Least Terns (44) were at Honeymoon Island SP Mar 29th (D.Gagne). Not always found in spring 12 Common Terns rested near the base of FDP’s Gulf Pier on the afternoon of Mar 17th (E.Plage).
The first spring Chuck-will’s-widows were noted in late February and many more were sounding off by the middle of March. Two Eastern Whip-poor-will’s were detected at FDP on Mar 9th. The first Chimney Swifts of the spring were a little early at the NE St. Pete Sewage Treatment Facility Mar 18th when 2-4 were seen/photographed (R.Smith & J.Clayton). A juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker, seen flying across the Pinellas Bayway on Feb 28th, was actually first photographed by a Tierra Verde resident on Dec 28th (V.Ward). It was seen through Mar 30th.
The first Gray Kingbird of the season arrived at FDP Mar 30th. Danny Sauvageau found Pinellas’ earliest-for-spring Eastern Kingbird on Mar 11th at FDP while Mark Burns found a rare Cave Swallow at the St. Pete NE WTF on Mar 7th. Two more Cave Swallows were seen by Ed Kwater at Honeymoon Island SP on Mar 15th. The frontal system that brought heavy rain on Mar 17th brought a record number of White-eyed Vireos with better than 600 reported county-wide. Yellow-throated Vireos were found singing at John Chesnut Park in late February and by the second weekend of March were at several north county locations. Up to 14 were at Fort De Soto on Mar 18th following the strong frontal system. A Carolina Chickadee photographed at Weedon Island Mar 10th was a nice surprise (J.Clayton) as was another visiting a backyard feeder near Lake Seminole Mar 18th (A.Nulph). A new early spring date was set for Wood Thrush when two were found on Mar 18th that included one in mid-Pinellas (J.Fisher) and another at Fred Howard Park (B.Pranty).
Two Blue-winged Warblers were photographed at Fred Howard Park on Mar 18th (T.Mast) and also on that date better than 50 Black-and-white Warblers were at Fort De Soto. The first Prothonotary Warbler of the spring was found at Brooker Creek Preserve Mar 16th behind the Visitor’s Center (S.Tavaglione) and nine were detected at Fred Howard Park Mar 18th following the front (T.Mast). The first Swainson’s Warbler of the spring was found Mar 29th at FDP (L.Smith) and it plus another were there the next day (C.Fredricks). Plage found a lone KentuckyWarbler in the East Beach Woods of FDP on Mar 31st. A Hooded Warbler was found at FDP following the front of Mar 17th (E.Plage) and by the next day an estimated 40 were there. A spring-record, early-date Magnolia Warbler was found and photographed at Sawgrass Lake Park Mar 28th (M.Burns) and was still there Mar 31st. Two Black-throated Green Warblers were at Palm Harbor Mar 17th (G.Deterra) and another came in on the front at Fort De Soto Mar 18th (S.Tavaglione). Cynthia Paonessa’s male Wilson’s Warbler, first found Dec 28th, was still visiting her yard through Mar 28th.
Up to six Grasshopper Sparrows were at two different Oldsmar fields in early March (T.Kalbach, R.Smith) and an adult White-crowned Sparrow was at FDP Mar 6th (M.Burns). The first Orchard Orioles of the spring were two males reported Mar 31st at FDP (E.Plage).
APRIL 2014 FORECAST
April is a month like no other in Pinellas. Spring migration is in full swing and the variety of birds in town often changes from one day to the next. If the stars align, the wind blows right and you’re in the right place on the right day you might see 20+ species of warblers and over 35 species of passerine migrants. If a birder was to do a Big Day during the third week of April he/she might just record 140 species for their effort. Maybe someone will try that this month.
As most of you know migration is all about the weather. When the weather is poor the birding is usually great. How the weather figures into this is that late spring cold fronts crossing the Gulf will push northbound trans-Gulf migrants in our direction. The timing of the front is the thing. So, imagine thousands of passerines leaving Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula just as it gets dark to fly north across the Gulf. A front (with rain) passes across the Gulf during the night. If the storm passes before the birds reach it they fly behind it and continue north, but if the front heads them off as they are crossing then Florida’s Gulf coast might see a fallout. Any time a fallout occurs in April anything is possible and all bets are off.
The below synopsis is based on generalities of species and when they’ve been found most often in Pinellas.
The first week or so of April usually brings us the bulk of the low-dwelling warblers like Hooded and Prothonotary Warblers. Other warblers you might expect to see include Worm-eating, Kentucky, Blue-winged and Swainson’s. Two species you can bet on are Orchard Orioles and Eastern Kingbirds.
At this time, too, our resident Laughing Gulls should be pairing up and soon settling in to nest. Other shoreline species with the same idea are Wilson’s Plovers, American Oystercatchers and the terns; Royal and Sandwich, though those two species utilize offshore locations like Egmont Key and Three Rooker Bar. Least Terns should be arriving in good numbers and migrating Barn Swallows and Summer Tanagers are also seen more often.
By the middle of the month we should start seeing more Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, even more swallows, Red-eyed Vireos, Scarlet Tanagers and warblers such as Tennessee, Yellow-throated and American Redstart. Ovenbirds are seen throughout the month, but they become more evident after the 15th.
April 20th is the start of the magical time. If Pinellas gets a “cool” cold front after this date then we should definitely have migrants, sometimes many migrants. Though a Blackpoll Warbler or two may have been reported before the 20th they usually make your day’s checklist every day from now until May 10th, perhaps later. The thrushes begin to appear by the third week of the month and both Swainson’s and Gray-cheeked are often fairly common right into May.
This time-frame, the last third of April, is also good for a wayward, more western migrants like Dickcissel. and Bobolink also start to appear. Semipalmated Sandpipers start showing up about now, too, so don’t forget about checking the beaches for this long-distance migrant shorebird.
The final days of April are prime-time for buntings and grosbeaks, especially Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. Though these species might have been reported earlier the bulk of them pass through during the final seven days of the month. Watch, too, for Cape May, Magnolia and Black-throated Green warblers, a wayward sparrow like a Lincoln’s or White-crowned and even more hummingbirds. Solitary Sandpipers are often encountered in late April.
The list of rare or occasional spring migrants that might be found at Fort De Soto Park or Honeymoon Island is extensive. These two locations get the most attention, but don’t forget the other parks near our beaches that will hold a few birds, too. Parks like Boca Ciega Millenium, Fred Howard and Dunedin Hammock are nice choices for someone who has only an hour or so of time.
A FEW "WORTH MENTIONING" REPORTS FROM PINELLAS IN APRIL
Cinnamon Teal 10-28 Apr (1987) at Tierra Verde
Pacific Loon 12 Apr (1976) at Indian Rocks Beach
Mississippi Kite (2) 10 Apr (1975) at Fort De Soto
Black-chinned Hummingbird 16 Apr (1996) at Fort De Soto
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher 14 Apr (1971) at Tierra Verde
Tropical Kingbird 17 Apr (2011) at Fort De Soto
Warbling Vireo 19 Apr (1980) and 23 Apr (2012) both Fort De Soto
Brown Creeper 20 Apr (2008) at Fort De Soto
MacGillivray’s Warbler 22 Apr (2008) at Fort De Soto
Black-headed Grosbeak 20 Apr (1987) and 29 Apr (1973) both Fort De Soto