THE MONTH IN REVIEW – AUGUST 2014
August was highlighted by four impressive finds, all occurring at Fort De Soto Park (FDP), and all by different observers. The first was Pinellas’ earliest-in-fall Scissor-tailed Flycatcher found by Eric Plage on Aug 11th. Less than a week later Troy & Nicole Ploger documented Pinellas County’s 3rd fall-season record of a Tropical Kingbird on Aug 17th. Two days after that, and while looking in vain for the kingbird, JoAnna Clayton located a Bronzed Cowbird near the Gulf Pier. Finally, up at the north end of the park on the 30th, out-of-county birders Gary & Janet Leavens photographed a Buff-breasted Sandpiper. We’ll have to work pretty hard in September to match those four species.
Meanwhile, let’s get back to the August review. The first Blue-winged Teal of the fall were three seen flying past FDP Aug 21st (E.Plage). The summering Ring-necked Duck at Pinellas Park was spotted a couple of times in early and mid-August (W.Meehan).
Travis Young spotted a Sora on two straight days, Aug 30-31, along the edge of a small pond at Belleair Bluffs representing the second Pinellas August report for the species. American Avocets were reported four times; one at N.Anclote River Park Aug 3rd (S.Reardon), four at FDP Aug 8th (E.Plage & S.Tavaglione, ph.), 22 at FDP Aug 13th (D.Norgate, ph.) and four at South Anclote Key Aug 20th (D.Sauvageau). High counts for Snowy Plover (19) and Piping Plover (23) were recorded at South Anclote Key Aug 20th (D.Sauvageau).
An estimated 300 Red Knots stopped in at Sand Key Park Aug 16th (G.Koziara) and FDP’s highest total for the month was 95 on Aug 12th (E.Plage). A Solitary Sandpiper at Sawgrass Lake Park Aug. 6th may have been the same one seen in the same general spot Aug 26th (+S.Tavaglione, m.ob.). There were several Whimbrel reports Aug 7-26 with three at South Anclote Key on the 20th and three at Three Rooker Bar Aug 28th being, perhaps, the same individuals (D.Sauvageau, ph.). A Stilt Sandpiper was at the County Dump Lake Aug 31st (R.Smith).
The number of staging Least Terns along Gandy Beach varied throughout the month with 350 Aug 3rd being the largest total (C.Cox). Black Terns also stage at Gandy Beach with Plage recording 684 on the 30th. Elsewhere, D.Margeson estimated 1000 at Courtney Campbell Causeway on the 17th and Smith counted at least 400 at FDP on the 20th.
No real large flocks of Eastern Kingbirds were seen during the month with 17 at Brooker Creek Preserve Aug 22nd being the largest total reported (T.Mast). A few Eastern Wood-Pewees trickled through with the earliest being one at FDP Aug 11th (E.Plage) and another, also on the 11th, at Honeymoon Island State Park (K.Duncan, ph.). A few Bank and Cliff Swallows were seen mixing it up with the numerous Barn Swallows. The earliest Bank was one over n. St. Petersburg Aug 14th (J.Clayton) and the earliest Cliff was seen at the former Toytown Landfill Aug 13th (M.Burns).
Warbler migration was limited to the expected dozen species with Prothonotary, Yellow-throated, Yellow and Prairie being the most numerous; Kentuckys were at HISP Aug 11th (K.Duncan), at Bonner Park Aug 17th (R.Smith) and at FDP Aug 19th (J.Clayton); up to five Blackburnians were at Sawgrass Lake Park Aug 16-18 (m.ob.) and Cerulean Warblers showed well, especially at Sawgrass Lake Park from Aug 11th thru the 24th. More warblers can be expected next month.
September is when fall migration really starts to heat up. The phrase that pays is, “Bad weather. Good birding.” If the weathermen would just get it right we could be in for a real treat with the arrival of the first cold front (not-hot front, really) or when a tropical depression forms in the Gulf. These factors ground south bound migrants and, hopefully, grounds them in Pinellas. Not that we want anything bad to happen to any of these small migrants, but if they have to land, why not in Pinellas?
Shorebirds will continue to arrive, with some remaining in the area for the winter and others moving on. Poor weather increases our chances of an irregular-occurring species such as an American Golden-Plover, Pectoral, Upland and Buff-breasted Sandpipers or Wilson’s Phalarope.
Start expecting more hawks by mid-month with Cooper’s, Sharp-shinned and Broad-winged Hawks being in the mix. Peregrine Falcons, Merlins and American Kestrels are generally late September / early October birds.
Flycatchers, swallows, orioles and vireos will make their presence known in September as will, of course, warblers. We should hear of our first Palm Warbler of the fall by the 20th, if not sooner. Yellow-rumped Warblers usually arrive in mid-October.