Monday, November 17, 2014

Look out for the Sen-ti-nel

Florida Scrub Jays are endangered birds that only reside in very specific habitat in south Florida. Connie and I saw one many years ago in Naples before we knew how rare they were. Last week, I made my way over to Punta Gorda with Lori and Tara and we made a trip to Oscar Scherer State Park to see if we could find a few. They are reported there regularly.  We asked the Park Ranger at the entrance gate about the birds. He was not exactly what you would call "upbeat" about it. He started by saying "we used to have 29 but now we only have 19". When we asked what happened, his response was "population decline". No shit Einstein. Going from 29 to 19 is, in fact a decline. We meant, what happened.  Forget it.

The birds were last reported on the Blue trail near the D marker according to eBird. We stopped into the visitor center before heading out. The lady told us that she didn't know where the jays were but we could sit at the picnic table and hope they showed up. She said that they hang around hoping to get fed and that feeding them probably contributed to their decline. Ah hah! 

We headed out to the Blue Trail to search for the birds.  We walked and looked. Frankly, we couldn't even find the D marker let alone any birds.  When we were about at the furthest point on the trail, a maintenance truck came along. The driver asked if we were OK. We asked if he had seen any of the Jays. He hadn't but he had some advice for us.  The man reminded me of our dear neighbor Rocky Palombi. Big wide smile. A little split in his teeth. Rugged outdoors look. Salt and pepper hair. Willing to help us with advice.  His advice - look for the sen-ti-nel. He said it like that. Sen-ti-nel as if he were reading it outloud for the first time. He said that the jays put a sentinel up on the branch as a lookout while the others feed on acorns. He said sentinel rather than lookout. Anyway guess who was right?  Rocky was right.  Here she is Ms. Sentinel:

Florida Scrub Jay - female
Tara spotted her while Lori and I walked right past. We know this bird is a female due to the leg bands by the green and silver on her right leg. Nothing great to look at but suffice to say that we saw her and another bird - basically 10% of the population at that park which was really great. I hope they manage the park and the birds to bring the population back up to former numbers. 

We walked the Green trail after stopping back to the visitor center for some ice cream and were treated by the sight of this immature Red-headed Woodpecker right out in the open.  You can see a few red feathers coming in on his head.

Red-headed Woodpecker
 We watched him/her grab a bee for lunch.

Red-headed Woodpecker with bee
One last bird for our trip was spotted on our way through the campground.

Turkey!


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