Three new species broaden Christmas Bird Count

Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 02:12 PM.

Rock pigeons were absent from the count for the second year in a row and Murphy theorized the local flock may have been decimated by a peregrine falcon that has been observed roosting on the Gorrie Bridge .

Sprague’s pipits were observed at the regional airport again this year.

Once again, a western kingbird was observed in Apalachicola ’s historic district. Sightings of this bird in the eastern US have become more common during the 21st century.

The bald eagle population continues to flourish. This year 61 were seen around the county, up from 51 last year.

Rod Gasche, who worked with the group counting birds on the river and bay, wrote this stirring description of a bald eagle encounter:

“We headed back to the West Pass to reenter the bay on the eastern shoreline of St. Vincent near what is known as dry bar. It is one of the main oyster bars in the winter harvesting area for the bay. As we crossed the pass, one of the members shouted, ‘Look at the eagles!’ Here we saw eventually six flying with soaring seabirds and swooping down to the water. The water was filled with cormorants and a pod of porpoises that were feeding on a baitfish ball! That activity was causing the baitfish to come to the top of the water and the eagles were swooping down and catching fish from the waters! We watched enthralled for a while as none of us had ever expected see something like this! Only one of them was an adult eagle, the rest were immature birds - but learning their craft!”

The most commonly observed bird was the American robin, with 3,135 individuals counted. The majority of these, 1,910, were counted along the Miles, although robins were observed in every count area except the southern end of St. Vincent Island .

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