Beyond the BackyardLake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Rare Birds at the Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

This morning my dad and I joined 22 other intrepid adventurous enthusiastic very wet birders in a Lake Region Audubon Society field trip to the Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands, a private property owned by SFWMD and accessible to birders only on select occasions.  Thanks so much to Cole for putting the trip together!  There are some neat rare birds at the Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands, and my dad and I enjoyed every (dripping) minute of our trip.

Black-necked Stilt with American Avocet
Black-necked Stilt with American Avocet

I had an awesome time at the wetlands last winter for the Christmas Bird Count.  So I anxiously watched the weather forecast over the past week as they predicted rain for this morning.  A few days ago, it was a 90% chance of rain all day today.  Then the rain moved through faster than expected, so it was supposed to clear up right at our start time of 7:30.  My dad and I decided to take our chances.  As usual, Mother Nature didn’t listen to the weather forecasters, and it was drizzling most of the morning.  But we had a great time anyway.  How can you not enjoy seeing dozens of Black-necked Stilts and American Avocets?

Stilt Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper

I’m pretty sure the above image is a Stilt Sandpiper.  He’s one of the good birds we found today.  We also found some Snail Kites.  The birds at the Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands aren’t exceptionally rare, but they are hard to find in inland Florida at this time of year.  The variety of birds is impressive.  It was like Circle B used to be.  Cole’s checklist today totaled 80 species.  My bird identification isn’t quite as good, and I didn’t work as hard to find little birds, so my list totaled about 40 species.  (Don’t worry, Cole, I’ll work harder at this year’s CBC!)

Double-crested Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant

This Double-crested Cormorant stood patiently on a post while the rain fell around him.  It was a very dreary morning.  Nearby, Caspian Terns flew around, Wood Storks were feeding in the waters, Limpkins squawked as they crossed the berm roads, and a lone Roseate Spoonbill stood quietly observing the scene.  Down at the water’s edge of Lake Hancock, Black-crowned Night Herons flew around.  We were disappointed not to see any American White Pelicans.  Last year they simply covered the marsh waters.  I’m hoping they will show up for the Christmas Bird Count in December!

American Avocet
American Avocet

The American Avocets were the most popular birds this morning.  Their numbers in the wetlands were up from last year’s count (as were the Black-necked Stilt numbers).  My dad and I left the group of birders and drove the roads by ourselves, looking for good photo ops.  At one point I happened to glance down and there was an avocet right at the water’s edge, very close to the berm.  Perfect!  We hopped out and both got great images of the bird feeding before another bird startled him and he flew off annoyed.  Silly birds!

Birders at Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands
Birders at Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

I solidified my strategy for this year’s Christmas Bird Count: take the Beast (last year I took just my intermediate telephoto), use a monopod (easier than a tripod for quick stops in and out of the car), take my camera with the biggest crop factor, and take 3 pairs of warm dry socks.  Just in case.  :)

I can’t wait! :)

eBirdFind my birding list from today on eBird.

8 thoughts on “Rare Birds at the Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

  1. Great photographs under difficult lighting and distance conditions! I’m sorry I didn’t introduce myself yesterday. I was the guy who offered you and your dad a lift toward the end of the morning. What a neat place!

    1. Hi Wally, thanks again for the offer of the lift! The wetlands is a neat place. Maybe you’ll do the CBC and I’ll see you then? I’m terrible with faces, so we’ll have to try again on the intro! :)

  2. Sounds like a great place. Can’t wait for them to open, although it sounds like it will be a while.I need to sign up for the January trip. I can’t believe there are avocets across the lake and they never come over to the Bar. One of these days I will cross them off my list.

    1. Hurry up and sign up before the spots are all gone! My dad and I are signed up in January too. It’d be fun to see you there.
      If I was an avocet I think I’d stay at the outfall wetlands, away from the crowds at Circle B!

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