Beyond the BackyardLake Apopka

Lifer Grasshopper Sparrow at Lust Road

Last weekend I woke up early and decided to spend a few hours at the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.  Birders often report rare birds at the Lust Road entrance to the drive, and I’ve never really spent a lot of time in that area.  So I took my binoculars and the Beast and tried my luck.  I ended up with my lifer Grasshopper Sparrow!

When I first arrived, I wandered off to a patch of grass that looked like good sparrow habitat.  An Eastern Phoebe hopped up and posed for my camera.

Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Phoebe

Then the morning became a bit surreal in the early morning light.  The phoebe hopped down and a small bird replaced him.  A bird I didn’t recognize.  A bird with a bright white eye ring, and dark patches on his back.  I fired off a couple of frames and the bird disappeared.  I stood around waiting for a long time, but I never spotted him again.  It’s been a while since I had to come home and look at books to identify a bird in my photographs! He turned out to be my lifer Grasshopper Sparrow. :)

Grasshopper Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow

After a while I joined the birders who were stalking the Ash-throated Flycatcher, another rare bird who has been hanging out at Lust Road.  I’d photographed an Ash-throated Flycatcher only once before, at the Moccasin Island Tract near Viera Wetlands.  The Apopka bird was much more cooperative, and I snapped a few frames of him before getting distracted with other small birds.

Ash-throated Flycatcher
Ash-throated Flycatcher

I heard the distinct call note of a Painted Bunting and looked around.  A group of three greenies was hopping around in the vegetation across the canal.  I kept an eye out for a male but never saw one.

Painted Bunting
Painted Bunting

A Prairie Warbler was busily checking for insects in a nearby bush.  I caught a glimpse of his stripes but it took me several times to get a good enough look to confirm his ID.  His feathers appear to be beginning the spring molt – yay!

Prairie Warbler
Prairie Warbler

A slightly larger bird caught my eye as she flew into to the top of a tree. When I focused on her I realized I had a female Blue Grosbeak.  I’m definitely going to have to spend more timing birding at Lust Road!

Blue Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak

As much fun as I was having with the little birds, I realized I’d stood there for several hours and not even entered the one-way wildlife drive.  So I tore myself away from the rarities and went around.  I didn’t see as many birds of note — and I missed the Yellow-breasted Chat! — but it was nice to get good looks at a couple species of ducks.

Blue-winged Teal
Blue-winged Teal

This Blue-winged Teal is one of the first I’ve seen this year.  Normally they are found in good numbers around Circle B and Viera, but not this year.

Ruddy Duck
Ruddy Duck

I was pleased to see this Ruddy Duck so close to a hiking berm.  Usually I get my Ruddy Duck shots at Lake Morton, where they tend to concentrate at the center of the lake.  It was nice to see this guy in the “wild” and close enough for a photo.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable morning.  I can’t wait to go back to Lust Road, especially during spring migration!

eBirdFind my birding list from today on eBird.

4 thoughts on “Lifer Grasshopper Sparrow at Lust Road

  1. Congratulations on a lifer! Very nice day you had and wonderful photographs. My last visit to the entrance also produced a lifer for me, a Clay-colored Sparrow. Yep, I’ll be hanging around that gate more……

    1. Ooooh, Clay-colored is a good find! I need a Vesper too, but they are more common. Also I learned a lesson: when a bunch of people are flocking around a spot, stop! (even if you are running late) That’s how I missed the chat, haha

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