While I like to think of myself as a wildlife enthusiast, I really don’t know my small songbirds at all. On a November camping trip to St. George Island State Park, however, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful variety of birds flitting around our campsite so I settled in my chair one morning before my teens awoke to try to photograph a few.
Well, let me just say I have a renewed appreciation and admiration for the birders who actually manage to capture clear crisp images of these little guys. They do not stop moving!! No sooner would I finally get one in my sights than it would hop to a new branch or disappear completely in the brush. I won’t tell you how many blurry photos of half-birds or deserted branches I managed to take but even the ones of complete birds I’m willing to share below led me to another problem… what was I even looking at?
It turns out St. George Island is a premier birding location. In fact, ebird.org lists an astonishing 291 species of birds identified at St. George Island State Park! There are, of course, the usual suspects I can actually easily identify as most people probably can, such as great blue herons, cattle egrets, bald eagles, osprey, brown pelicans, cardinals, and some sort of hawk (that one was actually flying too fast for me to identify). We also heard a late-night owl and an early-morning woodpecker. So there’s no doubt this is a great location for birders of any level to come and spot a few entertaining specimens.
This quick little flycatcher was actually the first banded bird in North America – banded with silvered thread by none other than John James Audubon himself in 1804. The oldest known Eastern Phoebe was at least 10 years and 4 months (banded in Iowa in 1979 and found in Alberta in 1989)! Learn more about them here.
“Eastern Towhees are common victims of the parasitic Brown-headed Cowbird. Female cowbirds lay eggs in towhee nests, then leave the birds to raise their cowbird young. In some areas cowbirds lay eggs in more than half of all towhee nests. Towhees, unlike some other birds, show no ability to recognize or remove the imposter’s eggs. Female cowbirds typically take out a towhee egg when laying their own, making the swap still harder to notice.”
So if you’re headed to St. George Island, bring those binoculars or a camera and lots of patience, and enjoy the beautiful birding opportunities that await you here!