Kite Tales September 2018

ISSUE NUMBER 23 • September 2018

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Kite Tales

The monthly newsletter of the

Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail

Sanderling by FWC
Sanderling by FWC

Fall Migration

It’s that time of year again when our migratory birds start to head south for the winter. In Florida, we are starting to see pushes of warblers and shorebirds, but soon raptors should be coming through. You may notice these birds look a bit different than they do in the spring.  Many of them are dull looking and lack their colorful plumage. Many species migrate in their non-breeding plumage and do not call out, as their purpose is to get to their feeding grounds rather than to breed.

Fall migrants generally use one of two migration strategies: diurnal or nocturnal migration. Birds that soar, such as hawks and pelicans, migrate during the day when there are heat thermals for them to use. Long-distance migratory land birds, like warblers, migrate at night to avoid predators. For these species, you may hear them making “flight calls” overhead at night as they move south.

Look for shorebirds in flooded inland fields and sod farms. These areas attract lots of shorebirds, including upland, pectoral and buff-breasted sandpipers. Also, be on the look-out for black-bellied, semipalmated and piping plovers on both Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico beaches.

As the season progresses, watch how the composition of birds changes around you. Take note of what species are flying in and which are leaving. You can track your sightings on and through  

Bert and Jordon with a Florida Scrub-Jay
Bert and Jordon with a Florida Scrub-Jay

Wings Over Florida Story

Thank you, Bert Alm, for sharing your story with us!

“I heard of the Wings Over Florida program at the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. This festival spurred me to start using eBird. However, it wasn’t till 2017 that I became more serious about listing the birds I saw. I received a Big Year certificate for 89 birds in 2016 (all from SCBWF). I set a goal for myself to find over 200 birds in 2017. I was successful and received a certificate for seeing 220 birds in 2017. For 2018 I have seen 205 birds so far and expect to do better than in 2017. In Florida, I have 243 birds on my life list so far and the 25, 50, 100 and 200 life bird certificates. I have seen 292 life birds in the United States. Recently I went out of country and now have 310 life birds in the world.

My goal for 2018 is to visit at least 100 GFBWTs (Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail sites) and so far, I’ve visited 93. I’m fortunate to live in Brevard County which has 38 trail sites of the 200 in the East Section. This fall I am attending the Florida Birding and Nature Festival in Hillsborough County and will top my goal of 100 trail sites. The best part of this goal is that I have been able to visit parts of Florida I may not have thought of visiting. I expect to keep working on this goal well beyond 2018 and eventually see most, if not all, of the GFBWT sites.

I retired in 2016 and have found life to be busier and more exciting than ever. I enjoy birding and getting out in nature. There are so many wonderful areas to hike and explore. It is fun having challenges, it keeps things exciting. It’s also amazing how helpful people are in the birding community. I have established a lot of new friendships.

I recently went on my first butterfly monitoring activity at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Now, I am keeping a record of what I see. I plan to apply for the Wings Over Florida butterfly viewing certificates also.

My interest in birding and experience as a Florida Master Naturalist has led me to join a new environmental and conservation organization. I am currently the treasurer for Hundred Acre Hollows, Inc. in Melbourne. We work closely with the Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) program, Brevard County Natural Resources, Brevard Zoo and Space Coast Audubon SocietyI hope to have Hundred Acre Hollows added as a field trip spot for the SCBWF in a couple years and possibly even a future GFBWT. In just over the past year I’ve seen over 70 species of birds there. I’m maintaining an eBird list for the site and we’re looking at starting butterfly monitoring there also.

I truly enjoy the Wings Over Florida program and tell my birding friends about it all the time. The certificates are stunningly beautiful, and I am proud to show them off. I look forward to earning a new Big Year certificate each year as well as achieving the 300 and 400 life bird certificates.

Thanks for this wonderful program.”

If you would like to share your Wings Over Florida story, please send it to

Belted Kingfisher by Andy Wraithmell
Belted Kingfisher by Andy Wraithmell

Belted Kingfisher

Most anyone that has visited a wetland, stream or lake has heard the wild rattling call of a belted kingfisher. Belted kingfishers are often seen flying low over the water with a rapid wingbeat. It is enjoyable watching them plunge headfirst into the water to grab a fish. Or you may see them perched high on a snag.

Kingfishers are easily identified as a stocky, large-headed bird with a shaggy crest and thick bill. Kingfishers are sexually dimorphic. This means that the females and males exhibit different coloration or other characteristics. Belted kingfishers are unique in that the females are more brightly colored than males. Typically, the males in a species are more colorful. Both males and females are blue-gray with a white breast, but the females have a rust-colored belt.

Belted kingfishers can be found all over North America. Year-round they can be found in almost all the contiguous states of the US. During the breeding season, they can be found further north into Canada and in winter they shift south and can be found in Central America. For a nest, they burrow into a dirt bank near water bodies. The tunnels slope upward and can be 1-8 feet deep.

Fun Fact: A 2-million year old kingfisher fossil was found in Alachua County, Florida!

Sam Atkins
Sam Atkins

Trail Site of the Month

Hannah Buschert, the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail Coordinator, recently visited the Blountstown Greenway/Sam Atkins Park. This is a site in the Panhandle section of the Birding Trail. It is in Blountstown, about an hour west of Tallahassee in Calhoun County. The park is mostly forested with a small pond and boardwalk through the swamp.

There are many places to bird watch at this park, Hannah started off at the pond where a few people were fishing. She visited in the afternoon, so there were turkey vultures, Mississippi kites and red-shouldered hawks high in the sky. Common forest birds were easily found: Carolina wren, northern mockingbird, eastern towhee and northern cardinal, along the trails and around the sports fields. Fish crows and mourning doves were heard nearby.

Not only is this a great birding and butterflying location, the Blountstown Greenway and Sam Atkins Park have a plethora of activities to keep you busy. There are sports fields, fishing, the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement and a paved walking and biking path. The Blountstown Greenway runs 3.3 miles on an old railroad bed to the Apalachicola River. Bring your bike and see what Calhoun County has to offer!

Site Address: NW Silas Green Street, Blountstown, Florida 32424
Contact: (850) 674-4519
Site Hours, Daily: sunrise to sunset

 Check out the eBird list for this park.

Upcoming Events

September 20 – Bird Walk: St. Johns County Agricultural Center (St. Augustine, FL)
September 20 – Invasive Exotic Species and Control Workshop (Okeechobee, FL)
September 20 – Chasing Warblers (Orlando, FL)
September 21-23 – Lower Keys Fall Migration Mania (Key West, FL)
September 22 – Bird Walk and Work Day (Orange Park, FL)
September 22 – San Felasco Hammock Bird Park (Gainesville, FL)
September 22 – STA 5/6 Driving Bird Tour (Clewiston, FL)
September 22 – National Public Lands Day (Ocala, FL)
September 22 – EagleWatch Training (Jacksonville, FL)

These are just a few events listed on our calendar. Check out the event page for more! 

Do you know about any other bird or wildlife-related events going on in Florida? Help spread the word by letting us know! Send in the times, dates, locations and contacts to for posting on the GFBWT website.

Events must be related to birds or other wildlife and must be open to the public. Examples include interpretive programming, camps and family programs.


  • Fall Migration
  • Wings Over Florida Story
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Trail Site of the Month
  • Upcoming Events 

The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail (GFBWT) is a network of 510 sites spread throughout the state. The Trail is a program of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, supported in part by the Florida Department of Transportation and the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida. The Trail is possible thanks to dozens of federal, state, and local government agencies, non-governmental organizations and private landowners. Continued, broad-based support and grassroots community investment will continue to make the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail a success for Florida and for our feathered friends.



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