On March 7, 2015, Marie and I spent the morning birding to the west of Duval County. Our main target species was Red-cockaded Woodpecker, a species we hadn’t seen in a couple of years and wanted to add to our year list. We headed out to Baker County and stopped at the Olustee Battlefield site, where we picked up a singing Bachman’s Sparrow and a few other county year birds. We continued west to a known Red-cockaded colony, where we got the pleasure of seeing 4 of them cavorting around the site in bright early morning sunlight. Even though that’s a “go to” spot for the species, I always forget that it’s actually in Columbia County!
Since the intention was to work on our Baker list, we made another stop in the Osceola National Forest to tick another Cockaded on the way to Hog Pen Landing area. Overall, Baker County is some extremely tough going if you’re trying to rack up species; we spent about 5 hours there and managed just 48 species. We didn’t visit any great traps or parks, and even the eBird hotspots are slow and difficult to bird. Our best luck was really in just looking for movement on the side of the country roads and pulling over along the treelines to work through a feeding flock.
We did find an interesting industrial dumping ground on US 90 just southwest of the I-10 exit; this area had a small group of trees and some brushpiles. It’s about 50 yards wide, sandwiched in between railroad tracks and the main highway – but that’s the kind of place you have to be willing to check out in rural areas like Baker! Another good spot was the Wal-mart Distribution Center off US-90 heading back towards Nassau County; small ponds are a premium in Baker and this complex has several containing Pied-billed Grebes, American Coot, and even a Greater Yellowlegs.
Next time, we’ll have to explore the agricultural areas south of I-10, Sanderson, and Glen St. Mary to keep trying to build our Baker County list.