After joining eBird last spring, I filed my reports from Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, in Columbia, Missouri, from South Platte Park, in Littleton, Colorado, and from my residences in both of those cities. Today, I had my first opportunity to add Longboat Key, Florida, to that list; while we visit this location far less often, it hosts a fascinating diversity of avian life that cannot be observed at our other properties.
Our condo sits on the west shore of Sarasota Bay and is within a couple hundred yards of the Gulf of Mexico beaches. I intend to file some reports from the bay side, some from the Gulf and most from both ecosystems. While there is a good deal of avian overlap between those habitats, each offers its unique mix of residents and visitors.
Today, ospreys, American white pelicans and red-breasted mergansers were unique to Sarasota Bay, while ruddy turnstones, sanderlings and sandwich terns were only observed on the Gulf Coast; brown pelicans, royal terns and laughing gulls, on the other hand, were well represented in both areas. In general, the bay is best for wading birds (herons, egrets, ibis, spoonbills), especially at low tide, and the Gulf beaches attract shorebirds, gulls, terns, black skimmers and offshore species such as magnificent frigatebirds and northern gannets. But, as in Littleton and Columbia, it's the possibility of finding rare visitors that keeps me vigilent and engaged.