The road heading into the state park is bordered on one side by Apalachee Bay with shrub, trees and dunes in between. We immediately saw a hawk in a tree and got several pictures before we ID'd it as another Red-shouldered. No too long after that we spotted an eagle sitting in a dead tree. It was a bit closer than other ones I have shot, so we took the time to get more pictures.
This stretch of road looked like good habitat for the Seaside Sparrow which we don't have, but there wasn't very much activity at all in the areas one would probably be in. We passed by a couple of hiking trails, then got to the main entrance of the park where we paid our $4 day use fee. The first place we tried was a very nice boardwalk that extended into a marsh area which is normally a good bird habitat. The only thing we saw was a very shy raccoon.
The next area we visited was a short hike to the point where Ochlockonee Bay and Apalachee Bay meet. There were a few birds out here, but it looked like ones we already had - Brown Pelicans, Ruddy Turnstones, Willets, and Royal Terns. We've learned in the past that in areas like this you have to take a really close look around and shoot anything that moves - just in case. Cindy spotted a sandpipery type bird with the binoculars that she thought looked a little different, so we pointed the cameras in that direction and blasted away. The bird seemed busy with feeding, so we were able to ease a little closer for better pictures. After getting back to the car and looking in the bird book, we discovered that it was a Marbled Godwit - bird #200! Yippee!!
Before we got back to the car and getting all the Godwit pictures we wanted, we also shot some kind of duck way out in the bay. Even with the binoculars and zooming in to 100% on the image preview, we were stumped. It wasn't until after we got back home, that I determined (with the help of whatbird.com) that it was a Common Goldeneye. Another new bird and #201! We had been looking for one at St Marks and weren't counting on seeing one here.
After visiting all of the sections of the park in this area, we headed back out to one of the hiking trails. The trail was through some pine and scrub areas and we were hoping for some new smaller birds - different sparrows, warblers, etc. We did see a few flitting about, but didn't manage to get any new ones. We passed near a small pond and I spotted a bird sitting in a dead tree in the distance. This looked different in the binoculars, so we started shooting before it decided to fly off. Could it be #202? Yes - it was a Merlin!
We finished the hike and decided to try a different way back to the campground which took us through other sections of the St Marks refuge. We stopped several times at roadside ponds, but there were hardly any birds at all. The rest of the day was spent at the campground. We felt very fortunate to have picked up 3 new birds considering the low number of birds we actually saw.