Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Close but no cigar...

  When I woke up Saturday January 5th, I had one specific goal... break the 100 bird mark! At this point I was at 73 species so all I needed were 27 new ticks. Once again I hit South Dade and started at Lucky Hammock. The drive through Florida City was a slow, difficult one due to the heavy fog and the birding was even harder. The fog first began to lift at 8:15 am but did not fully dissipate until about 10 am!  This meant owling was basically out of the picture. I was barely able to see 50 yards in any direction, let alone a Short-eared Owl flying silently over the fields.

The heavy fog made it impossible to see

  I parked outside the main entrance and began walking the road. There were Gray Catbirds, Common Yellowthroats and House Wrens all around with the occasional Sedge Wren and Painted Bunting. When I made it to the south side of the hammock I followed the trail west through the tall grasses and began flushing Swamp Sparrows. The day was beginning to look real promising if the fog would ever let up! After doing some sparrow hunting I made my way back and met up with Raul "Rock Jetty" Urguelles. We made our way over to The Annex hoping for the Virginia Rail heard in late December but by the time we got over there it was a bit late. We did find American Goldfinches, Short-tailed Hawks, Savannah and Grasshopper Sparrows. Raul and I split up and I continued walking the road south. I made it to the end of The Annex and started walking back to Lucky Hammock with a highlight Orange-crowned Warbler. 

One of the two color phases of Short-tailed Hawk 

  As I approached the hammock I heard a high-pitched WHIT call. The continuing Brown-crested Flycatcher was being very vocal from the middle of the hammock but would not come out. While waiting to try and catch a glimpse, the Tropical Kingbird came out and put on a show! It would fly off the power lines it was perched on and hawk insects before returning to the same spot. What an impressive bird! Also seen were two Western Kingbirds, a soaring Red-tailed Hawk and a Red-shouldered Hawk feeding on an unlucky Southern Leopard Frog. 

You can almost make out the insect this kingbird is going after!

  I continued my day down south and went over to Dump Marsh. There were thousands of vultures overhead since Mount Trashmore is across the street. I scanned the kettles and managed to pick out another Red-tailed Hawk. I made my way to the ponds and found a nice assortment of water fowl. Mottled Duck, American Wigeon, Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal were all in attendance. Not only did I score new birds for the year but I was also mauled by a new species of ant that I have never experienced before! That's what I get for stomping through the muck without looking down. After ripping off my shoe and yelling all sorts of obscenities, I drove over to the Cutler Wetlands to finish up the day. The wetlands had a great selection of shorebirds including four American Avocet. I also located a single White Pelican hanging out in the back before it flew off towards Biscayne Bay. As the day drew to an end, I picked up 26 new species and my grand total was at 99 birds, not including 4 ABA countable exotics - House Sparrow, European Starling, Rock and Eurasian Collared-Dove! All I needed was one more bird...

Caught this ibis mid flip!

  Sunday was supposed to be a nice relaxing day. I had planned on going to Fairchild with my girlfriend and enjoying the hummingbirds while having a picnic. As I was beginning to wake up I received a text from Robin Diaz at about 8:20am that she had found a BANANAQUIT at Bill Bagg's State Park!!! I jumped out of bed and got to the park by 9am. The thought that this bird would be #100 was just too cool. Ashley and myself hung around until noon before out stomachs got the best of us and we left. The bird was never relocated that day and I was still stuck at 99 birds for another day!

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