Monday, January 28, 2013

Half Way There!!!

  Mike and I teamed up again on Tuesday January 22nd and went down to Lucky Hammock for dawn. We were on a mission to track down a Swainson’s Hawk before the end of January. We got to the hammock  just after dawn and started looking for sparrows.  Shortly after Angel and Mariel Abreu showed up and we combined forces for the hunt. As soon as we decided on a route to take, the Brown-crested Flycatcher began calling and popped out of the hammock followed by the Great Crested for an awesome comparison. Right after we had a Lincoln’s Sparrow respond to pishing and a female Orchard Oriole fly right into the same bush! This was starting to look like an EPIC day!  Unfortunately I did not get a single decent picture of either bird… it’s always something. From Lucky Hammock we went over to The Annex to try for Louisiana Waterthrush and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The waterthrush ended up being pretty cooperative and gave us great looks but again would not fully reveal itself and the pictures are just a blur with a bunch of twigs. After striking out with the photos we started making our way back to the car when the unthinkable happened. My sweet darling Volkswagen Golf would not start! As Angel and Mariel pulled off in search of the Ash-throated Flycatcher for the day I was trying to start up with the car with no luck. Finally they came to my rescue and gave me a jump! Right as that happened not one but TWO Swainson's Hawks flew overhead and all was well.

It gave bad views and even worse photo ops!

  Mike and I headed over to Castellow Hammock next. We wanted to get the Rufous Hummingbird before it was too late. Every year a couple winter around the perfectly landscaped garden and put on a great show. We got to the park at noon and right away Ruby-throated Hummingbirds flew passed us as they defended their bushes against rival hummers and insects. We had high hopes but eventually after 2.5 hours of staking out the park, nothing. Not a single Rufous! Looks like we'll be back in November searching for the next one... at least I managed to find a Black-throated Green Warbler and White-winged Dove for the year.

One of the few moments this bird would sit still

  We finally finished the day at Zoo Miami. Ezequiel Bugallo had been keeping his eyes open and found the reported Chipping Sparrows and Eastern Towhees for me. All I had to do was be there when he saw them again. We drove around the authorized personnel only sections but were never able to relocate the sparrows. This is the second species I have missed in the zoo in the last couple years - White-crowned Sparrows being the other. As a consolation prize Ezik did get me the Eastern Towhee and a gorgeous Eastern Palm Warbler. It had definitely been a longgg day and we were ready to get home and take our shoes off.  

Gotta get back out there to find that Chipping Sparrow

  While having dinner I checked my email and saw an eBird rarity report of a Warbling Vireo. I looked to see who had it and it ended up being Tropical Audubon President Jose Barros and it was in his in-laws backyard. I shot him a message immediately hoping it was early enough to get a response, and it was! He called me back and we setup a meeting for the next morning. I arrived at the house at 7:50am and hung out with Joe for a bit before he had to leave for work. I stayed behind and scoped the yard out until 8:45 but had no luck. I was a little disappointed but made arrangements to come the next morning. A Warbling Vireo would not only be a great bird for the year but also a lifer! I arrived Thursday at the same time but did not have very long to find the bird. I checked out every inch of the yard with no luck. Finally I was getting ready to leave when I heard a vireo scolding! Now it could have been one of our regular wintering birds but I couldn't risk it. I ran back and sure enough... WARBLING VIREO! It was very vocal while feeding on a Gumbo Limbo. The bird never came out into the open so the photos are not the best but you can definitely identify the species of vireo. Year bird # 146 and life bird #312!

Gotta love getting lifers

  Friday January 25th started and ended with year birds. I made it to Matheson Hammock for sunrise and staked out the Live Oaks just west of the stone picnic shelter. As the sun began poking through the trees I noticed birds starting to trickle in. First Yellow-rumped Warblers... then Blue-gray Gnatcatchers... then Prairie and Black-and-White Warblers. Finally Blue-winged Warbler!!! I had first seen this bird on my birthday November 26th and now again for my big year. Like the Warbling Vireo, the Blue-winged Warbler gave awesome views but never came out from behind leaves. It even perched and sat completely still for 5 minutes but never gave a perfectly clear shot. I tried everything to get the picture but being a much better birder than photographer nothing worked. At the end of the day morning I had some shots for ID purposes but not much else. After getting the warbler I had to go to work but it was beneficial since my next target bird was a nocturnal one. I arrived at Dump Marsh right before dusk and started scanning through the ducks. I hiked along the berm and followed the path as it curved west. As all the birds quieted down I started doing my poor impersonation of an Eastern Screech Owl. I was not expecting much to happen but then I heard a, "WHIP!" followed by another and another. That's when I got buzzed by the bird. It wasn't the Lesser Nighthawk I originally was there for but Eastern Whip-poor-will had eluded me all month! As I walked back to my car I had at least three birds swooping around me feeding on the insects that were in turn feeding on me... the food web in all its glory! 

Great views but awful shots

  I had a small amount of time to bird on Sunday so I took advantage and went for ducks in a very dependable lake right by my house in good old Hialeah. The Graham Dairy Lake is right off the Palmetto Expressway and nw 154 street. It has gotten some amazing birds in the past like Bufflehead, Redhead, Gadwall and even Long-tailed Duck! I hung around and picked up Ring-necked and Ruddy Duck within 5 minutes. Such an easy spot to bird and it got me to 150 species - not counting Eurasian Collared-Dove, Rock Dove, European Starling, Common Myna, Monk Parakeet and House Sparrow!!! My goal was to hit 150 by the end of January and I still have a couple days left. Now to find another 150 birds...

These guys always put a smile on my face

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