Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Slow and Steady

  This past weekend was spent touring people around the county. The group was different each day and their level of birding was also different. Either way both days were spent with incredible people! On Saturday I led the monthly bird walk at Deering Estate.  We started at the visitor center where we got White Ibis and Double-crested Cormorant flying over immediately. The Red Mangrove islands on Biscayne Bay are major roosts for them and early in the morning you will witness a spectacular flight as they move to their feeding grounds. We tinkered around the parking lot for a bit hoping for a rarity but no luck. Prairie, Palm and Yellow-rumped Warbler were all in attendance along with Ovenbird and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. We began walking north along the estate and checked all the plots of vegetation. I was REALLY hoping to relocate the Thick-billed Vireo Roberto "Toe" Torres had originally found in November but again no luck... if it's the last thing I do I will relocate that bird!!! We hiked along the Hardwood Hammock before making it to the Pine Rockland all while trying not to get hit by bikers. It felt almost like a a seen out of The Expendables - quite possibly one of the best movies ever behind, the Ace Venturas and Forest Gump. Unfortunately the Pinelands were dead...  we did not see anything besides male Northern Cardinals singing their hearts out. We continued the walk and eventually bumped into a nice feeding flock with good diversity before hitting the boat basin and finishing with 36 species. The day was pretty productive even though I did not get any new ticks for the year.

These little guys put on a great show!

   On Sunday I had the opportunity to go where ever I wanted. The group was a small portion of people from all over the world in town for a Biogeography conference. My first thought was to take the 20 participants to my favorite park in the county for birding... Crandon! I don't think I enjoy a group of birds more than the sea-going ones. Just the thought that they managed to adapt to such an unforgiving and harsh yet beautiful environment gives them brownie points in my book. For many people in the group, all of the birds seen were lifers but the highlight was the amazing flock of 45 Piping Plovers that are wintering on Key Biscayne's beach. Out of that flock, we saw 8 birds that were banded - six were from Michigan but there was also a bird from Virginia and one from North Dakota. From the beach we went over to Virginia Key. Most of the people were from Europe, with the exception of a few who were from the northeast United States. This meant the La Sagra's Flycatcher that had been hanging around would be a major bird for everyone. Within five minutes of having arrived, the bird was found and an all out sprint occurred. It must have been the fastest that group has moved in a while! Everyone got to see the bird and many people were ecstatic. From there we went over to the Western Spindalis spot but it was packed with mountain bikers and was too much of a hazard to try for. We can't win em all I guess!

This is a Michigan bird originally banded in 2009 spending her 4th winter on Key Biscayne

  Monday was supposed to be a glorious day spent on the open ocean looking for pelagics and catching fresh fish for a celebratory feast. The Reward Fleet is a GREAT way to get out and look for hard to find birds for cheap. They have a great crew and the last time I went out with them I tallied 450+ Razorbills! The captain was incredibly friendly and even stopped to let us get great views of birds we would come across. Unfortunately this time one of their boats was out of commission and the other was privately booked for a fishing trip... I really hope they didn't catch anything... ANYWAY we went over to the Bal Harbor Beach Pier and tried doing some seawatching from there but didn't have any luck. At least I got a Magnificent Frigatebird for the year and a banded Brown Pelican! I am still trying to track down the history of the bird which are usually very interesting! My year is now up to 124 birds (3 heard only - Eastern Screech Owl, Brown-crested Flycatcher and King Rail) not including 4 ABA countable exotics - European Starling, Eurasian Collared-Dove, House Sparrow and Rock Dove.

Can't wait to see where this bird came from


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