Friday, January 4, 2013

Tying Loose Ends

  The last two days have been spent trying to find birds I have dipped on in the last couple days, i.e. that pesky Wilson's Warbler. I started Wednesday by hitting Virginia Key at dawn. Well more like I got hit at dawn... by noseeums! Either way it would be great to start the year by relocating the La Sagra's Flycatcher. I began working the road listening for the distinct call of the flycatcher. Having heard it the last couple winters at Bill Bagg's State Park and in the Bahamas this past December it would be a familiar sound. At about 7:30 am I heard the call! WHEET! WHEET!  I started looking and looking and looking. I even bushwhacked into the heavy vegetation and finally it popped up. It perched right in front of me and gave me great views. I pulled up the camera that good friend Argelio Chaviano let me borrow and started shooting away. I was able to take pictures but since I'm not tech savvy, none were very good. At least from the photo I did take you can see the field marks that identify it as a La Sagra's. The dark bill, very little rufous on the tail, yellow wash on the belly, pale breast and throat.

Definitely have to go back and try to get a better shot of this La Sagra's Flycatcher

  After starting one for one I thought I would head straight over to Sadowski and try for the Hermit Thrush Roberto Torres called to tell me about. I figured it was the same I saw my first day there after moving from Crandon Park. I walked the trail whenever I had some down time from handling errands around the park but when never found the bird. I did come across a very cooperative Blue-headed Vireo which was a new bird for the list.

Blue-headed Vireo trying to keep cool in the afternoon

  From Sadowski I went over to Merrie Christmas Park. I had received a call from Jim King that he had found the Wilson's Warbler in the morning. By the time I arrived it was 4 pm and the whole park was quiet as a mouse. I circled the park and searched for the feeding flock but only turned up Yellow-rumped Warblers. As it got closer to 5 pm I began to notice huge kettles of vultures beginning to stream over the park and head for their roost. It was such a cool thing to see! I started looking through the hundreds of Turkey and Black Vultures hoping something interesting would turn up. Finally I managed to pick out a Broad-winged Hawk moving east with the kettle. I may not have found the warbler but I did add another bird for the year. I was now up to 60 native birds as of day three.

Those aren't tons of dirt specs... those are tons of vultures!

  Today was the last day I had to look for missed birds before moving on and really ticking off species. Tomorrow (Saturday January 5, 2013) I will starting early and will be making lots of stops through out the day trying to  boost my numbers significantly. I began at A.D. "Doug" Barnes Park hoping for the Hermit Thrush that was found during the Christmas Bird Count (CBC). I only spent a couple minutes looking before finding the bird. This meant that I had the rest of the morning open to focus on finding the Bell's Vireo that was also seen during the CBC. I moved fast  towards "Rooster Hammock" and started pishing immediately. Some birds respond well to people mimicking their scold call and vireos can sometimes be those birds. Right away a beautiful male Black-throated Blue Warbler came out and started chipping away. I hung out around the area for a while before moving on and looking elsewhere in the general area hoping to come across the vireo as it fed. After being unsuccessful doing that I went back to the original spot the bird was seen. Soon a Worm-eating Warbler made an appearance and I started to have some hope it would turn up. Finally I noticed some movement at the top of a Live Oak. EUREKA! The Bell's Vireo was at the top. I originally thought it was a female Black-throated Blue Warbler because of the yellowish wash but as soon as I saw the bill and prominent wing bar I knew I had it. Another great start to the morning. I packed up my car and decided to try Merrie Christmas Park and this time I was not leaving til I found the Wilson's Warbler... I would sleep in one of the huge Banyan Trees if I had to! When I got to the park I found a large feeding flock with a good variety of species in it. Most were Yellow-rumped Warblers but I managed to pick out a couple Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Northern Parulas, Yellow-throated, Black-throated Blue, Cape May and Palm Warblers. I hung around for 1 hour and 45 minutes before it finally decided to grace me with its presence. I couldn't miss it. This little, bright yellow ball of energy was just bouncing all over the place putting on a great show. I was so excited! After 4 tries in 3 days I actually saw the bird and managed to get some mediocre pictures when it wasn't chasing off other warblers or hawking for insects.

Unmistakable bright yellow underparts

  After watching the Wilson's for a while I made my way down to Pelican Harbor Marina. Since I found all the birds I wanted in the day I felt like I should try my luck for a rarity. In the past the marina has attracted a Common Eider and a Red-footed Booby once hung around for a while after being rehabbed and release from the Seabird Station. My luck had finally run out for the day and all I got were the usual suspects for that area. Aw well can't win em all right? As of day 4 my total is 74 native species. Hopefully tomorrow will be the day I break 100!

Heavy crop of the Wilson's Warbler since it was so high in the tree


  1. We are happy that you have started off the year with many of the rairities that have stuck around for your EPIC big year! Keep on truckin' and you will surpass your 300 species goal.

    Nature is Awesome
    Angel & Mariel

  2. I'm probably coming down for the day on MLK day before I have to be at Space Coast for work. It's so tempting right now with all the birds down there that I need (La Sagra's, Western Spindalis, White-tailed Kite, Macgillivrays, Shiny Cowbird, Bananaquit and the Bahama Mockingbird that's going to show up between now and then! ;)

    Hope we can get together and do some birding



  3. Keep on saying that about the Bahama Mockingbird! That would make my year... it's a nemesis bird for me in the ABA area haha!