Monday, February 11, 2013

Loving Leica

  I'm happy to announce that I have partnered with Leica Store Miami. They think the Epic Big Year is a great idea and want to support my efforts. Leica makes the best sport optics in the industry and I'm excited to use their equipment to reach my goal. I spent this past week using the gear everyday and  have loved the results. Right now I am using the Ultravid 8x32 HD BinocularsAPO-Televid 82 Spotting ScopeD-Lux 5 Digital Camera and the D-Lux 5 Digiscoping-Adapter. Even though the spotting scope has an 82 mm objective lens it is still light enough to carry around all over the place for miles at a time. The Ultravid binoculars are extremely light and get the job done beautifully. I picked up the gear Saturday and got out early Sunday February 3rd to get used to it. My first stop was Continental Park in South Miami to look for a Baltimore Oriole Carlos Sanchez had told me about. I got to the park for sunrise and started walking towards the west end of the park. There wasn't very much cover and the park gives the impression of being used more for recreational purposes than nature, but sure enough as I was walking on along with west side, I found the bird. It was perched on a power line in someone's backyard! It was definitely a sight to see. As I got to the corner I noticed the last house had a couple feeders which must keep the bird in the area. 

Gave great views before ducking back into the yard

  I managed to get the oriole before 9 am so I went down south and practiced a little more with the digiscoping setup. I picked an easy target with the Vermilion Flycatcher. Even though it can be very active while hawking insects, he usually will sit for a bit giving you an opportunity to get everything lined up for a nice shot! 

What a perfect model!

  After playing all morning with my new toys I had to head home to get ready for a Super Bowl BBQ that was going on that evening. As I start setting my stuff down I received a phone call from Ezequiel Bugallo about the Chipping Sparrows that had been wintering behind the scenes of Zoo Miami. I jumped off the couch and ran right out the door! There was no way I was missing these birds again. I managed to get to the zoo in 20 minutes and Ezik took me right to the spot. We started looking through the pineland and eventually the birds flushed up into the trees and gave the best looks of a sparrow I have ever had. We tallied three birds moving together with an Eastern Towhee. What made it even better was that this was a life bird! I had never seen a Chipping Sparrow before and with the time these birds gave us to appreciate them I won't forget it. 

If only it was always this easy

  On Monday I decided to head west on Tamiami Trail hoping to get some of the specialties out that way. I made it to the Collier-Dade boundary and started birding east. I was hoping for Tufted Titmouse and Carolina Wren but had no luck with either bird. The cypress was very active though with tons of Yellow-rumped Warblers, Northern Parulas, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, White-eyed Vireos and Common Yellowthroats. As I got closer to Loop Road I pulled over at one of the stops and began pishing. That's when I noticed something moving in the trees... a Fox Squirrel! I had never seen this species before even after hanging out around Loop Road a lot when I was younger. I may not have gotten the titmouse or wren but this had just made my day! I kept moving east and that's when the Limpkins began going off. Every couple minutes they would give off the shriek-like call of theirs. I finally saw one flush from behind some Saw Grass as I was scanning for Snail Kite over at the abandoned Miccossuke airboat concession. I also dipped on Snail Kite but made up at Shark Valley with Purple Gallinule!

Considered the prettiest bird in the Everglades

  After leaving the Big Cypress area I got a call from Ezik again! This time he spotted a Forster's Tern in one of the back lakes. Two year birds in two days?! I flew over and sure enough the bird was sitting on the water with a flock of Ring-billed Gulls. I got some pictures and decided to make my way over to Deering Estate's People's Dock to do a little seawatching. With the Leica scope set at 50x zoom, I had a new view of Biscayne Bay. I was able to make out my year Horned Grebe with no problem! I had been scanning the bay since January 1st and had no luck with these birds. They like to forage very far out and a good scope is needed to even begin making out their figures. From Deering I went to try for Lesser Nighthawk ONCE AGAIN at Dump Marsh. Dusk came pretty quickly and ONCE AGAIN I dipped on it! I had quite a few Eastern Whip-poor-wills and a Great Horned Owl hooting in the background. Always nice to end the day with a year bird.

Only my second time seeing a Forster's Tern

  I read a report of an American Woodcock on the Tropical Audubon Society birdboard, so the morning of February 7th was spent on Research Road waiting for dawn and their flight displays. I sat on the side of the road and immediately began hearing the PEENT call of the woodcock. While recording the call I had a Lesser Nighthawk fly overhead! I managed to get my flashlight on it and the wing bar was definitely close to the wing tip and the bird was overall smaller than the Eastern Whip-poor-wills in the area. Feeding two birds with one scone is always fun! While in the area I hiked south on Old Ingraham Highway at dawn and when I got to the mound I found my year Snail Kite! A beautiful immature bird flew over and actually dropped an eaten snail into the marsh! While here I also had my year Hooded Mergansers hanging out. Overall it ended up being a very productive day. At this time my grand total is 178 birds! I am hoping to break 200 before the end of February... 

Below is a video of the American Woodcocks calling.

  All the photos/video used in todays post were taken using the Leica D-Lux 5 digital camera. Please feel free to click on the links where the optics are listed for more information.

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