Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Two-thirds of the Way!

  FOUR DAYS! IT TOOK FOUR DAYS IN THE MECHANIC! FOUR DAYS OF NO BIRDING! It was completely understandable and no ones fault but that long without birding was really starting to get to me. Honestly Luis is a great technician and I actually stalled a couple times since I wasn't used to my car running so great! Either way I decided a great way to pass the time would be to go through photos and maybe come across something I had missed... unfortunately I did but not in a good way. On February 25th I thought I came across a White-crowned Sparrow. Everything seemed dead on but the photos were real fuzzy and not worth posting. As I sat at home looking at the photo it hit me that the bird wasn't a White-crowned Sparrow but a Clay-colored Sparrow. HOW EMBARRASSING! I immediately went and removed the tick from eBird and started thinking of how I would redeem my mistake.  

Don't even know how I screwed up this ID...

    That's when I remembered Larry "The Man" Manfredi had a White-crowned Sparrow visiting his backyard feeder! If you are unfamiliar with Larry and his great guided trips throughout South Florida and the Caribbean check out his site HERE for more information. I immediately gave him a call and he told me he just had it singing in the morning! I flew over after work and before I even sat down the bird popped out and began scratching the ground looking for fallen seed. Whattah cooperative bird! It continued perching in the open and even gave us a show chasing off a pair of Northern Cardinals that would try to feed on the ground with it. Now, Larry's yard is known for housing not only Brown-headed and Bronzed but also Shiny Cowbird. As we enjoyed the sparrow I noticed the cowbird out of the corner of my eye! Three cowbird species in a matter of half an hour - he doesn't get the nickname "The Man" for nothing!

King of the feeder

   On Saturday March 9th I led my monthly bird walk for Deering Estate at Cutler. A great group of people joined including Jim King who helped me out along the way. I didn't get any year birds but it was still lots of fun. The estate has a variety of of habitats from Tropical Hardwood Hammock and Pine Rockland to Mangrove Forest and Biscayne Bay all located on the 444-acre property. Highlights included multiple singing Northern Parulas and a White-crowned Pigeon. The next day I went out west on Tamiami Trail trying to find my Tufted Titmouse for the year. The last time I saw one in the county was when I worked at A.D. Barnes Park. That was several years ago and way overdue! I arrived at the Miami-Dade/Collier County line for dawn and parked on the side of the road. I began working my way east along US-41 birding the sides of the road. This started off pretty productive. I had singing Carolina Wrens, Northern Parulas, White-eyed Vireos and Northern Cardinals - along with just about every wading bird with the exception of that Reddish Egret!!!  

One of several egret species seen

  I kept working my way east and would stop whenever I came across a pullover. They were usually about half a mile apart and over a drain allowing water to pass from the north to the south side of the road. As I stopped at the last pullover before reaching Loop Road I heard them. The harsh scold call of the Tufted Titmouse! PSHHHH PSHHHH PSHHHH... I began pishing and the bird would reply but not show itself. PSHHHH PSHHHHH PSHHHHH... I kept trying. White-eyed Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Pine Warblers and Common Yellowthroats all came out but not the titmouse. PSHHHH PSHHH PSHHHHH... it finally the worked. Bird #200 for the year came up and all of a sudden so did a second one! They hung around for a bit before continuing west with the rest of the feeding flock. I hopped back in the car and headed for Shark Valley. I started on the east side of the parking lot and made my way south towards the Bobcat Trail. Right before I hit the trail I noticed a bird flying from west to east. As it was coming down I saw it was a Wilson's Snipe! Even though the habitat was perfect I had never seen one in this part of Eveglades National Park and it caught me completely off guard. I hiked the trail twice and the surrounding parking lot but did not get anything else for the year. On the way back home I came across a real interesting sighting. There were some Black Vultures hanging around on the ground just west of the abandoned Chief Osceola Airboat launch and one looked real funny. I made a u-turn to see what was going on with the bird and it ended up being tagged!  With a little research I found out old friend Anna Schanargl has been tagging then in the national park and tracking their movements.

I love projects like these

  Wednesday the 13th I had planned to stake out a life bird. I went half a mile south past Mahogany Hammock in Everglades National Park and pulled over. This area is the breeding grounds for the largest population of the "Cape Sable" race of Seaside Sparrow. There are several pvc pipes that give an idea of where to look for the bird between .5-1.5 miles south of the entrance to the Mahogany Hammock trail. As I got out of the car and set up my Leica APO-Televid 82 scope I quickly became aware of the frigid weather! I REALLY wish I had dressed better for the situation. As I stood there and the sparrows began singing all I could think about was survival... I didn't think I was going to make it back to my car. I want to say I was legally considered a female for a period of time due to the weather! After hanging around for almost an hour I couldn't take it anymore and left the park. On the way out I stopped at The Annex to try for the reported Pectoral Sandpiper. As soon as I walked up I saw a ton of shorebirds all feeding frantically to make up for lost fat reserves due to the cold weather overnight. Wilson's Snipe, Least Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs were all in attendance. Even Killdeer, Northern Waterthrush and Palm Warblers are active and not worried about me at all. Finally in the group of 30 or so Least Sandpipers I found the Pectoral! It gave great looks and allowed for some photo opportunities. Once I got the bird I got in the car and made my way to the warmest place possible before I got frostbite... As of the 13th I am at 204 birds for the year and looking forward to migration around the corner!

Can't ever get enough of shorebirds

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