Thursday, April 4, 2013

Spring Forward

  Whattah month! I have been trying to keep at it and get as many birds as possible as quickly as possible. Early spring migrants have started making their way back to breeding grounds in North America and I have to make sure to be in the right place at the right time. After a fun Thursday spent birding for Ezequiel's birthday I decided I had to take a chance for some new birds. I contacted Biscayne National Park's contracted ferry company (Biscayne National Underwater Park) and booked a trip to Boca Chita. This little island has been known to get some killer Caribbean Vagrants in the past and due to the fact that it's under birded a lot can be going on with little to no one realizing it. Unfortunately the boat has a minimum amount of people needed for to go out, so morning trips are few and far between. I hopped aboard the afternoon expedition that goes from 1pm - 4 pm. Twenty minutes into the boat ride I began noticing Common Loons and Red-breasted Mergansers feeding directly in the middle of Biscayne Bay! They were so far out scopes would not even help with viewing these awesome birds. After a 45 minute ride we arrived at the island and I hopped out and began scouring the area right away. There is a historical tour that goes into a lighthouse but ain't nobody got time for that! The island was not exactly dripping birds but showed a lot of potential. As I was hiking the nature trail I looked up and noticed a graceful bird just gliding north against the winds. I didn't have to even think twice about it... Swallow-tailed Kite! This was my first of the year and it was way off the mainland without a care in the world. It continued north and eventually I was unable to see it anymore. What a great way to end the trip! The next day I received a call from Roberto "Toe" Torres about a Stilt Sandpiper. Now when we spoke I understood the bird was at Cutler Wetlands and immediately went and staked the area out. I scoped over the water multiple times but couldn't pick up the bird. Confused I called him back and asked where he saw it... that's when I realized he said Baypoint Wetlands NOT Cutler... OOPS! At least I found my year Black-necked Stilt. Well it was not just one but a large flock of 15 stilts hanging out together in the open. From here I zipped over to Baypoint where I thought I had the bird but the angle was off. I had a decision to make... find a better vantage point which meant jumping the fence of the school or dealing with the awful views. After 0.2 seconds I was over the fence confirming 100% the bird was a Stilt Sandpiper and gaining another tick for the year - while avoiding a trespassing charge!

Happy Birthday Ezik!

  The next few days would be pretty quiet but finally on March 20th my luck began to turn. I started the day off with Jared Guerra at Lucky Hammock. We scoped out the area before making our way over to The Annex. We opted to walk Aero Jet Road the whole way down and it paid off big time. Right when we crossed the yellow gates we heard a familiar sound. One not heard at all this year but in past years you couldn't get away from it. That ZEEEEE, ZEEEEEEEEET, ZEEEEEE sound that a flock of Cedar Waxwings make! What a complete surprise. I had not seen one this year and was expecting to completely miss them for 2013. They flew directly over us coming from Everglades National Park and continued making their way east without stopping. We continued birding The Annex but nothing new turned up. From there we tried a couple different spots including Castellow Hammock for the Rufuous Hummingbird but dipped on the bird again... I really hope it makes its annual appearance again in November! We ended the day at Crandon Park where we flushed a male Chuck-wills Widow while hiking the Tequesta Trail for my second year bird of the day but ONCE AGAIN THE REDDISH EGRET WAS NOWHERE TO BE SEEN. I was tired of dipping on this bird. The very next day I went back during an outgoing tide and drove up and down the beach until finally I got it! The bird was doing it's usual-very-unusual feeding dance and gave great views as it usually does. I was ecstatic to finally get this nemesis for the year and get the monkey off my back!

It was about time

  After another couple quiet days I saw an amazing post on the Tropical Audubon's Bird Board ( by Steve Tennis. He had a first ever Miami-Dade record of Lazuli Bunting coming to his feeder on the 24th! I had contacted him earlier this year when he had a suspicious warbler hanging around that was very close in resembling a Canada Warbler. I missed the warbler but I was not going to miss this bunting. I gave him a ring and he graciously invited me over to check it out. He hadn't posted a photo yet but he had one ready for me when I got there. Sure enough it was a Lazuli Bunting and a male to boot! I sat in front of the feeder for an hour when finally the bird made an appearance! It was accompanied by several Indigo and Painted Buntings before a Red-winged Blackbird scared them all off. I got terrible photos since it was in a cage feeder and a good distance away from me but I was too excited about the trifecta I just saw to even care. I thanked him a million times and went on my way. Since then many people have seen the bird and gotten incredible photos... except me of course! The next day I was hoping to keep up the year bird streak. I started on Crandon's Beach but had no luck with year birds there so I went over to Bill Baggs State Park and hiked the nature trail north before taking the bike path back north to the lighthouse parking area. While on the nature trail I came across a Swainson's Warbler flying across the path. Another year bird! I kept on hiking and decided I would go back to Crandon and check the park again. While on the Tequesta Trail I came across another Swainson's Warbler! I figured with the way things were going I should hit the beach again and see if my luck would continue... and it did! While scanning through the birds feeding and bathing on the sandbars I found several Sandwich Terns! Now just to keep this pace going...

Gotta love terns

  Once again I hit a dry patch and didn't get any new years birds for a couple days. That's until I saw fellow Tropical Audubon member and trip leader Brian Rapoza had found a Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Kendall Indian Hammock Park. I had never birded this park and the only reason I had ever even set foot in the park was to take canoe and kayak trailers in for repair. I gave it a try after work on March 27th but apparently was in the complete wrong place - AGAIN. After emailing Brian I got the correct location and went right back the next day. I arrived at sunrise and after a little pishing had the bird calling back but never sitting still enough for a photo. Since I started my day off with a year bird I figured I'd go to Deering Estate and really work the natural areas for anything interesting that may be hiding in the 444-acre property. The Pine Rocklands were pretty quiet the the Tropical Hardwood Hammock was the place to be. Prairie Warblers were everywhere along with Northern Parulas and even a male Wilson's Wabler made it to the party. As I kept pishing a Black-whiskered Vireo appeared! What a great bird! This South Florida specialty only makes its way up during the summer months and definitely made my day. I kept hiking through the trails and all of a sudden a Red-eyed Vireo turned up! Two year vireos within half an hour! After almost six hours I was comfortable with my efforts in covering the whole park and called it a day. The vireos would be my last year birds in March giving me a grand total of 216 as we start April and migration really gets interesting! I am also looking forward to leading my first of several walks for the Leica Store Miami in Coral Gables. April 7th will be spent shorebirding for the endangered plovers of Crandon Park while getting a great digi-scoping workshop by none other than Leica Sport Optics expert Jeff Bouton. All the walks will be FREE FREE FREE but spaces are limited to please rsvp through them to make sure you have a seat for the inagural field trip here -

Come on migration!!

1 comment:

  1. Great job! Keep em coming!
    Greetings from Poland, Olek :)