Thursday, December 26, 2013

So Close, Yet So Far...

  It sure has been a long time... the blog fizzled out but the year did not! My last post in July had me at 264 ticks and I was slowly creeping along. As of the end of December I am currently at 298 birds and going crazy hunting down the last two species to hit my goal of 300. Since that fateful day at Barnes with the Carolina Chickadee I have managed to come across some great migrants and MEGA rarities while also missing some key birds for the year. My worst miss has to be Mississippi Kite. I have tried everything possible for years to see one and it never works. When I say everything, I  mean EVERYTHING! Sitting for hours at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch only to hear that I missed one right before I arrived or right after I left; hawkwatching from every location in Miami-Dade that birders had previously seen them; even in North Carolina where one had been reported the day before I went looking! I figured it was a tricky bird but I would make up for it by coming across  Philadelphia Vireo and Wood Thrush which usually show up in small numbers every fall migration. Unfortunately this would not be a good year for either of them and I ended up missing both! Luckily some unexpected rarities showed up that gave me a boost of confidence to keep my head up and continue stomping through Miami-Dade in a relentless search for year birds.

One of these things is not like the others...

  One of the top rarities this year has to be the Red-footed Booby found on Pacific Reef Light on November 1st while out on a pelagic aka Toelagic. As Roberto "Toe" Torres pulled up the lighthouse we saw a large number of Brown Boobies perched and off the bat started sifting through them hoping to get lucky and that's exactly what happened! After about 20 seconds Larry "The Man" Manfredi yells out "GOT ONE!!!" and the rest is history. All the other boobies flushed off but the Red-footed stayed in place and let us get great photographs before we moved on. Of course with my luck the boat broke down about 15 miles offshore and it took over 3 hrs to get towed back in to Black Point Marina. Needless to say we were all sun burnt and exhausted but who cares, WE GOT A GREAT YEAR BIRD!

All that wishful thinking paid off!

  Another great year bird is still under review at this point and time. Depending on whether it is accepted by the Florida Ornithological Society Review Committee I can keep it on my list or I'm losing an important tick. The bird was found in an extremely delicate location so reporting it was out of the question. The only reason I saw it was because I am a county employee and allowed in the sewage treatment plant where it was hanging out for a couple days. Unfortunately since September 11th security around the area has been increased exponentially and if someone so much as even stops and looks in they will escorted WAY out of the area. It's a shame because before it was common to have people with their scopes looking for rarities but now everyone is considered a threat.

A gorgeous duck feeding in a sewage plant... how ironic

  This White-cheeked Pintail enjoyed the sludge drying ponds enough to stick around for a couple days while associating with Northern Shovelers, Green-winged Teals and Mottled Ducks. Even though most pintails are automatically considered escapees this one in particular has a real good argument to suggest vagrancy! Hopefully the FOSRC feels the way...

My second La Sagra's Flycatcher this year

  Even though I got La Sagra's Flycatcher earlier this year, not too many people can say they saw TWO in one year. This is the 11th Caribbean vagrant I have seen in 2013 along with 2 Monroe County specialties. It sure has been a break out year for birds crossing the Atlantic but I wouldn't mind trading this flycatcher in for an American Pipit. With less than a week left I am going to really to have to work as hard as ever to find the two last birds needed to reach my original goal of 300. I guess I can always sleep in 2014!

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