Tuesday, May 8, 2012

South Florida in April

It has been a busy last few weeks/months, and it has led me all the way back to Anchorage. I'm preparing for another North Slope field season, and part of that preparation required a week in some warm weather. I spent April 23-30th raging my way around Florida. I flew into Miami and hit the ground running with a trip to Green Cay Wetlands where Painted Buntings were reported, a would-be lifer. It took me all of 3 seconds to find a female at the first feeder on the way to the wetlands.
I added nice year birds like Swallow-tailed Kite, Limpkin, Purple Gallinule, and other common Florida specialties. I tried for the Smooth-billed Ani at 800 Old Griffin, but no luck. I tried 3 other times during the trip with the same result.

The 24th was the day I would find the long staying La Sagra's Flycatcher, but it must have heard me coming because it departed 2 days previous to my arrival. I still picked up some great birds at Bill Bagg's State Park like my lifer Black-whiskered Vireo and Gray Kingbird.
There were also hundreds, literally hundreds of Blackpoll Warblers. I had 13 in the same tree! I've never seen so many, but it was a common theme throughout the trip.

On the 25th I found myself in the Lake Okeechobee area looking for a couple year birds that I wouldn't have a shot at later, like Bachman's Sparrow, Florida Scrub Jay and Short-tailed Hawk. Bachman's Sparrows were singing heavily in the dawn hours at Highlands Hammock State Park. I got nice scope views of one singing his heart out. A nice bird to see again.

The Florida Scrub Jay was too easy at Archbold Bio Station. Just go to the picnic tables.
On the 26th, I focused on finding the exotics I needed. I was pleased to find 6 White-winged Parakeets at the Kendall Hospital, just in time for the ABA to vote on their status as a "countable" species. The Red-whiskered Bulbul and Spot-breasted Oriole were found in the Kendallwood complex, but only after hours of walking around the roads. The Bulbul actually found me, it flew over my head and into a tree. I have no pictures of these birds as I was quite hesitant to be walking around peoples houses with binoculars, let alone a giant camera. I'm glad I don't have to go exotic searching anymore.

On the 27th I woke up in Flamingo, but I saw no Flamingos. I did see a Swallow-tailed Kite that was flying low over my head repeatedly catching dragonflies and eating them mid-air. One of the most awesome things I have seen.
After a bit of patience, I found the cowbird flock and was delighted with great looks at Shiny Cowbird (3 males and a female). Here is a male.
The next three days were spent in the Keys and Tortugas. I found a lot of warblers, orioles, tanagers, vireos, some sparrows, and a lot of other great birds. Tortugas were especially great as I nailed 5 lifers! After the naturalist telling me I wouldn't find the Black Noddy because it only comes in during the evening, and after all the other "birders" on the boat not even looking for it, I was determined to find it. Scouring the thousands of seabirds, I eventually found the Black Noddy roosting close enough to where I could feel comfortable calling it. Eventually, the light got better, and so did the views! Brown Noddy and Sooty Tern were also new.
On the way out, we swung close enough to Hospital Key that I could snap a few ID'able pics of the Masked Boobies.
On Mile Marker 3, the Brown Boobies did not disappoint.
It wouldn't be a trip to the Keys without Magnificent Frigatebirds!
I also found Roseate Terns
My first attempt on Sugarloaf Key was a great success, it almost seemed like Mangrove Cuckoo wasn't even hard to find!
All in all, I was rewarded with 18 lifers, with highlights being Mangrove Cuckoo, Antillean Nighthawk, Black Noddy, Brown Booby and Masked Booby, among others.

Here are a few more pics from the trip:

Hooded Warbler:
Prairie Warbler:
Blackpoll Warbler

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