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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Willow flycatcher in Volusia County

County listing in 67 counties simultaneously can drive one a bit nuts.  There has to be a way to cut down on the multiple directions I am drawn.  I do this by creating a filter of goals and thresholds to guide the decision-making process when a birding opportunity (migration event, rare bird sighting, road trip) occurs.  I want to get 150+ species in all counties, 200+ in 34 counties (more than half), 250+ in 10 counties, and 300+ in four counties.  I also want 100 species on my All-County List.  That is I want 100 species that I have seen in each and every county.  Therefore, when a Say's phoebe (which I already have in three counties) is reported in DeSoto County in late October, I can run it through my filters to see if I want to chase.  DeSoto County is at 150 species.  I have hit 150, but am nowhere near 200.  There are some species getting near the All-County List such as American coot, Ring-necked duck, and Summer tanager.  It's a little late for tanager and the others are more likely later in the year.  I still need the migrant thrushes for DeSoto and Hardee to the north, so I could manage a trip to the county line in the early AM and get them a little closer.  But, for the most part, I am probably better off hitting the area at a later date for winter stuff or another time for thrushes.

However, when Michael Brothers calls me to report a Willow flycatcher he found at Lake Woodruff NWR that morning, it's a different story.  Willow flycatcher is very hard to find in Florida.  They are migrants only and are usually silent.  Empidonax flycatchers are notoriously difficult to identify and Willow and Alder (formerly considered one species,Traill's flycatcher) are even harder to separate.  Call notes and songs of the two species are fairly easy to distinguish, but they are often silent in migration.  Recently, there has been in increase in sightings (hearings) of Alder flycatcher in Florida.  Willows are beginning to follow suit.  Until recently, I still needed Willow for my Florida list.  One has spent nearly two months in Dade recently and it furnished me with my first for Florida.  So Willow is not a state bird or anywhere near the All-County list.  Enter the 300 Club.  Brevard, my native county, is the only member at 358.  Volusia, it's neighbor to the north, was sitting at 293 species.  At that level, there is little or no "low-hanging fruit."  Add to that, the fact that we were heading down I-95 from St. Augustine and we were not that far from Lake Woodruff, and my wonderful wife Dee was willing to detour to the refuge to let me look for the bird, and we are on our way.

We arrived around 1400 and quickly headed out to the spot where Michael heard the bird.  There is a dense, wet swamp of Red maple and willow trees not far from the trailhead.  Time of day was not great.  It was hot and humid and little tiny flycatchers are prone to just sit silently at this time of day.  I was not prepared to stay until near sunset when flycatchers are prone to call and feed more actively.  The prospect of rain seemed unlikely.  Brief rain storms often bring out brief periods and activity in songbirds in the afternoon.  This is what happened when I got my first Willow flycatcher in Florida at Lucky Hammock in Dade County.  A short duration storm passed through and in a 3-5 minute period, four Alders and one Willow flycatcher called for me.  That was not going to happen this day.

Bob Wallace called me to let me know that he was also stopping by on the way home, he from New Smyrna Beach.  Bob and I set up at different spots along the swamp edge and he eventually heard the bird call twice.  I came down to where he was and we eventually set up near where he heard the bird and where Michael last heard and briefly saw the bird.  Eventually, Bob headed off to take home his fresh fish on ice to prepare for supper.  I was weighting the options of heading home and trying again the next day, or staying a little longer.  The bird could take off during the night, but it would be fairly active early on if it stays.  I was texting Dee to get her feelings on the subject (she had walked back to the car to get hydrated) when the bird called 3-4 times right near me, very low to the ground.  I ran around the corner to find Bob still in the area.  We came back and looked and listened some more, but neither of us had the time to keep at it.  I was happy to count #294 for Volusia.  That's four new Volusia birds in recent days, ever so closer to 300!

The other counties on the list to enter the 300 club are Dade with 289 and Palm Beach with 288.  Dade has many low-hanging fruit that hang from Toe's (Roberto Torres) new boat.  One good Toelagic (pelagic trip in Dade waters on Toe's boat) in late August or September would add 8-9 species to Dade.  Other "easy" birds are Bay-breasted and Connecticut warblers, Horned grebe, White-rumped sandpiper, and others.  It's going to happen soon.  Palm Beach has some ridiculously easy birds like Scarlet tanager, Hermit thrush, and Cory's shearwater as well as less easy species like Connecticut, Bay-breasted, and Swainson's warblers.  I'll get there eventually.  County listing, the fun never ends!

Monday, October 21, 2013

St. Johns County Birding 2013 Oct 19-20

Dee and I spent last weekend in St. Augustine.  Our main goal:  show Peregrine falcons to some friends of ours from Gainesville, FL.  We ran into James Wheat on both days at the platform.  James helped to point out several of the birds we saw.

Saturday morning, we hit the hawk watch, a week after the watch ended, at the north beach access (30.116538,-81.345118) of Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTMNERR).  There is a platform at the top of the beach dune which affords a view of the beach and the lake behind the dune line.  Saturday morning's weather did not bode well for hawk watching.  Southwest winds in the fall along Florida's east coast often mean the hawks will take the day off and wait for better conditions.  Despite these seemingly bad conditions, we were greeted by a Merlin which flew in over our heads while we were still in the parking lot.  A good omen, perhaps.

On the platform we spied a distant Peregrine falcon which remained a distant Peregrine falcon for most of the time we were there.   It made for a good lesson in hawk watching.  James Wheat joined us in the platform while we watched and helped point out more distant specks.  Ospreys were in abundance, hunting both the lake and the ocean where baitfish abounded.    Several immature and one mature Bald eagle were around as well, sometimes hunting on their own, sometimes taking what the Ospreys worked hard for.  There were a few other hawks around.  A Northern harrier was working the lake.  A Cooper's hawk and an unidentified accipiter flew by as well.  Eventually, another Peregrine came right off the ocean, over our heads, giving us nice looks.

Later that evening, after finding some good ice cream in St. Augustine Beach, we headed to Vilano Beach to walk the beaches near Porpoise Point.  The tide was rising and the birds on the point across the inlet at Anastasia State Park were retreating and looking for higher beaches.  On our side of the water, we found a nice flock of gulls, terns, and eventually skimmers.  Most of the gulls were Laughing gulls, as would be expected.  About 20 Lesser black-backed gulls were across the way, at the park.  Other gulls were represented by singles, one Great black-backed, one Herring, one Ring-billed, and one FRANKLIN's.  The Franklin's was a first year bird.  Dee took some shots of the bird, or at least the portion of the flock where the bird was.  Lighting was a bit iffy at this late hour, and we have not looked at the pics to see what we got.

Sunday morning promised to be better for hawk watching.  It lied.  We saw nothing of hawks from the platform, save the local Ospreys and eagles.

We started our birding a little south of the hawk watch at Six Mile Landing had several wintering birds around including my FOTS Yellow-rumped warbler.  There were several Painted buntings, a species that breeds in the area.  Swainson's thrush was a bit unexpected, given the habitat.  One was heard calling in the scrub, and another came out for a brief view.  An American bittern flew by the ramp, not a new bird for the county, but nice to see nonetheless.

Ducks were in better supply Sunday.  Blue-winged teal and Northern shoveler were cruising the lake at Six Mile and near the tower.  Four Northern pintail came in for a landing near the tower.  These were a bit early and locally rare.  They were a new county bird for me in St. Johns County.

After the second day of hawk watching, we headed up to Jacksonville to meet a work friend of Dee's for lunch.  On the way, we ducked into Bird Island Park to see if there were any Canada geese, a species I still needed for my county list.  Nifty little park with lots of trails, a small rookery island and native plants around.  A flock of Black-bellied whistling ducks flew over while we were there, but no geese.  Canada geese are resident from the northeastern U.S. to northeast Florida.  They have established themselves in many counties in Florida, including St. Johns, yet they still eluded me for my list.  Finally, within a mile of entering Duval County, I spied a Canada goose in a retention pond along A1A.  TICK!

That was fun.  We always like to get up to St. Augustine.  Someday we will be back.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Captain Forster's Hammock

Sometimes it's not about driving hours and hundreds of miles to find birds.  Sometimes I go birding as close as 15 miles from the house.  Such was the case today.  Of course, there was ever-present undertone of the chance of county birds.  We are in the window when Bay-breasted warblers move through the state.  Golden-winged warbler and Philadelphia vireo are also passing through, although their peak has passed.  All of these would be welcome additions to my Indian River County list.

With that in mind, I set out to bird Captain Forster's Hammock Preserve.  I rarely get out to this area despite its proximity to the house.  The preserve stretches from the Indian River Lagoon to the beach, mangroves to sea oats.  The parking area has a good deal of native plants and open, grassy edges.  There is a low, wet weedy/brushy area leading to an extensive Maritime Hammock, a habitat that is in short supply along the coast of Florida.

Upon arrival, I was met with many birds, mostly wintering birds like Gray catbirds, and House wren.  Right next to the parking lot is a large Ficus tree and a large Live oak with a clump of Virginia creeper, full of fruit.  The birds have taken notice.  Several warblers and catbirds were feeding in this clump.  Painted buntings winter in the brushy field and there were many here today.  Ovenbirds were in great abundance this day, throughout the hammock areas.  I found 11 species of warblers total including Tennessee, Magnolia, Black-throated green, and Black-throated blue.  The county has recently cleared a number of new trails, and I spent some time exploring many of them.  Ovenbirds were all along the trails and even in the field area.  There was one Northern waterthrush along a dead end trail in the SW corner of the property.  The Eagle Loop had several birds, as it often does, and I suspect there may have been more than I saw.  Density of the vegetation makes it difficult to find all the birds.  This is the best area on the property for Bay-breasted warbler, in my opinion.  Someday I will see one here, but not today.

I left without any county ticks but had a nice time walking and look forward to checking it out again soon.  I have seen Blue-winged warbler, Black-billed cuckoo, and Nutmeg Mannikin here in past visits.  The Mannikin is a popular caged bird that often escapes into the wild in Florida.  A wild breeding population has become somewhat established in the Pensacola area, spreading west into Alabama.  Other populations occur in Mississippi and Texas as well.   An unknown number also breed in the Miami area.  I have seen them a number of times at Matheson Hammock County Park.

Here is the eBird checklist I submitted through BirdLog:

Oct 16, 2013
Captian Forster Hammock Preserve
1 miles
118 Minutes
Observers: 1
All birds reported? Yes
Comments: Hiked most trails west of A1A. Many new trails.
5 Double-crested Cormorant
8 American White Pelican
1 Great Blue Heron
4 Great Egret -- Flying high and south.
1 Snowy Egret -- Flying high and south. With GREG.
1 Green Heron
11 Turkey Vulture
2 Osprey
2 Belted Kingfisher
6 Red-bellied Woodpecker
1 Downy Woodpecker
8 White-eyed Vireo
3 Red-eyed Vireo
6 Blue Jay
3 Carolina Wren
3 House Wren
5 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
25 Gray Catbird
1 Northern Mockingbird
1 Tennessee Warbler
3 Northern Parula
1 Magnolia Warbler
2 Black-throated Blue Warbler
1 Black-throated Green Warbler
1 Yellow-throated Warbler
1 Prairie Warbler
1 Palm Warbler
2 Black-and-white Warbler
2 American Redstart
12 Ovenbird
1 Northern Waterthrush
6 Common Yellowthroat
16 Northern Cardinal
6 Painted Bunting
6 Common Grackle

Monday, October 14, 2013

My Second Big Sit

Many years ago, I did a Big Sit on Turtle Mound at Canaveral National Seashore in Volusia County.  I tallied 68 or 69 species (I don't remember exactly) on an all day sit from atop the mound.  I started before light so I could tally nocturnal flight calls, of which there were many.  One may have been a Bicknell's thrush, but I can't say for sure.  Only twice have I ever heard birds in Florida that may have been Bicknell's thrush.  The first time I heard one on the breeding grounds up north, I thought, "I've heard that before!"  Nevertheless, Bicknell's is not on that list.

My original plan for Sunday October 13, was to go on the FOS field trip to The Celery Fields in Sarasota County.  First, I would hit a dawn spot in Manatee County to pick up nocturnal migrants and a few marsh birds along Gilly Creek which leads into Litlle Lake Manatee.  There is some marsh along CR 675 that should be good for many species missing from my Manatee County list.  The plan began to change, although I did not know it at the time, while doing some county listing in Sarasota and Manatee Counties before heading to the FOS meeting last Friday morning.  I have done well with migrant songbirds in the past thanks to Pinecraft Park in Sarasota and a couple of killer Big Days.  Coastal birds, I am not quite so well off, so I decided to hit South Lido Key park early Friday morning. Details of that trip may come on another post.  For now, lets skip to Leffis Key in Manatee County.

Leffis Key in Bradenton Beach, FL turns out to be a great spot for a Big Sit, or hawkwatch for that matter.  It is located on the east side of the barrier island just north of the bridge from Longboat Key.  The top of the taller mound offers a view of the Gulf of Mexico, several vistas over the lagoon, several mangrove islands, a few strips of sand near the bridge, two clumps of trees on the mound, lots of weedy field, two strips of trail, a nice swath of mangrove swamp, a bridge, several buildings on the mainland....  Basically, it has a great deal of different types of habitats in view from one point.  It is available pre-dawn for listening for nocturnal migrants as well, a big plus for Big Sits.  I discovered, or remembered, all of this when I passed through in search of Manatee County birds Friday morning.  I got eight new species that day.  I also got the idea that I should come back "someday" and do a Big Sit or a hawk watch.

Someday turned out to be the following Sunday.  Sometime during the day Saturday, I thought maybe I should switch gears and do a Big Sit instead of Celery Fields.  I really wanted to see the Celery Fields again and Jeanne Dubi who was leading the trip.  I also wanted to do the Shell Key field trip that afternoon, but I don't have the time or energy to do everything.  So the Big Sit idea quickly dominated and took first place.  I got to see Jeanne after all since she and a horde of other birders showed up on the mound that morning.  So as Meatball (Meatloaf's father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate) says, "One and a half out of three ain't bad."

The day started in the dark, officially at 0605 when I lugged all my gear up to the top and set up for the morning.  Nocturnal flight calls were few and far between at first, as is often the case before dawn.  Nocturnal migrant songbirds often stay high up or are more silent toward the middle of the night and descend toward dawn, or so it seems.  I disturbed a couple day birds as I trudged up and got Common yellowthroat and Northern mockingbird first thing.  Eventually, I got both Black and Yellow-crowned night-herons squawking in the darkness.  Flight calls eventually did start to fall from the sky and soon I had many Swainson's thrushes, some Veeries, and a couple Gray-cheeked thrushes.  All of these were new for me in Manatee County.  After one hour, I was up to 17 species, seven of which came with the  dawn chorus which had just begun.

The second hour was going to be the biggest species jump.  It turned out, I nearly got to 50 species with 48 total by 0805.  Warblers were somewhat hard to find, but I did manage Tennessee which was new for me in the county, along with Northern parula, Yellow-thraoted warbler, and Yellow warbler, all of which were also present on Friday.  Herons and waders were fairly well represented.  I desperately searched for Fortser's tern among the scads of Sandwich terns which outnumbered Royals about 8:1.  On the Atlantic coast the ratio would be roughly the reverse.  I figured I would get to around 60 species by the end and 50 species after the first hour of daylight, so I was right on schedule.

The third hour held fewer new species, as expected, but I did manage to climb up to 54 species total.  Reddish egret flew right overhead and landed on the beach in a gap between Australian pines where I was able to see it further.  Red-eyed vireo came in right at the end of the hour.  This was a much wanted county tick as Manatee was the last county I needed this species and it became the 58th species I have seen in all 67 of Florida's Counties.  I have seen American redstart in 63 of the counties, not including Manatee.  I left the county still lacking this species.  Some day.

The fourth hour was the last hour I was committed to doing.  From that point, it would be a matter of weighing the chances of getting more birds with the 3.5 hour drive home and the possibility of hitting some birding spots along the way.  I added five more species to the list including Trees swallow, five fly-by Nanday conures (recently added to the ABA List as an established exotic in Florida), House finch (county tick for me), and frigatebird.  I could not stop at 59 species, so I decided to do another half hour, at least.

Very soon after the fourth hour, I got a northbound Merlin for #60 and another county tick.  very near the end of this extra period, the Clapper rails that were there Friday called again, giving me 61 for my eBird checklist which ended at 1035.  While talking with Jeanne Dubi and John Murphy, who had seen Chestnut-sided and Magnolia warblers at the park that day (which I did not from the sit), a N. Rough-winged swallow flew by for #62.  60+ is a pretty good total for one spot, especially in just over 4.5 hours.  It turned out to be the best total in Florida in 2013 and sixth best in the U.S.  If I had stuck around and gotten a three more species, I could have vaulted to #3 in the U.S.  My last Big Sit, I did not add any species after 1:30 in the afternoon.  This time, I was not prepared to do it all day.  Next year, maybe.

So, it was fun.  I hope to be able to do it again next year, either at the same place or another.  The mound near the tidal pool at Sebastian Inlet State Park very near here, was the best spot for a Big Sit in Florida.  You could see the ocean, the tidal pool, the lagoon and mud flats at load tide, mangrove swamps, weedy fields, the A1A bridge, even the mainland across the river where you could pick up Sandhill crane, Rock pigeon, and other mainland species.  The mound is gone now to make way for spoil from the latest dredging project.  Andy Bankert got over 90 species there in a day once before.  Maybe the new spoil project will provide us with another mound someday.  Next year I will probably get back to Leffis Key unless another spot strikes my fancy between now and then.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hands Across the Lagoon

I wasn't able to participate in this event, but Dee, my partner in business and life, was there and created a video posted on her site:

Check it out.  The video equipment was purchased by Birding with David Simpson.

Palm Beach County Birding 2013 09 30

Between the Cape Florida Banding Station and checking on the trailer in Clewiston, I decided to hit Snook Island Natural Area in Lake Worth.  The islands were created to provide mangrove habitat and oyster beds for fish and wildlife in the Lake Worth Lagoon.  There is a boardwalk with a gazebo at the end which provides shade and a great vista from which I have added many Palm Beach County Birds.  American oystercatchers breed here, thanks to this project.  I have seen them many times, but not every time I have been here.  It is the only place in southeast Florida where you can see oystercatchers on a regular basis.  I have seen Black and Surf scoters, not easy to find in south Florida, at this site.  Reddish egrets show up for other people, but not me.  They occur in various spots in the lagoon from here south to Boynton Inlet.  At low tide, as it was when I visited this day, there are shorebirds can be common.  The southernmost and closest island was recently completed and is not covered with mangroves, thus it is good for shorebirds.  The reason for this visit was a recently posted Red knot sighting.  Red knot is a very rare bird south of Merritt Island NWR in Florida.  I have seen one in Dade County, but not in Palm Beach.

When I got to the kiosk, I was greeted by a couple of locals who were escaping from the sun.  One of them was Demetrius Simpson who has a cousin named David Simpson.  I showed them some of the birds through the scope and on the Sibley App on my phone.  The Oystercatchers showed up while I was there.  I didn't hear or see them, they just appeared on one of the nearer islands.  The Red knot was present with a bunch of Black-bellied plovers (called Grey plover across the pond) and Least sandpipers.  I even FINALLY got a Reddish egret way in the distance.

This puts Palm Beach at 287, one behind Dade again.  Both of these counties will eventually hit 300, but it is tough to do when you don't live there.  Low density birds such as House finch, Connecticut and Bay-breasted warblers, Horned grebe, etc. continue to elude me.  House finches were introduced to the eastern U.S. (from the western U.S.) ca. 1940 when, as the story goes, a pet dealer released 40-50 birds to avoid being caught selling native wild birds.  Those birds spread throughout the eastern states eventually merging with the western population.  They spread to Florida ca. 1988 when they were found nesting in Tallahassee.  We fully expected them to be throughout the state within 5-10 years, but they seem to have hit a wall and have only very slowly spread to south Florida.  They have been found in every county in Florida and have probably nested in most, but they remain local and nomadic in most counties south of Gainesville.  Birds in southeast FL may have also come from a separate introduction in the Miami area.  Connecticut and Bay-breasted warblers migrate through in small windows of time.  Connecticut warblers are fairly common in the second week of May, less so the week before and after that.  Bay-breasted warbler is most common in the third week of October, although they may arrive in late September and linger through November.  I have yet to be in either county at the right time to tick these birds.  I was actually in Dade to chase a Townsend's warbler, which I got, when there were six Bay-breasted warblers in the same park, which I did not get.  Horned grebe is present is small numbers on Biscayne Bay in Dade, but I just haven't caught up with one yet.  I got one in Palm Beach County during an "invasion" year a few years back.  Some day I will hit 300 in Volusia (291), Dade (288), and Palm Beach (287) Counties.  A few people have achieved 300 in three different counties.  I hope to be the first person to hit 300 in four different counties.  The fourth county, Brevard, sits at 358 right now.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cape Florida Bird Banding Station

Monday September 30 was likely my one and only day this fall that I'll be able to get out to the Cape Florida Banding Station.  True to my county listing roots, I hit the beach at Crandon Park before going to the station.  Whimbrels sometimes show at the beach, including a few recent sightings.  Common tern, another hole in my list, is a coastal species that migrates through Florida at this time.  The beaches of Crandon Park, which opens earlier than Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park where the banding station is located, are pretty good for shorebirds before the crowds come and scare them away.  Monday morning, the tide was high and shorebirds were scarce.  Only about 100 Sanderlings and a single, unbanded Piping plover were present.  Many gulls, mostly Laughing with some Lesser black-backed and one Herring gull came in shortly after daylight.  Five Egyptian geese were grazing the grassy field between the south and north sections of the park.  Egyptian geese are rapidly becoming an established exotic species of bird in southeast Florida and will likely be added to the official FOSRC list and then the ABA list in the near future.  Crandon Park Zoo is the likely origin of these birds.  The former zoo, located on what is now Crandon Park, hosted many species of exotic waterfowl for years after it was closed and the other animals were removed.  Many of the 30+ species of ducks, swans, geese, shelducks, etc. are now gone.  In 2002, I remember seeing 5-6 species each of swans and geese including Coscoroba Swan and Nene geese.  Many species of whistling-ducks including the Plumed whistling-duck  were present.  One of my favorite ducks, Chiloe wigeon was also there.  Most species were in pairs but breeding was not in evidence.  High numbers of turtles in the water and iguanas outside of the water may have had something to do with that.  A recent visit to the park revealed a much smaller variety of waterfowl species.  A pair of Coscoroba swans were there and one Nene was on a nest defended by an Egyptian goose.  The nest failed later, as reported by others.  Today the Egyptian geese are prevalent in urban areas from Miami to Palm Beach Counties and smaller numbers are found as far north as Brevard County.  (eBird range map for Egyptian goose)  Note that many sightings of Egyptian goose have occurred around the state over the years, likely from other sources.

So, I was supposed to write about the banding station.  I arrived at the station, after redetermining just where it was, just in time to miss the male Painted bunting that was the first bird to be caught in the newest net, number 21.  Several folks were at the station this morning and I was able to make runs with most of them.  Numbers were low this day with 13 birds of 11 species banded at the time I left.  Worm-eating warbler was one of the species.  This species has been represented every day since the nets opened in mid-August.

I left the station around 10:40 and conducted a hawk watch on the mound at the north end of the nature trail.  This spot gives a good view of the sky and could be a great spot to do a sister hawk watch to the Florida Keys Hawkwatch.  I hope to get out here in late August or early September to look for Mississippi kite for my Dade County list.  This day, I saw seven Merlins in a half hour.  There could have been more since they were flying low over the treetops.

After my lunchtime hawk watch, I headed to Palm Beach County for another blog entry.

Dade County Listing

Sunday September 22, I was heading to Florida City to meet up with Hank Pfeifer to show Hank some life birds.  On the way, I decided to add an easy Dade County tick.  Purple swamphens have taken up residence at the Dolphin Mall.  The retention ponds along the south side are chock full of Eleocharis which happens to be one of the swamphens' favorite foods.  Swamphens nested in the southwest corner of the mall this spring.  I dropped in to find most of Miami also at the mall, inexplicably uninterested in the swamphens.  I finally found a place to park on the southeast side and set out on a hunt.  I found two adults in the southeast side so I did not have to walk clear to the other side.  #287.  After that I met up with Hank and showed him his life Common myna while we had dinner at the Denny's in Florida City.

Wednesday September 25, I had Travis the Traveling Trenovid (Travis's Blog) for the afternoon.  Travis's targets were Snail kite, Shiny cowbird, and Bronzed cowbird.  I got Snail kite along US 1 between Florida City and Key Largo in the transitional marshes above the mangrove line.  There are many Shiny cowbirds at Larry Manfredi's place in Homestead.  I was able to see one from the front yard (I didn't want to confront his psycho dog in the backyard and he was not home) but did not see the Bronzed cowbird that Hank and I saw the other day.  I spent some time at Bill Sadowski Park trying for Swainson's warbler for Travis and House finch for me while talking to Rangel Diaz.  No lifers or county birds for anyone, but it was nice to see Rangel.  Bronzed cowbird finally showed itself at the dump after I checked the nearby Cutler Wetlands.  I sure looked at a lot of starlings and Boat-tailed grackles!

Sunday the 29th, I hit a few spots in search of something, anything new for Dade.  Rains and NW winds in the night, along with reports of birds around the state gave hope of finding some good birds.  Hopes are good things to have.  Rains at Matheson Hammock made birding difficult.  Lack of birds made it even more difficult.  I eventually saw a few Hill mynas and a pair of Yellow-chevroned parakeets.  Not much for migrants present.  Next on the agenda was Bill Sadowski Park where I still hoped to pick up House finch, along with a migrant tick.  I have filled out most of the list with respect to migrant songbirds in Dade, but I still have some relatively easy holes.  Acadian flycatcher is probably one of the easiest and most inexplicable misses so far given that I have lots of Alder flycatchers, and a Willow flycatcher.  Some missing species are found in certain windows of time.  Connecticut warblers pass through primarily in the second week of May.  Bay-breasted warblers show in the third week of October.  I have yet to catch up with either of these.  Golden-winged, Canada, and Nashville warblers are rare fall migrants which I have yet to tick on Dade.  There are reports from around the state lately, none from me in Dade or anywhere else.  I did see Roberto "Toe" Torres coming down the trail.  Toe proved to be a good omen as I saw an Acadian flycatcher when I went back to show him a Ficus tree covered with Virginia creeper.  Finally!  House finches continue to elude me despite recently reliable spots.  They were not at the feeders at Sadowski.  Nearby Palmetto Bay Village Center is said to be good for this species.  There are some nice trails and mangroves here and Gilligan the American crocodile in the lagoon, but I did not find any House finches.

I checked around the Deering Estate for birding opportunities.  It seems interesting, but I was low on energy and decided to wait for another day to pay the money to do a full exploration.

No rare birds, but at least one hole filled on the Dade list, #288.

Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival over

The 2013 Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival is over now.  Boy was that fun!  Rafael Galvaez, director of the Florida Keys Hawkwatch was instrumental in helping organize the festival and in getting me involved.  We have big plans for next year!  I hope to get more involved and maybe even do some of my own activities and talks next year.  I will definitely be involved at some level.

There were a lot of local folks participating in the festival this year.  Many were not aware of the amazing spectacle of bird migration that occurs every year in the Florida Keys.  The Florida Keys Hawkwatch is the Peregrine falcon capital of the world, holding the World Record for single season and single day high counts of this species.  Shorebirds, songbirds, herons, and other species make their way through the keys every year as well.  The festival's talks and walks were designed to show off migration in the keys.

Currently the hawkwatch runs from September 15 to November 13.  Before the hawkwatch begins at 9am, they run birding transects at Long Point State Park to monitor songbird migration.  Next year, Rafael is thinking of starting the watches on July 15 and continuing to November 13.  This would give the chance to document the Swallow-tailed kite migration that is mostly finished by the traditional start of the hawkwatch.  We'll see what happens.  I'll be down there as much as I can.