Today I got a life Christmas Bird Count today, Long Pine Key in Everglades National Park (ENP). Robin Diaz runs the count and brings her famous brownies and treats us to dinner at Rosita's mexican restaurant in Florida City.
I was one of the "independent contractors" in the Hole in the Donut part of ENP. I was assigned to Gate 15 where I tromped out to one of the mounds left behind by the Brazilian pepper removal project. This mound is overgrown with grasses and brush and a few trees and surrounded by marshes. I have always wanted to head out there early in the morning to see what birds might be there. This morning was my chance. Unfortunately, this morning was also very windy. I managed to get some songbirds on the hill, Grasshopper and Savannah sparrows, many Common yellowthroats, House wrens, and only a couple Palm warblers. The mound offers a commanding view of the marsh with an underwhelming amount of waterfowl. There were less than 10 American coots and three Ring-necked ducks along with a couple Common gallinules and a Pied-billed grebe. Wading birds were in abundance as a roost of ca. 200 Great egrets fanned out over the marshes and White ibises totaling 650 birds in many flocks passed by. One Glossy ibis accompanied them. No King rails in the surrounding marsh and only one Sora. I had lots of ones this morning: one American bittern, one Yellow-crowned night-heron, one Black-crowned night-heron, one Snail kite, one Northern harrier, one Peregrine falcon, one Ruby-throated hummingbird. The last two were the only ones found on the count, I think.
After the mound, I headed back to the gate and was joined by "Toe" and we walked west along the edge of the remaining pepper forest. There we would find more of the same with the exception of one Northern waterthrush, and one White-crowned pigeon.
10:15 and we were done, so we wandered over to Royal Palm to partake of Robin's brownies and meet for lunch. Once done with this, we got our afternoon assignment: Gate 10. Toe, and the Diaz brothers and I set off for West Lake, not our assignment, but there were Greater scaup and Redhead there. Toe and Rangel are doing a Dade County Big Year and I am looking for Dade County life birds. The scaup is new for all of us, Redhead new for me. I got there first and found a female Greater scaup with stopped preening and went to sleep as the others arrived. Rangel and I saw a male Greater scaup streak across the pond and out of sight, showing the diagnostic white stripe extending unbroken to the end of the wing. Eventually we found a male Greater scaup in the flock of mostly coots. Toe got some unassisted digiscoped shots (no adaptor) of the male. There were several Redheads, some American wigeon, and a very dark female Ruddy duck in the pond as well as about 900 American coots. In a dark corner of the back of the pond was an American crocodile, visible to the naked eye as a gray strip at the base of the mangroves.
Eventually, we went to our assigned area and got a bunch of Pine warblers, a Prairie warblers, Blue-headed vireo, and a few others.
On the way to Rosita's, I stopped at Lucky Hammock, "The Annex" to take a quick shot at Western tanager and Nashville warbler (missed again) and ran into some FWC and SFWMD folks who were working in the area. I pointed out an exotic plant to them (Jasminum fluminense I think) which is taking over a couple of Ficus trees. I snagged a piece and showed it to them before leaving for dinner.
Dinner was quite good and much needed. The numbers of individuals were down, but species numbers were way up, 126 species is three shy of the record of 129.
It was a great CBC and lots of fun to see and bird with the great folks in Miami.