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Florida Epilogue

December 20, 2005

The wife and I returned to Colorado from Florida last night. We had a nice time – and I managed to squeeze in some birding into what was really just a short getaway vacation for my hardworking spouse.

The bird stories, summarized:

  • No Pileateds, like I was hoping for. We were at my Dad’s for two days, but the weather was lousy. We biked through the woodsy area where I’ve seen them before but no dice.
  • Shark Valley birds were OK, but very sparse. Damage from Wilma certainly must include more than just park infrastructure. The flooding is very extensive, and wetlands which normally are just marshy are now under a foot or two of water, way too deep for waders (and apparently still too shallow for divers or dabblers). It was kinda scary actually, looking out to the horizon for long stretches and seeing virtually no birds anywhere. Overall I counted maybe a dozen Ibises, no ducks, and one sandpiper.
  • When we did see birds in the Everglades, many of them were Anhingas. The wife got very good at spotting them. In general she also enjoys birdwatching when the birds are large and easy to see, without optics. Otherwise she feels left out, and impatient.
  • Oh, a Green Herons too. I’ve never seen so many Greens so easily. But no Night-Herons, either Black- or Yellow-crowned.
  • One particular Black Vulture we saw in Shark Valley had no tail feathers. None. I wish I’d gotten a photo of it. Its legs stuck out behind it, and even my wife noticed it.
  • Birds elsewhere, including my Dad’s, were also pretty sparse in general. Curiously though, when I visited in October, they had a pretty nice selection of migrants there. Maybe it’s just some mid-December doldrums? I’m curious to hear how their CBCs turn out.
  • At Bahia Honda State Park in the Keys, I saw a visitor report in their nature center of a Bald Eagle in the park last fall. I wasn’t sure if I believed it, thinking that Balds would be pretty uncommon down there, which is probably true. I also imagine that many casual observers can confuse Osprey with Balds, if they’re not familiar with both birds. However, on our drive back to the mainland, we did spot a Bald Eagle perched high on a power pole in the Keys. I was convinced that the visitor report was likely legit. Who am I to doubt?
  • An hour after we left my Dad’s for the airport, he took this photo of one of his feeders. Having never seen the male Painted Bunting, I’m kicking myself for having missed it by such a small margin.
  • I picked up one more Year Bird on the trip – Royal Tern.
  • I got close to getting a Barred Owl too – we heard two of them at Mahogany Hammock in Everglades NP in late afternoon, calling to each other. But they never showed themselves, and my wife tugged on my sleeves to get us over to the Pa-hay-okee Overlook for the sunset.
  • I did get some nice bird shots overall for the trip. Yes, I will post a couple more soon.

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