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Florida Day 1

April 21, 2010

(Note: this was a note originally published to my Facebook page. I realize that it actually fits better as a blog entry. The original date of publication is preserved here. — Eric)

My Dad lives in Florida. He and his wife Judy live in a retirement community in between Avon Park and Sebring, which is about 90 miles south of Orlando. I try to visit him every year, either in the spring or fall, and when I do visit, I try to shoehorn a birding trip into it, usually in a 3 day span before I drop in. Although Florida isn’t a place I myself would ever want to move to, I always have a good time visiting, and manage to see many parts of the state I otherwise might not. I’ve also managed to run up a list of well over 200 species, just by doing these short but intense outings.

I’m back in Florida today, and this is the first time I’ve done this trip since I joined Facebook. I’m going to try to document my visit, so you can keep up with what I’m doing while I’m doing. It’s an experiment though, so bear in that mind. It might just fail. It could be a very uneven and/or boring set of notes. It can be hard to keep a good record of what happened in a day, since I tend to go wall-to-wall. For example, I didn’t get a wink of sleep last night. I stayed up all night, mostly because I needed all that time to pack and prepare for this trip. Believe me, I wanted to take a nap, and sometime around 2:30 this morning I almost gave in.

Anyway, here’s what I’m doing. This time around I’m trying to see or hear some south Florida specialties that I’ve missed on previous visits. I’ve got a list of about 10 or species that I hope to get, as well as others which I have already seen but really want photos of. Today, I made a point to check out a Red-footed Booby that has been hanging around a seabird rehab clinic for most of the past 4 months or so. It didn’t take long to find him.

Red-footed Booby, Pelican Harbor rehab center, Miami

After that I headed toward downtown and on to Key Biscayne, to visit Bill Baggs State Park, in the hopes of coming across a La Sagra’s Flycatcher that has been hanging around there since February. This flycatcher is a Caribbean rarity that only occasionally shows up in south Florida, and I was afraid that my attempt to see it would come just a few days too late. It hadn’t been reported in over a week, and sure enough I was unable to find it. However, in the couple hours I was there I did see 10 species of warblers. After this long cold winter I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to see so many.

Prairie Warbler
American Redstart
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Northern Parula
Cape May Warbler (only the 2nd time I’ve ever seen one)
Northern Waterthrush
Palm Warbler
Common Yellowthroat

There were also Eastern Towhees, Northern Cardinals, Barn Swallows, Royal Terns, and a single White Ibis cavorting about. I have pictures of some of these birds, but I now realize it would take too long for me to post them in this note. I’ll get a gallery of them up when I have a bit more time to process them.

Other species I saw today which gladdened me immensely were Black Vulture, Fish Crow, Magnificent Frigatebird, Brown Pelican, a Merlin, and even the Boat-tailed Grackle.

Anyway, tomorrow I’m off to Everglades National Park. I’m specifically in search of Black Rail, Seaside Sparrow (Cape Sable form), Barred Owl, Smooth-billed Ani, and Shiny Cowbird. If I have time and inclination in the afternoon, I’ll drive back up to southern Miami and look for Red-whiskered Bulbuls and Spot-breasted Orioles. In the evening I’m going to go back into the park and look for Chuck-will’s-widows at dusk.

Friday I’m going to Key West and doing a Dry Tortugas day trip. I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow night.

Saturday I’m going to make a concerted effort at long last to find a Mangrove Cuckoo.

But before any of that can happen, I really really need to get some sleep. Good night.

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