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Greetings:

On FLORIDABIRDS-L, John Boyd III said:

>The Tropical Audubon field trip to Marco Island turned up 2 interesting
>sparrows among the 100+ species seen today [Saturday, 11/18/00].

Don't you just love it when "outsiders" come into your "hood" and find
birds that have either never been seen previously or very rarely?
Granted, I've only been living in Collier County for a few months, but
I've spent several winters down here in years past and I have never seen
either Seaside Sparrow or Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow in Collier
County! What makes matters worse, I was ON the above mentioned TAS field
trip! Where was I when the others found these birds? Well, let's just say
that the MacBagel breakfast sandwich that I had eaten at 7:00am was doing
a serious number on my colon and lower tract by 2:00pm when the birds
were found. In other words, I was in the john! But the only john at
Tigertail Beach is nigh a mile away from where I left the group looking
at Northern Gannets on the Gulf. The sparrows were seen after I left. I
heard of their incredible good fortune when we reconnoitered back at the
concession stand and restroom area where I was waiting for them.

As an aside, this is not the first time that this type of situation has
happened to me. Once, on a Kirtland Bird Club (Cleveland, OH) outing to
Niagara Falls, Ontario in winter to see gulls, we stopped in Buffalo, NY
to find a gyrfalcon that had been reported in an industrial area of the
city. "Nature was calling" so the kindly firemen at the local firehouse
(the ONLY restroom available in the area where we were at) let me use
their's. Through the small window I could hear the others' excited calls
"gyr," "gyr!" Of course, when I rejoined my friends, they all had told me
how I had just missed the gyrfalcon that flew directly overhead while I
was in the restroom. I missed what was then a lifer due to the fact that
I was in the restroom. Never fails. . . .

Getting back to the sparrows. You can bet I'll be back down at Tigertail
this week to look for them. It would be nice to have four or five others
to help flush the birds as they're notorious skulkers.

From John Boyd's description of the Seaside Sparrow seen, I would have to
agree that the subspecies is either peninsulae or junicola (the races on
the West Coast of Florida.) Neither of these subspecies, to the best of
my knowledge, have been reported from Collier County. (Yes Rex, I
checked-out Stevenson and Anderson's "Birdlife of Florida.") In "Birds of
the Naples Area: A Field Checklist" (1991) compiled by Ted Below for the
Collier County Audubon Society, only Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow
(mirabilis) is mentioned as having occurred in the county. T. Below rates
the relative abundance of that subspecies as "BR-4" (Breeds in Collier
County" or "Is in Collier County all year, but doesn't necessarily breed
here.") Even these data, from what were the results of the Florida
Breeding Bird Atlas, have to be called into question because much has
occurred to the former habitat and recent demise of Cape Seaside Sparrow
in Collier County since this checklist was written in 1991. As an aside,
I believe I recall reading in Kenn Kaufman's "Kingbird Highway" his
account of finding mirabilis at Ochopee (Collier County) in the mid-70's.

As for Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow, John Boyd III said:

>Evidently, no Sharp-tailed Sparrows of any kind have been reported in Fall
>from Collier, and this may be the first report of Nelson's from Collier.
>I'm not sure about the race, mostly because I wasn't sure what to look for.

In the same checklist mentioned above, T. Below lists "Sharp-tailed
Sparrow" [sic] (this was many years before the split between Nelson's and
Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow) as "V-W-4." From the checklist, this
means "V = Visitor: Spends part of the year in Collier County", "W =
Winter" and "4 = Not every year." So at least one of the Sharp-tailed
Sparrows (probably Nelson's) has a historical presence in Collier County
in Winter and Stevenson and Anderson confirm this in their dot maps. But
like John Boyd stated, no mention of either species is mentioned for Fall.

What can we learn of the above? 1) On field trips, stay with your group!
and 2) Don't eat Mickey D's for breakfast unless you have a cast iron
stomach and a not-so-easily-excitable colon!

Other highlights from the TAS field trip (most of which I did manage to
see)  are as follows:

Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk (along U.S. Rte. 41):

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Tufted Titmouse
Black-throated Blue Warbler
ubiquitous Palm and Yellow-rumped Warbler
ubiquitous Blue Gray Gnatcatcher
American Redstart
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Bald Eagle
Barred Owl (heard)
Eastern Screech-Owl (heard)
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Northern Parula
Black-and-White Warbler
Blue-headed Vireo
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Pileated Woodpecker

Brigg's Nature Center (Naples): (Don't bother going here as the boardwalk
is closed, the feeders won't be put out until mid-December and the Shiny
Cowbirds haven't arrived.)

Cooper's Hawk
Florida Scrub-Jay
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Towhee
Osprey
many Tree Swallows
White-eyed Vireo

Tigertail Beach (Marco Island):

@1 American White Pelican
@6 Magnificent Frigatebird
several Northern Gannet
@1 Great "White" Heron
@1 white morph Reddish Egret (along with several normals)
@1 Herring Gull
@1 Red-breasted Merganser
Black-bellied, Wilson's, Snowy (few), Piping (many banded) &
Semi-palmated Plover
few American Oystercatcher
few Greater Yellowlegs
Short-billed Dowitcher
Red Knot
Ruddy Turnstone
Western & Least Sandpiper
Willet
Dunlin
@1 Killdeer
Sanderling
few Forster's Tern and many Royals. Caspian(?)
Common Ground-Dove
@2 vocalizing American Crow at the concession stand area (Who says Fish
Crow only frequent the coast?)
@1 Blue-headed Vireo
@1 Prairie Warbler, ubiquitous Palm and Yellow-rumped Warbler
ubiquitous Blue Gray Gnatcatcher
@1 Ovenbird
Savannah Sparrow
@1 NELSON'S SHARP-TAILED SPARROW
@1 SEASIDE SPARROW
@1 beautiful Male PAINTED BUNTING -- found by Jill Rosenfield (thanks
Jill!) and seen eating seed cones in an Australian Pine at the concession
stand area.
@1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Eagle Lakes Community Park (@1 mile north of jct. U.S. Rte. 41 and C.R.
951 (Collier Blvd.) on U.S. 41 -- Naples):

Due to the extreme lowering of the water table due to the current
drought, the birds (and several alligators) were highly concentrated into
one impoundment. Seen were:

many Wood Stork and large numbers of most all of the "typical" wading
birds, Anhinga, Double-crested Cormorant etc.
@10 Blue-winged Teal
@1 female Wood Duck
several Mottled Duck
@1 AMERICAN BITTERN seen capturing and devouring a young water snake.
Fascinating! Several of us saw this bird after most of the TAS group left
home for Miami. First, the bird was maintaining its "you can't possibly
see me" typical erect pose. Then after it spied the snake, it lowered
it's neck and upper body "ever so slowly" at the same time doing a
heretofore never witnessed (by me or the others present), what can only
be called a mesmerizing (to the snake?) "dance", in which it undulated
its neck and upper torso side-to-side. Then it grabbed the snake behind
the head and ate it head first. The tail of the snake could be seen
"flailing" in the bittern's mouth as it was being eaten alive. Isn't
Nature grand? Incredible.
@1 Loggerhead Shrike
Noticeably absent: Bald Eagle! The park is named after the Bald Eagles
that frequent it.

All in all, it was a remarkable day. Thanks to Brian Repoza, Paul
Bithorn, Bruce Purdy, Jill Rosenfield, John Boyd III and the others for
their expertise and camaradery.

Vincent Lucas
Naples