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As the next weekend approaches, I figure I better send out a report on last
weekend.  I have been too busy at work this week planting about 1,399,450
Longleaf pine seedlings to stay awake long enough to send out a post.

Last Saturday I started the day at Fort DeSoto with Austin and Ron Smith.  I
was hoping for a Saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow for the year.  We did see
several Nelson's and the Seaside sparrow, but no Saltmarsh.  Afterwards,
Paul Blair, was kind enough to show me around Pinellas Point where we picked
up a Long-billed curlew.  On the way back to the park again, I saw five
Whimbrels on the left just before the last bridge.  A quick run through the
park produced the usual number of Elegant terns, zero.  After that, it was
on to Myakka SP to find the needle in the haystack (Cinnamon teal.)  I went
to the Concession area and worked east toward the Birdwalk.  There were a
few concentrations along the way, but the main group (1000+) was east of the
birdwalk.  I spent a few hours perusing the ducks trying to find my target
to no avail.  I saw a female American widgeon several times and a male
Mallard of unknown origin.  The last stop of the day was the Celery Fields.
I was hoping that I could pick up a White-rumped sandpiper or a Short-eared
owl.  There were quite a few people there with the same intentions.  No sign
of White-rumped sandpiper.  One of us got to see the Short-eared owl, but I
was looking the other way.  There were hundreds of Black-bellied whistling
ducks flying overhead after dark.  Then it was on to Delray Beach for the
night.

Sunday, I hooked up with Brian Hope for some bird finding.  We spent the
early morning searching unsuccessfully searching for the Ani's at
Loxahatchee NWR.  Brian commented that the recent cold may have killed off
their food supply sending them packing.  You could certainly see the effects
of the frosts this winter.  Here in Sebastian we have had 12 frosts this
winter.  In the previous five years I think I have seen about 5-6 frosts
total.  We birded some more areas in search of some of the birds Brian had
seen earlier.  We struck out again.  I began to see a pattern.  Have you
ever had the experience of "you should have been here yesterday?"  Well,
when you continually chase other people's rarities, you are setting yourself
up for that.  That's not to say that you shouldn't chase birds, but when
doing a Big Year, it may be wise to pick and choose your chases.  The teal
was a good chase, I'm sure it was there, it was just hard to see in the
vegetation.  We did a few more stakeouts in the PM and actually got those.
There were eight Smooth-billed Anis at the Fort Lauderdale Airport.  There
is a little park on the SW corner of the airport and the Ani's are either
there or on the perimeter fence on the west side.  We also saw a pair of
Burrowing owls at Florida Atlantic University.

Monday I decided to get one more use out of my annual pass at Everglades
National Park.  I started at Snake Bight Trail to find the Brown-crested
flycatcher that taunted me for 50 minutes last year without showing its
face.  After a little waiting, the bird appeared in the trees on the right
side of the trail.  The back was brown without a hint of olive and the bill
was noticeably larger than Great-crested with no light color at the base of
the mandible.  This was my first lifer of the day.  I counted last year's
bird on my year list, but I have higher standards for Life and State lists.
I went down the trail to miss the Flamingos again.  The mosquitoes were
moderate and so were the birds.  I heard eight waterthrushes, three of which
I was able to see and ID.  The first was a Louisiana.  It was actually
singing.  I did not see the throat of the bird, but I did make a few
observations.  The supercilium was immaculate white.  It did not widen
behind the eye as I have observed on most Louisiana's in the past.  The
underparts were very white as well.  Most Northerns are yellowish
underneath, but some are white.  The buffy on the flanks was restricted to
the rear.  It was very much like the illustration in Sibley's Guide.  One
field mark that I had not even looked at in the past was the leg color.  I
always figured, "Leg color on a bird that walks around in the mud, come on."
Actually, waterthrushes spend a good deal of time in the vegetation over the
water.  On this bird, the legs were bright bubble gum pink.  The second
Louisiana had the usual supercilium widening behind the eye and more
extensive buffy on the flank.  I did see the white throat on this bird.  The
Northern that I observed had dull greenish legs and dingier underparts and
supercilium.  It had a more extensive white throat than any other Northern I
have seen.  It was about 1/3 as much as the Louisiana.  Most of the
Northerns with white on the throat that I have observed only had a white
chin.

At the end of the trail I decided to take a walk along the bight to the
left.  There were hundreds of shorebirds roosting shorebirds and I needed to
get around behind them for better light.  I searched through for a
Bar-tailed godwit or Curlew sandpiper but they were all of the common
varieties.  Interestingly, there was no sign of Avocets anywhere.  Of
course, there were no Flamingos.  I did manage to get mud on my tripod and
boots, so the trip was not a total loss.

I decided to try a few places that I had not been before just for fun.  I
went to West Lake to see what that was all about.  I was greeted by a very
loud Orange-crowned warbler.  I was hoping that it was a Nashville, but it
did not cooperate.  There was a female American redstart and a Magnolia
warbler on the trail.  I lunched at Mahogany Hammock and searched for the
T/C kingbird that Larry Manfredi had seen before.  There I go looking for
stakeouts again.  It was pretty windy and no flycatchers made an appearance.
After Lunch I tried a rock pit just off the main road for Least grebe.  No
such luck this time but if I hit it about 1,234,567 more times I'm sure I'll
see one or two.  There was a Wurdeman's heron sitting at the back of the
pond.  I have not seen any at Snake Bight this winter; last winter I saw
several.

Using the Pranty Guide, I checked Mary Krome Park, Camp Awaissa Bauer, and
Castellow Hammock.  Mary Krome Park was a bit difficult to bird due to
traffic noise and wind.  At Castellow Hammock, which has only been recently
been opened back up, I talked with a fellow long-hair who grew up across the
river from me in Cocoa Beach.  He remembers it before Ron Jon's when all the
bridges were made of wood.  The only birds that I saw were at the camp.  I
was told that they normally don't let people in unless they are camping, but
since no one was camping  at the time, I could look around.  That was to
prove fortunate for me because this was to be the site of the second lifer.
I found a small flock of songbirds consisting of two gnatcatchers, an adult
male Black-throated green warbler whose call drew my attention in the first
place, a Blue-headed vireo and a bird I first IDed as a Warbling vireo but
upon further review decided was a Bell's vireo.  I did not realize how
difficult it was to separate the two until encountering this bird.  One
problem was that this was a very dull bird with no trace of a wing bar.
Bell's vireo is known to winter in Florida but a Warbling would be rare at
any season, especially in winter.  Bell's has a longer tail and is much more
fidgety, somewhat like a kinglet.  I could not honestly remember the tail or
its behavior when I checked the guides.  I do remember an impression of the
tail flicking, but that could just be suggestion from reading about it.
When I had the bird in view, I concentrated on the face pattern and
underparts.  It was basically the Orange-crowned warbler of the vireo clan.
I often refer to Orange-crowned as a warbler starter kit, no field marks.
Well this was a vireo starter kit.  The only field mark was a lt. gray line
above the eye and gray line through the eye.  The lores were gray as well
eliminating Philadelphia vireo.  My initial impression was a Red-eyed vireo,
but it would have to be dipped in bleach or have spent a good deal of time
in the sun to get that washed out.  The only vireos that accorded with this
bird were Warbling and Bell's.  I did not think that it was Bell's at first
due to the lack of a wing bar, but illustrations in Sibley and accounts in
Stevenson and Anderson led me to think that the wing bar could be absent.
At any rate, this was the second lifer.

There were more adventures that day, not much but at least one interesting
find, but the effects of all this manual labor are catching up to me and I
must sign off for now.  If any of this account did not make sense, blame it
on the government for working me too hard.  And, of course, please feel free
to ask me for clarification.

David Simpson
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