1.    The Hunt for Dead October
2.    One (two) bird(s) make all the difference.
3.    Cuckoo, cuckoo
4.    What lessons learned?
5.    Oh, come on!  Just get on with the story!

Here we go again.  I am stranded at home tonight due to a flat tire.  It may
be a good thing that this happened as it forces me to sit back and rest for
a little while.  At any rate, I am here and it is time for another chapter
of Who Wants to Be a Maniac?

A three day weekend this time.  The usual Saturday to Monday.  Saturday and
I am on my own.  The Radamaker had work obligations, so I set off for Rat
Mouth (Boca Raton) to see what's happening at Spanish River Park.  This is a
good time of year for Yellow-bellied flycatcher (life bird for me) and I
must put myself into position for the lifer.  I was so close.  I got there
around 0730 and wandered through the park seeing a few warblers, cardinals,
gnatcatchers, etc.  I checked around picnic area #8 (the area where I found
the Western spindalis last year) because it is fairly well lit in the early
am and can be active.  There were a few ovenbirds and the usual common
stuff.  I headed out to the field, another area that should be good in the
early am, and saw a few Painted buntings, Yellow-throated, Red-eyed, and
White-eyed vireos, as well as a few warbler species.  There was a Tennessee,
some yellowthroats, one Palm, and a few others that I cannot remember.
Brian Hope showed up after a few minutes.  He had arrived about 20 minutes
later than me and had seen a pewee and a Yellow-bellied flycatcher at #8.
The yellow-bellied was calling directly under the pewee.  We went back and
looked, but both birds were long gone.  We checked throughout the park and
found virtually nothing more, not even the pewee.  It appears that the birds
were stopping by briefly in the morning to feed and then heading on.  The
filed which was fairly active early, was completely dead later.  The pewee,
always easy to see, was nowhere to be seen.  Darn north winds.  Get in the
right place, but too early.  Must be that phenomenal luck I have.  We headed
out to South County Park (name?) to check around and see what may be there.
I had not been here before, and it looked like a pretty neat place to check
in the future.  Apparently Black-throated green warblers can be seen
wintering here.  Brian has seen up to eight birds here.  Yellow-bellied
flycatchers have been known to be here, but not today.  After lunch we
headed to Delray Oaks, and PB County owned property near Brian's place.  It
is a small park with many mature oaks and could be pretty productive, but
today the birds were windsurfing their way south.  After this, Brian headed
on home and I decided to make my way slowly back home.  I decided to try
McArthur Park in north Palm Beach County next.  It is right on the coast and
has some interesting habitat.  At the park I saw two warblers, both were
Palm.  There was absolutely nothing on the nature trail.  The beach produced
very little in the NE winds.  There were a few flocks of Blue-winged teal
and some Caspian terns.  Where to now?  Well, what lessons did I learn last
week?  This is about having fun.  One of the reasons for doing these Big
Years was to explore the state and do what I like best:  poke around and
investigate new areas.  I haven't been to Ft. Pierce Inlet in forever and I
don't remember much about it.  Pranty's guide has a fairly good review, so
off I go.  Most of the park seems to have been cleared at some point in the
past and is in a state of succession.  There is some good coastal hammock
complete with a trail near the pier.  I checked out the beach briefly and
saw about 200 B.w. Teal flying by.  It was interesting to watch the reaction
of the birds as they cam across the pier and inlet.  The pier didn't
necessarily bother them, but as they cam across the choppy waters coming out
of the inlet, they would rise up off the water and, sometimes even try to
turn around before vaulting over the offending impasse.  They never seemed
to go out to sea, just up and over.  Along the inlet there were a few
shorebirds including a couple of Piping plovers.  As darkness approached, I
ate supper and headed on to my humble abode.  Time to make plans for the
next day.  Call the Radamaker, check the listserve, check the weather.
Hmmm, the Radamaker is interested in chasing the Sabine's gull at Green Key.
Is it a good chase?  I'm skeptical, but he's driving.  If we don't get the
bird, we'll be near some good birding areas, so why not?

Sunday, I head to Orlando and we shoot out for Green Key.  We got there
before anyone else did, so we were the first to be disappointed.  There was
a nice variety of shorebirds and a few gulls sitting on the beach.  As
morning progressed, birders came in, all wanting to know if we found The
Bird.  One of the nice things about chasing is that you get to see other
birders.  Some of the folks I had not seen for some time.  It was good to
see and talk to the people, but it was not helping the infernal list.  Jeff
and Clay had just seen Budgies at Hudson Beach, about eight miles up the
road.  The Radamaker had not seen this tickable bird yet, so we headed out
to try for another bird for his Florida list that he does not care about.
The budgies had either left of taken cover (a band of storms were moving
through.)  We made a U-turn to look at a suspiciously pale collared dove on
an antennae.  After studying the bird, it appeared to be a juvenile Eurasian
collared-dove, not a Ringed turtle-dove.  On to Honeymoon Island and Osprey
trail.  We walked the entire trail seeing lots of trees and bushes.  There
were not even very many Ospreys on the trail.  There were two pewees, both
Eastern, near the beginning.  Catbirds, yellowthroats, Palm warblers, and
mosquitoes were in evidence throughout.  Near the end, in a thicket, we
found small flock including Chestnut-sided, Prairie, and a few others.  A
nice assortment of terns were at the end of the trail including Common,
Royal, Forster's, Sandwich, and Caspian.  Dunedin Hammock park.  Would more
birds await us there?  Not much more.  There were a couple of
Chestnut-sideds, Tennessee, parula, Yellow-throated, and a couple others.
No thrushes, tanagers, or flycatchers.  That's enough of this.  I need to
save my energy for later in the week when the front finally comes through.
Off to Orlando to catch the late games.  I thought it would not be until
January that I watched another football game, but I am only human, and
pacing myself is one of the lessons of September. Air conditioning, chips
and salsa, and a glorious Buc victory over the cheeseballs, that's what I
needed!  As I left for home, there were clouds forming overhead.  Hmm, maybe
I will go birding tomorrow after all.  I had thought I might as well work
tomorrow and take off later when the weather became more friendly for
birders.  Let's check the weather and decide.  Decision, tomorrow looks as
good as any other day, let's go birding!
Monday, local birding only.  Barely over 100 miles on the truck today.
Start the day with the contractors at Wabasso.  During the week, some of the
local contractors converge on the beach at Wabasso to enjoy the sunrise
before heading off to work.  I was there to observe the hordes of pelagic
migrants blowing in off the ocean.  There was a high pressure system in the
Midwest that was creating north winds from the New England area down to
Florida where they turned east and blew their bounty on our shores.  There
must have been a hole in the net, because there was not much but herons and
a few teal flying by.  No Sabine's gull, Long-tailed jaeger, or Hudsonian
godwit.  All three of those are moving right now and they show up in these
conditions.  I checked most of Jungle Trail.  There were lots of Indigo
buntings, a Blue grosbeak, a Sora, a few Bobolinks and a small assortment of
warblers.  Again, no tanagers, thrushes, or flycatchers.  The beach at
Treasure Shores Park was fairly unproductive.  I was there from about 1000
to 1100.  When I have done beach watches in the past, I usually stay from
0700 to about 1100.  Often, the best birds come by from 0900 to 1030.  I
haven't done it that much and I don't have much evidence, but that is my
general impression.  As I said, I hit the area from 1000 to 1100, the last
third of the golden window, and there was not much there.  Not much in terms
of numbers, but one of those birds made the day.  I watched a strange
looking gull as it flew by.  Not much of interest here, probably just
another Laughing gull.  It looked a little strange, the head and bill
weren't quite right and the tail looked a little long.  I turned and showed
two white triangles in the trailing edges of the wings.  I chase a Sabine's
gull one day and find one the next day.  Go figure.  I told Kurt yesterday
that we would probably get the birds that day and then I would find one
later.  That has happened with McGillivray's warbler, Bahama mockingbird
twice, and Lazuli bunting.  Turns out I was half right.  That one bird
floated me through the rest of the day.  I was able to study it for about
five minutes as it flew by, right over the surf.  Next stop was Sebastian
Inlet SRA.  I wanted to check the field of dreams for vagrants and look in
the tidal pool for Hudwits.  No Hudwits in the pool.  Bobolinks in the usual
areas of the field.  There were two different Peregrine falcons in the dead
Australian pines surrounding the field.  As I headed around the south side
of the field, I was hot and tired.  I wanted to go on back to the truck and
not do my usual loop through the vegetation.  I went anyway, not going to
see any birds sitting in the truck.  Flapping sounds, what is that?  It's a
cuckoo.  Plain brown back no flash of rufous in the wings.  No rufous?
Golly, I think I know what that is!  I got a good look at the bird as it
flew away in the sunlight.  As I set off in pursuit, more flapping.  A
Yellow-billed cuckoo flew by from behind where the first one came out.  This
bird showed the warmer tones and bright rufous flash characteristic of this
species.  I could also see the black on the face and stout bill with yellow
mandible.  The first bird was a Black-billed, which I have now seen three
times in Florida. This is the first time I got a good enough look to say for
sure.  I had one at Fort DeSoto last
April that was most likely a Black-billed and one at work.  I did a little
research on the cuckoos in The Birds of North America.  I learned a lot of
things (one of the real reasons for doing this.)  One of the more
interesting things is that the juveniles of the two species are actually
more brightly colored in the primaries.  Yellow-billed cuckoos have a bright
rufous flash in the wingtips caused by the rufous outer webs of the
primaries.  Adult Black-billeds lack this feature.  First year Black-billeds
have dull cinnamon webs on the primaries and the primaries of juvenile
Yellow-billeds are actually more rufescent than adults.  They also eat some
cool things including Monarch butterflies (Black-billed) and engage is some
interspecific nest parasitism.  Pretty cool.  I watched the beach for a
little while longer, but nothing happening.  Why not shop for some work
clothes.  10 shirts for $10 at the thrift shop, can't beat that.  I hit
Turkey Creek last, where I ran into a few birds and birders.  Bob Brown and
friend (I'm terrible with names) were there and we carried on a conversation
only birders would understand.  We talked about various subjects while
staring intently at the tops of the trees and occasionally raising
binoculars.  That might seem rude to some, but it was perfectly natural to

Back home and back to work.  No chance to hit the beach this evening due
tire troubles.  Maybe tomorrow.  These sustained easterly winds are probably
producing something.

David Simpson
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Sebastian, FL

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