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Hi again folks,

A new weekend looms and year birds await.  I must clear my mind of the last
weekend's adventures and prepare for the next chapter of the Great Big Year
Adventure.

Saturday night, check the weather.  Front stalled over central Florida, lots
of rain.  Fallout conditions!  Panhandle showing north winds.  Good for
migrants until they hit the front and come in around Pinellas County.  Plan:
Drive all night and hit Honeymoon Island and the rest of Pinellas the next
day.  Forget about hitting the coast in the panhandle, there won't be
anything there.  Oops!  I missed the left turn in Albuquerque and didn't
arrive in Dunedin until about 0930.  I figured I would hit Dunedin Hammock
first since it should be good in late morning and Osprey trail could be
pretty brutal in the sun.  Did I mention that the alleged front that was to
be there all day Saturday was long gone at this point?  I figured on making
the best of it anyway, at least I wasn't wasting my time in the boring old
panhandle.  There were 16 species of warblers at Dunedin Hammock including
Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Blackburnian, Tennessee, Prothonotary, numerous
Hooded, and waterthrushes.  Swainson's thrushes were everywhere.  I saw a
few Veeries and a possible Gray-cheeked thrush (Bicknell's?)  There were
many opportunities to study Eastern pewees.  Most, if not all, were
juveniles with varying amounts of gray on the breast, some even approaching
a complete breast band, and at least half of the mandible lt. to bright
yellow.  They were all very cooperative in vocalizing their specific
identity.  One juvenile Acadian flycatcher was also very accommodating in
letting me contemplate its features.  A cloud formed and a band of storms
seemed to be arriving as I headed to Osprey Trail (Honeymoon Island.)  On
the trail there were many, many more pewees, all were of the eastern
persuasion.  Many more opportunities to study the variance in the species.
Mostly juveniles again.  There were several species of warblers including
two more for the day list:  Yellow and Prairie.  At the end of the trail
there was a flock of seven Whimbrels and several gulls and terns, too far
away to scan effectively.  I decided to head to Ft. DeSoto next.  There was
a passing thought of hitting the nature center on the lake (Maggiore?)
nearby (don't have time to look it up right now.)  No, let's go on to Ft.
DeSoto.  Mistake, who knows?  I went on to the fort and checked East Beach
turnaround before testing the mosquitoes at East Beach Woods.  The best
sighting was of two Boutons, an adult male and a grumpy nestling in need of
a nap.  The adult Bouton gave me the rundown of all the birds reported there
that day;  no year birds.  I hit the Mulberry tree briefly before heading
off to my Aunt and Uncle's place for a hot shower and a check of the
archives.  Another day where I was too tired (and frustrated) to bird until
dark.  Wrong turns, two days of driving all night, not much for year birds,
missed the front again, let's just hit the showers.  I checked the archives
and was delighted to see that Jack and John had found an Olive-sided
flycatcher that very day at Alligator Point.  Alligator Point was one of the
stops on the Plan B route for the day.  I would definitely have seen that
bird (a lifer and apparent Florida menace bird) if I had gone with Plan B.
Now why is he calling this Lessons Learned?  I'm glad you asked.  I need to
remember to listen to the voices in my head.  Well at least the ones
originating from my own mind.  There are a couple of things that I have
learned through this Big Year experience (ordeal.)  One is that you must
avoid the trap of chasing other people's birds.  Actually, you have to pick
your chases well as some birds are more chaseable than others.  No problem
there, I think I have that one licked.  Another is that you cannot predict
the weather (and neither can the Weather Channel.)  Don't try to chase down
a cold front in the middle of the night to find a fallout.  Just bird where
you are, don't try to go where you found birds yesterday.  This is a trap
that I have seen others as well as myself fall into.  Sometimes people get
ancy when there aren't any birds where they are at.  The thought of all
those birds in another area is too tempting.  There is a tendency to want to
rush through where you are and hurry to the "good" spot down the line.  This
often leads to no birds at the "good" spot and who knows what that you
overlooked en route.  This is one of the reasons that I bird alone so often,
I don't have patience for people who don't have my patience.  It is probably
also why I find so many good birds.  The most important thing of all is just
to have fun.  Remember the mantra of the Wandering Bithorn, "Life is good!"
Keep a positive attitude and don't worry about what you are missing.  I
really would have enjoyed birding down the panhandle Saturday.  I would have
enjoyed exploring some of the areas in Ft. Walton / Pensacola on Friday,
but, as I told my friends the Knothes, I gotta remember the Big Year.  Isn't
it ironic that if I had just gone the fun route, instead of chasing
rainbows, I would have gotten another life bird(s?)  I certainly would have
had more fun.

David Simpson
[log in to unmask]
Sebastian, FL

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