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Hi all,

So, it has been a year since that fateful day that none of us will ever
forget.  A year ago today, I decided to put forth another one of my
ramblings for anyone who needed a diversion.  Today, as we are barraged with
images, sound bites, and interviews of 9/11.  Again, I feel the need for a
diversion.  As with most stories, there will be lessons to learn, humor to
be tolerated, and a few rare bird sightings to be divined.  I hope you enjoy
this.

So what is this?  After two Big Years, I think I will dub 2002, the Busy
Year.  I can't recall being this strapped for time, even during the Big
Ordeal that was 2000-2001.  But the stories must go on.

What a weekend this was!  The last time I saw two life birds in one day in
Florida was 23 Dec 99 when I saw the white trash Snowy Owl at St. George's
Island SP and later the Winter wren at Florida Caverns SP.  During two
vigorous Big Years, 30 life birds, and 44 state birds, it never happened
again.  Bells Vireo, duh!  Last Saturday, thanks to the Hairy Man (and the
old salt), it would happen again.  The time was about noon.  I was sitting
in one of the tropicbird observation platforms (lounge chairs.)  A commotion
was heard and the word jaeger was uttered.  Pomarine or Parasitic?  Well,
there is a third possibility, Long-tailed does come through early.  The bird
was flying low and actively pursuing Sooty terns for different reasons than
we were.  I managed a few good looks before it vanished for good.  Twice, I
saw the two white shafts on the primaries that are diagnostic for
Long-tailed.  Perhaps annoyed by the competition, it harassed another jaeger
(Parasitic) allowing a good comparison of size.  The bird was a dark
juvenile (adults do not have a dark morph in this species.)  In size it was
approximately the same size as the Sooty terns from which it sought its
ill-gotten gain.  Within minutes, a small black and white shearwater flew
by.  Cool, another Audubon's.  Fleeting thoughts of Manx flicker in my mind.
The undertail coverts look dark, or are they?  Murray says no, it's a Manx.
Further observation and one close banking view showed that indeed Murray was
right, the undertail coverts were white, setting off the pink legs.  The
wing linings were clean, bright white.  Flight pattern was a bit different
from Audubon's: deeper wing beats, not quite as stiff (wing tips undulating)
and wings raised higher in flight.   One person on board got some video of
the bird which may serve to document this sighting.  Thanks Murray for lifer
#2!

I would see most of the birds that were sighted that day with the exception
of the Red phalarope sighted by Brian "Hey, look at my eyebrow ring" Ahern.
I think I saw the bird fluttering away, but I had no idea what it was.  If
the bird gods are not too crazy, maybe Roger and I will see some in Mayport
this winter.  After the trip, several of us, including Bob "Jonesin' for
Sailfish" Wallace, went to the local restaurant/bar for supper and the
chance to watch the beginning of the Miami - Florida tragedy.  After that it
was all I
could do to get a shower and get some rest.  I have been getting up at 0430
to beat the heat at work for weeks and 0330 to get to Ponce Inlet in time
for the trip, so I was happy but tired.

Sunday, we met several more friends including Dr. Beard, er Bob Paxson.
Unfortunately, the weather would not prove as friendly that day and the
captain decided against going out.  The group set out for some of the local
birding hotspots, of which there are many.  Andy's Father's Son had come up
for the trip and it was decided that I would be responsible for his
entertainment and education this day.  We hit Lighthouse Point Park first.
Songbirds were virtually absent.  Most of the group went to the pier
for a brief sea bird watch which yielded nothing.  There were a couple of
oystercatchers on the spit in the inlet along with several laughing gulls
and a few species of terns.  The group would take the 45 minute drive to the
other side of the inlet and visit Smyrna Dunes Park.  Andy and I went on to
Apollo
Beach (north end of Canaveral National Seashore a.k.a. Turtle Mound.)  I was
interested in looking for more songbirds.  Sometimes the slow days produce
some interesting sightings among the few birds present.  As we headed down
Eldora Road, a chunky warbler flew towards and past us.  Redstart, just like
the ones we saw offshore.  Check to make sure.  Bright yellow belly, gray
head and breast.  What plumage is that?  Certainly not a redstart.  Which
warblers have the combination of bright yellow belly and gray head and
throat.  Only the non-Kentucky Oporornis species have this.  According to
Sibley, Connecticut has dull yellow underparts.  This bird flew by at close
range and was quite bright yellow.  Mourning is the overwhelming favorite
although McGillavray's reaches Central America by mid-August.  They could
also reach Florida by early September.  For now, we are calling in
MournGillivray's warbler.  The bird flew on and I decided it was not worth
stopping to search for the bird when they are virtually impossible to find.
Andy thought otherwise.  Andy doesn't realize that when I decide to do
something (or not) it doesn't matter how much you keep asking me, I'm not
changing my mind.  At the Eldora State House (name?) we found a Northern
waterthrush, the first of many that day.  Pelagic watching at Parking lot #2
proved fruitless, especially compared to yesterday's boat trip, so we headed
on to Blackpoint.  Along SR 3, we stopped north of Dummitt Grove and scanned
the tree tops for kingbirds.  All that we saw were Eastern.  There were
about 30-40 on the wires and tops of orange trees.  At Blackpoint, the water
levels had risen, moving the birds at #6 back toward #5.  There were less
birds overall, especially shorebirds, so after eating lunch, we went on to
the FIND site.  We were able to drive in and check out the water.  128 White
pelicans along with tons of Black terns, a few Least terns, and shorebirds,
including an avocet were present.  We poked around the groves a bit, looking
for buntings before heading back down SR3 into the refuge again.

.... Composition interrupted, back to work ....

Driving the highway, Andy was ever vigilant in his assignment to find an
Olive-sided flycatcher or Tropical Kingbird.  "What are those birds?" he
says.  I glanced at the flock and they looked like kingbirds.  Pulling off
the road, we confirmed that they were indeed kingbirds, 120 of them.  The
flock seemed a little confused, changing directions twice before they split
up with some going south and others turning back north.  We checked again at
the orange grove north of Dummitt Grove and found several more kingbirds.
The total for this run was 165, all Easterns.  A quick run through the
orange grove was relatively unproductive.  Andy noted that he had more
species of plants stuck to him than bird species seen.  A good lesson in
bird finding.  There are many more misses than hits.  Oak Hammock was the
next destination, where Andy's Father's Son's Father and Mother would rescue
him from more plant walks.  I went on to find some more song birds and had
about equal success to the Dummitt romp.  With the fading daylight, I headed
to Viera and the Click Ponds to finish off the day with Upland SP,
Buff-breasted sandpiper, golden plover, Fork-tailed flycatcher, or the
search thereof.  Is it possible to have four strikes?  Well tonight I would
have just that.  I got to the Click Ponds with enough light to make an
adequate search for phalaropes, etc.  The water was a little higher after
the storm and shorebirds were down in number.  A few new ducks had arrived.
In the southwest corner, a flock of blue-winged dabblers actively fed next
to the berm.

... Another interruption, homework assignment ...

Okay, let's wrap this thing up before it's 9/12.

Blue-winged dabblers as in dabbling ducks with blue wing patches as in
shovelers and teal.  There were about a dozen Blue-winged along with three
FOTS Northern shovelers, all in eclipse plumage.  Actually, I'm not sure if
eclipse is the right term for the females' plumage.  Have you ever looked
closely at an eclipse Northern shoveler?  They have a really strange iris
color.  Combined with the unkempt look of eclipse plumage and that
over-sized bill they look almost psychotic.  It was rather like looking in a
mirror.  But those weren't the interesting birds present.  One of the birds
in the group was a big honker.  No, it was not a goose (e.g. one who honks)
but just a larger bird (e.g. generic term for anything bigger than normal.)
Actually it was only about 5% larger than its brethren (systhren?) but how
else was I going to work that joke in?  Its bill was noticeably larger and
deeper at the base.  Most of all, it had a decidedly browner color.  How
many of you know where I am going with this?  I checked out the iris color
and it was definitely brown.  I could not make it red for anything.  Dead
end?  Well, not so fast.  I continued to study this most intriguing slightly
honkerous bird.  When I got out to put the 'scope on it, the flock flew
another ten feet to the staggering distance of 20'.  I zoomed in and studied
the facial pattern; the deeper grass now covered the honkingly large body.
The face was plain brown with little or no streaking.  No eye line or eye
arcs whatsoever.  No definite dark cap.  The pattern on the back was plainer
than its fellow dabblers.  I didn't have my waterfowl book with me (as far
as I knew) so I continued to consult Sibley.  The lack of a red eye threw me
until I realized that only the male Cinnamon teal possesses this field mark.
So, it matches pretty well with adult female Cinnamon teal.  I'll have to
check the waterfowl book when I get home and find it in my truck.

Upon consulting and studying the Waterfowl book, Sibley and the accounts of
these species from the Life Histories of North American Birds (Big honker,
Honkerus reallybiggus, has yet to be published) I decided that indeed it was
an adult female CITE.  I wanted to look again to study it some more, perhaps
the next day.  In my studies, I found some problems with the waterfowl
guide.  Some of the same problems I have found with the Seabirds and
Shorebirds books in this series.  The illustrations are somewhat less than
adequate.  In this case, the "typical" female Blue-winged teal is not
typical of what I have seen in my many days perusing females.  I mean teal,
of course.  What is illustrated and described for Cinnamon teal I cannot
say, but both conflict with Sibley.  I'm going with Sibley, he's the Man.

But book reviews are not entertaining, so I won't dwell on that.  The point
is, don't assume that a Blue-winged teal is a Blue-winged teal.  For that
matter, don't assume that they are all female.  I used to wonder why all of
the early arriving Blue-wings were females until I realized that the males
were still in eclipse plumage upon their return.  Every year, dozens of CITE
filter through the state unnoticed in the hundreds of thousands of BWTE.
Most records of CITE are later in the season when they attain there breeding
plumage and, the males at least, are easier to pick out.  For bird nuts like
me, the eclipse males and females are a more interesting, if less gaudy,
quarry.

So, Tuesday evening I went back to see if it was still there.  No big brown
honkers were seen.  Little buffy honklets (now do you see why I had to work
that joke in?) were abundant, for their species, in the sod fields east of
the Click Ponds.  What's a Little buffy honklet?  One of the original target
birds, Buff-breasted sandpiper.  There were seven of them among the many
Black-bellied plover in a few sod fields on the east side of the ponds.
This was the only field in which I saw Black-bellied plovers (no goldens,
darn it.)

So, now the Holey Eye-browed One informs us that there is a Yellow-green
vireo at Fort DeSoto.  Hmmm?  Tomorrow is the regional meeting here at the
preserve, but Friday, my birthday, I can probably get away for a life bird
birthday present.

So many life birds, so little time.  I hope you enjoyed this little trip.

David Simpson
[log in to unmask]
Fellsmere, FL

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