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I'm sure most people have forgotten or lost interest by now, but here is the
rest of the story on the June Big Day attempt.

01 June 03
0330 hours

Wake up and check the leg.  Looking good.  Feeling good.  Let's do it.  I
bandaged up and headed out to the truck.  I ran the tape for Uncle Jack's
owl for a few minutes.  Nothing happened.  Oh-oh, I don't have a  backup
spot for screech owl.  Is this a bad omen?  I headed on to other nocturnal
spots with similar results.  Chuck-will's-widow and Common nighthawk sounded
off, but where are the owls.  Several spots were silent.  No rails or
Seaside sparrows as well.  Is this a bad day or what?  It doesn't matter too
much, but it would be encouraging to get a few species.  Eventually Barred
owl would sound off Wakulla Beach.  Sleepy cardinals made for a total of
four species when I arrived at the gate to St. Mark's.  A quick breakfast
and more taping finally produced a screech owl.  I still lacked
Great-horned, a species that has been strangely difficult in past Big Days.

The schedule says I have 40 minutes here.  Tight time, but this is a very
aggressive schedule.  I stopped at Stoney Bayou on my way to the lighthouse.
Pewees, and many others were welcoming the new day.  No nuthatches or chats,
but I would get them later.  The lighthouse area pushed the species total
much higher.  Gray kingbird eventually sounded off.  Many waders were
present, but no oystercatchers or Whimbrels.  That would hurt, but there was
no way to remedy it.  I headed back, making a few stops for nuthatches to no
avail.  I left the refuge ten minutes behind schedule and missing two key
species.  Somehow I managed to miss nuthatch yet again.  Clapper rails were
strangely silent as well.  Maybe I will get them in Jax or in Flamingo
later.

En route to Tiger Hammock, I picked up four species.  One seemed
insignificant until I arrived at Tiger Hammock.  What's that along the road,
Broad-winged hawk?  No, it's just a Mississippi kite; I've got that staked
out at the next spot.  When I got to the road, I checked the roost tree for
the fun of it.  No kite.  Good thing I got it on the way.  Just another
example of the ups and downs of a Big Day.  Tiger Hammock was moderately
productive, but I still had a few misses.  Kentucky and Hooded warblers
were singing.  The cuckoo was on the nest where I found it yesterday.
Swainson's warbler was a no show.  I picked up chat at the powerlines.  I
left the road with 63 species and seven minutes behind schedule.

FR 322 was the next stop.  I hoped to pick up bluebird at the stakeout spot.
Nuthatches would surely be here.  RCW' were a definite as were Bachman's
sparrow.  I stopped at the bluebird spot and didn't hear any at first.  I
listened to the sounds of the woods and was amazed at what was presented.  I
heard quail, flicker, Red-headed, and is that what I think?  Yes, there is a
Red-cockaded woodpecker!  Finally the targeted bluebirds were seen.  What a
great stop.  I need to pick up nuthatch and Bachman's sparrow and shoot over
to FR 305 and get Prothonotary warbler.  This should put me back on time
again.  I got the sparrow and the warbler pretty easily, but where are the
nuthatches.  I spent a few more minutes checking the woods, but I had to
leave without nuthatch for the second month in a row.  The difference is
that I can't pick them up later this time.  I left the forest with 71
species and seven minutes ahead of schedule.

Springhill WTP produced the target Canada goose and rough-winged swallow and
the necessary starlings, collared-doves.  I left with 78 species and six
minutes ahead of schedule.

A missed turn en route to the Wood thrush neighborhood netted a robin.  Now,
I won't need to hit the cemetery.  The Wood thrush was at the appointed
spot.  Catbird would proved a little bit more difficult.  A scratching in
the bushes and I saw the little gray fella looking back at me.  Trying to be
quiet, but he still got ticked.  83 species and nine minutes ahead.

Meyer's Park was my last chance at White-breasted nuthatch, unless I could
get one on the way out.  The only species I would add here would be Fish
crow.  I didn't want to repeat last month, so I left with 10 minutes to
spare.  I was back on I-10, east of Tallahassee at 0854, six minutes ahead
of schedule.  Now for the long trek to Jacksonville.

The drive over was relatively unproductive.  I barely inched my way to 90
species on arrival at Huguenot Park.  I lost some time on the way and
arrived exactly on schedule at 1115.  No Painted buntings hailed my arrival.
None would hail my departure either.  This would be one of the major sites
of the route.  It is the only one on the beach and thus the only shot at
Sanderlings, turnstones, and other coastal species.  I would add 20 species
on my stay.  The usual terns including Gull-billed were here.  Several Great
black-backed gulls  were along the waterway.  A bonus Whimbrel was a nice
pick up.  A Red-breasted merganser was loafing amongst the gulls and terns.
Those were nice pickups, but I was still running behind.  I still lacked
Painted bunting and Clapper rail.  I could get bunting and scrub jay at
MINWR later, but I really would like to get the rail.  I was behind schedule
now, but I tried one extra stop along Heckshire Drive.  I clapped and a
Clapper rail called back.  Whew!  That's one less Big Miss.  Exit
Jacksonville, 1143, 13 minutes behind schedule.

On the way to MINWR, I added another three species.  113 species and 19
minutes behind schedule.  I added some of the more southern species such as
spoonbill, Reddish egret, and mottled duck.  A few more shorebirds and
meadowlark and I would leave with 125 species.  I gained a few minutes, but
I was still 15 minutes behind.  I opted out of looking for bunting and jay.
I figured I had at least one long shot at the jay when I went through the
buffer preserve on I-95.

I got no new species on the way to Viera.  The record was only five species
away and it was only 1515.  I blew through Viera quickly, perhaps too
quickly, since I was now 20 minutes behind.  I got most of the targets.
Black-bellied whistling ducks were present.  The resident pair of
Ring-necked ducks were there along with another female across the dike.
Black terns rounded out the list of terns and the late Bonaparte's gull was
still loafing in the Click Ponds.  I tied the record even without eagle,
coot, or Red-tailed hawk.  The coot was present, but I was still
apprehensive about timing and blew out of there without it.  In retrospect,
I had plenty of time.  Back on the highway at 1546, now 26 minutes behind
schedule.  I had 50 minutes of slack in the schedule, but with the last of
three long stretches ahead, I was still concerned about timing.  I made a
gas stop in the north end of the buffer preserve.  I had two five gallon gas
cans with me to save time at gas stations.  I decided to use some strategy
for this gas stop and add five gallons while watching for scrub jays.  None
were to be found, although two days later at work, I would see one in this
spot.

On the way to Kendall, I would finally break the record with a Red-tailed
hawk.  I was all the way into Martin County before I would find it.
White-winged dove an Monk parakeet were added before officially arriving at
the bulbul neighborhood in Kendall.  I got the bulbul and Spot-breasted
oriole with little effort.  I was getting ready to depart when I heard the
familiar call of the "Canary-winged" parakeet.  I hoped for the countable
White-winged type, but was disappointed to see a pair of Yellow-chevroned.
The other pair sound a little bit different, but I can't see them.  Finally
they would fly out and they were indeed White-winged.  That was a really
good find!  This was definitely a good spot.  Several mediocre spots and a
few bad ones were offset by two really good spots.  Basically, your typical
Big Day.  Now if anyone could figure how to have just really good spots all
day.  I had arrived at Kendall 40 minutes behind schedule.  I left 35
minutes behind at 1845.  There was still time to get to Pennekamp SP with
plenty of time to bird.  I had 137 species now.  I still lacked both
night-herons, Great-horned owl, Antillean nighthawk, Burrowing owl, Limpkin,
and a host of species that could be picked up in the keys and Homestead.  I
was targeting the Georgia record of 147 species.  I could hit it with a good
stop at Pennekamp.

En route, I would get White-crowned pigeon, and Cave swallow and arrive at
the park at 1930.  Only 20 minutes behind schedule with 139 species.  Here
is where it all fell apart.  I had never scouted the park in the late
afternoon.  I had Mangrove cuckoo, Yellow warbler, Prairie warbler, and
Black-whiskered vireo this spring, all in the morning.  It was not to be
this evening.  A long Sunday of human activity may have contributed to this
strange silence.  Since then I have figured out that Card Sound Road is much
better in the evening.  At any rate, I left with no more species and the
strain of 783 miles of driving on me.  Talk about taking the wind out of
your sails.  I tried desperately for any of these species on my way to
Marathon but met with no success.  I only managed a frigatebird for #140.  I
got to the west side of the airport at 2100 with 836 miles behind me.  It
seems so long ago that I woke up in Bald Point this morning.  I dragged my
way across the parking lot, barely hearing an insect-like twitter.  Suddenly
it dawned on me that it was an Antillean nighthawk that I was hearing.  I
immediately went back to the truck.  I weighed my options.  I could get
Burrowing owl nearby and head back to the Everglades to maybe pick up a few
more birds in the dark.  I still need barn owl, both night-herons, coot,
King rail, and Limpkin.  If I could get all of them, I could still beat the
Georgia record.  Not this year.  I decided to wimp out and hit the motel
scene.  Next year I will get 150+.  This year I will have to rest my leg and
chalk it up to a learning experience.

So, that's it.  141 species.  Not bad, but it could have been better.  I
will discuss lessons learned and the strategy for the July Big Day in the
next posting.

No proofreading on this one, just the raw stuff.

David Simpson
[log in to unmask]
Fellsmere, FL

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