Hi Folks,

Extensive timing and measuring of the possible routes to Fort D, showed that
US27 to Perry and then US98 to Sun Coast was our best bet.  This route was
actually 40 miles shorter than taking I-10 to I-75 and would bring us there
in the same amount of time.  This would result in significant gas savings; a
big plus when driving 800+ miles in one day while trying to bird along the
way.  It also gave us a better shot at picking up stuff along the way; I
found turkeys along the road last Thursday.

So off we went, leaving Tallahassee at 0817, 13 minutes ahead of schedule.
On the way out of town, we spotted a flock of Caspian terns flying across
the road.  We would probably pick these up in Belle Glade.  I had not seen
any at Fort D lately.  We did not get any more that day.  On previous Big
Day attempts, I had only picked up an average of three species per long
segment of trip.  Andy was convinced that we would get 10 species on this
segment.  Of course, we would get lots of species on I-275 near the bay.  We
decided to see if we could get them before the bridge, to make it more
meaningful.  As we cruised down the road, we picked up Anhinga and Eastern
bluebird; number two and three.  Further along, we added Swallow-tailed kite
and Turkey vulture.  We were nearing Brooksville and still only five
species; would we make it?  Along Sun Coast we saw another Red-headed
woodpecker; still stuck at five.  When doing Big Days, I often find a couple
of "bonus" birds that I hadn't expected.  The numbers usually increase as
migration picks up and I had really gotten any last month or expected much
this month.  The first of these bonus birds was found on the Sun Coast
Parkway near the SR 50 exit.  I had scouted three different areas for
kestrel and came up empty every time.  I had concluded that the birds were
wandering after breeding and could not be counted on at any particular
place.  As we cruised the highway, I saw a kestrel of the resident race
flying past on the right.  Andy looked back and could only ID the bird as
falcon species.  So, do we count it as a shared falcon species or an
unshared kestrel?  A few minutes later, a nice male flew in front of us and
we didn't have to wonder any more.  That made six birds; four to go.  Andy
spotted Wood storks lounging on a pond along the Veteran's Parkway for
number seven.  We were coming down to the wire.  Would we make it?  I saw a
boat-tailed grackle for number eight.  Laughing gulls could not wait for us
to hit the bay; we were at nine and closing fast.  Another set of lounging
waders, this time Roseate spoonbills, took us to the goal of 10 species on
this segment.  Brown pelican was added over the bay and we exited I-275 with
90 species.  Waiting at the light for CR 679, I saw a Mottled duck in the
pond.  Passing by the Tierra Verde ponds, we saw Pied-billed grebe and I saw
American coot.  Both of these birds were present in few places on the
prescribed route.  I had the grebe nesting in Belle Glade but it was not
quite on the route.  The celery coot has not shown itself to me this year
and singles at MINWR and Viera are not on the route.

We arrived at Fort DeSoto, our highest species density stop of the day, in
good time at 1209.  We were in high spirits and 31 minutes ahead of
schedule.  110 species and 392 miles.  20 species and 443 miles from the
record.  We could get 20 species here, although we scooped ourselves on some
of the birds like spoonbill and Laughing gull.  There were many shorebirds
to be gained and a few other coastal birds.  The clouds of the passing
hurricane had dissipated.  It seemed that the storm would not affect us
after all.  Or would it?  As we headed down the road to Fort D, We noticed
the first sign of trouble.  We were in the midst of a freakishly high tide.
A tide perhaps influenced be storm surge from the storm that was not
affecting us.  A slight cause for concern, but the birds would still be
there; right?  We headed to North Beach and found the birds with few places
to stay.  Good weather had turned out the usual distractions in the form of
beach-goers.  With little dry land, the shorebirds were forced to retreat
further than usual.  Some were still present and we were able to pick off
several key species.  There no plovers at all.  Turnstones and Sanderlings
were no shows.  We managed Least but not Western sandpiper.  Long-billed
curlew was nice enough to be present as well as oystercatchers and godwits.
Forster's tern was present, but no other tern species.  Maybe the concession
would work out for us.  At North Beach Concession, Andy looked right and I
looked left.  We had hoped to pick up the rest of the shorebirds here.  We
got our Common tern and Black skimmer, but the shorebirds would prove
elusive.  Not time to panic, we still have East Beach Turnaround.  At East
Beach Turnaround, we added nothing at all.  OK, now it's time to panic.  We
are ahead of schedule, so we can afford some time to wander.  We are missing
a big chunk of species.  No Sanderling, turnstone, plovers, or Western
sandpiper.  We stand a chance at a few of these in Belle Glade, but no all
of them.  We decided to hit East Beach next.  Here we would finally get
Sanderling and our second bonus bird of the day.  Actually, it was half
expected.  Andy noticed a strange gull flying away from us.  It was
different and it had a dark rump.  I think I know who that is.  He pointed
it out and I got the binoculars on it.  I knew him by name, but I wanted to
get the 'scope on him to be sure.  Sure enough it was Herman, good going
kid!  We could see some birds on the beach west of us, so we headed on to
the Bay Pier.  From there we could see the same birds we saw before.
Unfortunately, we still could not see them well; they were behind the park
headquarters.  On to the headquarters where we picked up turnstone and
Black-bellied plover.  We still lacked Wilson's, Piping, Snowy, and
Semipalmated plover.  We had lost over 35 minutes and were a little behind
schedule.  The extra time was worth it, but we still had some big misses in
our best spot on the route.  The day was going so well and now this.  We
should easily take the record, but that is just routine.  We want to get as
much as possible.  Hmm, I did two Big Years in a row, why not two years of
Big Days in a row?  Is it possible to beat all twelve monthly records in one
year?  Of the six records I now have, I feel as if I can beat all of them.
Maybe The Punk will talk some sense into me before I do something stupid
like that.

At 1330, with 415.2 miles behind us, we left Fort D with only 110 species
and five more misses.  We had a chance at Western sandpiper and Semipalmated
plover, but the rest as they say is history.

1405 ,we arrive at the Celery Fields.  Three key species resided here.  The
first was found in the ditch along the west side of the park.  A Limpkin fed
along the water's edge.  In the vegetation along the other side, a pair of
Black-bellied whistling ducks peered out at us.  Two down, one to go.  We
headed past the Gazebo to the sparrow road.  At the end of the road, we
found that the weedy field east of the pond had been mowed.  There were
peeps flying about, but we could not identify them.  I could have sworn that
one flock was Western, but when they settled in the grass, it was impossible
to see them.  We saw many more whistling ducks and the family of cranes that
were our third target.  Three for three is not bad.  We added Killdeer,
stilt, and Glossy ibis to the list as well.  All of these would also be at
Belle Glade. We were back on the interstate at 1425, right on time.  117
species and 462 miles.

A thought had occurred to me on the way down.  What if we take Oscar Scherer
SP out of the route?  The only guarantee is Florida scrub jay.  30 minutes
for one species, albeit a definite one.  We could use the time later in the
keys to pick up some other species.  Sounds like a plan.  We made the
appropriate cut and we were 30 minutes ahead of schedule.  Next on the list
was Babcock-Webb.  We had three targets here, as at Celery Fields.  There
were several secondary species as well.  One of the secondaries was Northern
flicker which we had actually seen en route.  Of course we would see them at
Webb as well.  We got two of our targets, Pine warbler and Bachman's
sparrow, easily.  We did not see Red-cockaded or Hairy woodpeckers, or quail
as we had hoped.  We couldn't even find nuthatch, our other primary target.
We found several flocks of birds, but no nuthatch; a first for me at Webb.
We ate up 22 minutes of our half hour gain while looking for nuthatches.  We
left Webb at 1547 with 120 species and 524.5 miles.

10 more species to the record.  Would we get it in Belle Glade?  What would
the tying species be?  It was now only a matter of time.  Several easy
species awaited us.  We trekked across SR 80 to South Bay, picking up
White-winged dove, caracara, and meadowlark along the way.  Arriving at
South Bay at 1557, still eight minutes ahead of schedule with 614.5 miles
behind us.  We were lucky number seven away from the record.  There were a
few easy ones here, but would we make it to 130 before hitting Miami?  We
wouldn't want Muscovy duck to be the record breaker.

I've got to get some sleep.  Two long days at work and another ahead of me,
I need my beauty sleep.  I'll tell you the rest tomorrow.

David Simpson
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