Hi folks,

How many people didn't think it was possible to bird from the Everglades to
Tallahasee in one day?  I'm rasing my hand, are you?  Well, I proved that it
could be done, in the summer months.  Why not try it in the winter months
as?  That's exactly what I set out to do on my latest attempt.

After working the weekend of Nov 22-23, I had the three days prior to
Thanksgiving free to pursue my greatest passion.   But instead I decided to
do another Big Day.  I headed up after work Sunday and started scouting St.
Mark's NWR first thing Monday morning.  I got a few hours of birding in
before the monsoons hit.  I found a few sparrows at the helispot, including
Henslow's, Swamp, Song, and Chipping.  Ducks were present in small numbers
but with a nice variety.  Mallards, pintail, both teal, Gadwall, and wigeon
were in the impoundments and Bufflehead in the gulf.  There were numerous
loons present, but I did not find any Horrned grebes.  By the time I got
back to the VIC, the rains were coming down and I did not get any woods
birds.  Springhill WTP was a complete washout;  I could not even see through
the window as I looked from the road.  Oh well, this is only an alternate
spot if I have time.  Onward to the Everglades.  An uneventful and mostly
dry run to Florida City found me in bed at a decent hour and ready for the
adventure to come.  During the last two months I had tested many routes that
would work in the winter time.  My favorite was the
Everglades-Miami-Nalpes-Sarasota-Fort DeSoto-Pasco route (Everglades-Pasco.)
  The Everglades-Fort D-Brevard route looked especially promising with all
the birds at Viera.  I thought seriously about that one, but I wanted to
test this last one so I would have a full arsenal in the coming months.  I
figured that I could bird Lucky Hammock, Fort DeSoto, and St. Mark's in one
day in the winter.  That would give the best of south and north Florida in
one shot.

I followed the same route as the last two Big Days in the pre dawn hours.  I
skipped the Gray kingbirds at 0330 in the Publix parking lot in Homestead
since they were not there on the Nov 11th run.  I also skipped Long Pine Key
in the dark since I would likely add GH owl in the panhandle.  I would hope
for Chucks on the road to Royal Palm.  Birding commenced in the motel
parking lot at 0400 with Killdeer as #1.  Lucky Hammock was the first
official stop.  I arrived at 0418 with one species under my belt.  #2 was
the staked out Barn owl at the first building on the left after you pass the
correctional facility.  This time a silent bird sat on a tree near the road.
  The last two times, there were noisy (young) birds inside the building.
Black-crowned night-heron, Great blue heron and Barred owl were added, but
no hoped for Limpkin.  Maybe later.

The next stop was Research Road (where the Mountain bluebird was.)  This can
be interesting at night.  Night-herons can abound and shorebirds can be
heard in the marsh.  Last time, The Punk and I heard our only Long-billed
dowitcher here before dawn.  This time I would add a few usual suspects (GH
owl, Least sandpiper, Wilson's snipe) along with a most unexpected species.
As I headed south past the buildings on the left, I spotted a small owl on
the road side.  Screech owl, right?  No big deal; I've seen them on the
ground before.  Something didn't set well, but it flew into the night, never
to be seen again.  A few yards down the road, it was seen again.  This time
it did not fly, so I set the headlights on it and studied it the best I
could in the darkness.  The head shape seemed odd and the face was a little
pale.  I noticed some barring on the flanks.  Do screech owls have barring
on the flanks?  I couldn't honestly tell you.  Sometimes listing and Big
Days can dull your observation skills.  After the bird had finally flown, I
got out the Ye Olde Sibley Guide and confirmed my suspicion that it was a
Burrowing owl.  Not a bad bird for the park.  This helped since the airport
was closed last time we tried to get in there at night.  Not a bad couple of
owls for the night.  Maybe I could get Short-eared before light.  That was
not meant to be, but with four owls and no screech, I was destined for my
first five-owl day.

My next stop was a pre dawn run through Anhinga trail.  I picked up King
rail, but no Limpkin or bittern.  At the beginning of the boardwalk I picked
up a nightjar sp., probably Whip-poor-will.  Later I would get a definite
Whip.  This would do it for nocturnal birding.

I arrived back at Lucky Hammock at 0601 as the eastern sky was just
beginning to lighten.  Species came quickly as the day broke.
Yellow-crowned night-heron flew by; Grasshopper sparrows called; another
Barn owl foraged over the brush east of the hammock.  I headed to the Annex
for the rest of the dawn chorus.  Least flycatcher called from the brush as
well as Ovenbird.  I spotted a Sharp-shinned hawk in the trees. getting
ready for his Big Eat.  The last few key species at the annex were Painted
bunting and Northern waterthrush.  I was growing impatient with the looming
trip to Tallahassee.  I stopped at the hammock again hoping for a few more
key species.  I got Painted bunting and N. waterthrush again, but no crested
flycatcher.  I left Lucky Hammock with only 36 species, but many of the
misses were common birds that would be picked up later.

The Vermillion flycatcher made me work for it.  It was not on any of the
fences.  I checked the woods for songbirds and added several common species.
  Finally, I saw the little red dude on top of an oak tree.  That was one I
would not have liked to miss.  I headed up 217th Ave. to Avocado and Krome
Avenue to Tamiami in order to avoid the weekday traffic.  This afforded me
the opportunity to stop by Redland road and try for anis and hit Mary Krome
park for hummingbird and maybe other warblers.  Ani no, Hummer yes.

I getting my fun on Route 41, heading for Naples with visions of
Tallahassee.  I added Snail kite, Osprey, cormorant, and a few other odds
and ends.  As I passed the headquarters of Big Cypress National Preserve, I
got a Great blue heron.  I had already added them to the list, but this one
I really got.  It flew from the side of the road and instead of going away,
it flew right out in front of me.  It bounced off the top of the windshield
leving behind a few feathers, and nice dent and shattered glass fragments
across the dashboard.  That will change your plans in a hurry.  Fortunately,
the windshield was still intact, but a high-speed run to Tallahassee seemed
a bit out of the question.   I was glad to have a cell phone with coverage
on this desolate stretch of road.  After a few calls, I was able to locate a
glass shop that was covered under my insurance.  Unfortunately the only
place that could take me that day was in Fort Meyers and they couldn't do it
until 1430.  So, I tested the windshield and found it stable enough.  As
long as no more suicidal ardeids or bumpy roads were in the future, I would
be alright.  So, I continued the Big Day.  I did not know at this point how
far I could roam.  Fort DeSoto would be the farthest, at best, but what if I
could not get that far?  What about coastal birds?  I puttered around the
area picking up kinglet, Black-and-white warbler, White-eyed vireo, and
Yellow-throated warbler at a picninc pullover.  I haeded back to Big Cypress
and got titmouse, Pileated woodpecker, and crested flycatcher.  Fritchey
Road hid its tyrannids for the second Big Day in a row.  Not even a Limpkin,
although I did get a Cooper's hawk.  I hit Tigertail Beach for shorebirds
and picked up quite a few species that I would not have otherwise gotten.  I
even went to Eagle Lakes and did not see Bronzed cowbirds but did pick up an
unexpected white pelican.  As I headed up to Fort Meyers, I decided I had
time to hit the North Collier WTP.  This was a valuable stop.  I added
Long-billed dowitcher, Spotted sandpiper, Lesser yellowlegs, green-winged
teal, and orange-crowned warbler.  The last spot to hit before getting the
new windshield was Lakes Park in Fort Meyers.  Here I added parula and saw
again the Yellow-throated and Black-and-white warblers of the morning picnic

The windsheild break offered a chance for lunch and a breather and I was
back on my way by 1500.  No chance at Fort D with weekday traffic, but
plenty of time for Babcock-Webb and Celery.  Surely I could still reach 130
for the day.  I hit Webb and largley struck out, as usual.  Where are the
nuthatches when you need them?  I did get Pine warbler, Red-cockaded
woodpecker, and Eastern towhee, three key species for the day.  I did not
get the hoped for Hairy or Downy woodpeckers or Bachman's sparrow.  Celery
Fields was a bit disappointing.  I was not able to locate any Indigo
buntings or anything else at the end of Center Rd.  There were no unusual
shorebirds at the Big Cat Pond.  The Emu does not count.  I only added about
seven species to the day list.  One of them was a bit unexpected.  Ackerman
Pond hosted a Black-necked stilt.  I had expected Northern shoveler and
Marsh wren which did not show.  Also MIA were King and Virginia rail.  I did
not bother looking for the Barn owls since I already had two that day.  I
hoped for Short-eared owl at dusk, but that was not meant to be.  My last
species was Eastern screech owl at Pinecraft Park.  I had to work for that
one.  I visited Tierra Verde after some good old country cookin' in
Bradenton.  I had hoped for some ducks in the ponds, but they apparently
roost elswhere.  Inside the park at Fort D, all of the gates were closed
except the pier by MTA.  I hoped to add a few missing shorebirds or at least
a skimmer.

At 2115, I decided to call it quits and head home with only 432.5 miles.
I'll have to check the rules to see if you are allowed to end the Big Day
with a different windshield than when you started.  I think that's OK.  The
final tally was a mere 125 species, the worst total of the year.  Despite
the low numbers, I think it is one of the most memorable Big Days that I
have run.  I just had to write about this one.  I'll get to the others when
I can.

[log in to unmask]
Fellsmere, FL

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