Hi all,

Many of you know I am an avid county lister and ridiculous goal  
setter.  I don't like to be one to disappoint.  So, under the  
category of "They said it can't be done," I have set yet another goal  
for myself.  Some of you may remember my earlier quest.  During the  
year of 2009 I wanted to see at least 20 species of birds in each of  
Florida's 67 counties while adding at least one species to my life  
list in each county and pushing all of my county life lists to at  
least 125.  Well that was easy.  I accomplished that with about four  
months to go.

Since then, I have been on six CBC's so far this year and have done  
some volunteer work with various agencies.  In the misty distance, a  
mountain loomed.  Sometimes it was nearly invisible in it's shrouds  
of mist.  Sometimes it poked above the clouds, only to be covered  
again.  A few days ago, the mists receded a fair bit with a  
smashingly successful afternoon in Flagler County.  I added eight new  
ticks.  A few years ago, the mountain was to get 100 species on my  
life list in every county in Florida before the end of the year.   
Ron's goal, unknown to me, was to get to 101 in every county in  
Florida.  He did so, two counties and eight months before I did.   
Well done, Captain Ron!

But I digress.  The mountain that time was shrouded by a mist that  
spelled out Union County 91.  Union County?  There's nothing but pine  
plantations and grass.  It's so tiny!  I plodded along in the hope,  
although little of it, of summitting the mountain.  One day, while  
standing on the shores of Lake Butler in early December, the mountain  
top shed it's cloak when I got to 100 in one fell swoop.  Eight new  
species of ducks for Union!  And what was number 100?  Why it was a  
turkey feeding on the far shore of the lake.  My Flagler run took a  
few more locations.  My turkey this time was an eider, a much more  
fitting way to shed the mist.  This mountain is not yet as clear as  
in 2007, but now I can picture the summit.

What mountian, you say?  I want to get to 12,000 total county ticks  
by the end of the year.  Now it is true that I will inevitably  
achieve 12,000 in early 2010, but where is the drama in that? At the  
moment my list stands at 11,933.  Sound like an impossible gulf to  
cross?  Maybe.  I'll be on the Econ CBC tomorrow which offers me  
little chance of adding anything to Seminole or Volusia since I have  
done that area for several years.  Seminole is still pretty weak, so  
there are still possibilities.  After that, I high-tail it to  
Applachicola to spend half the day with my buddy Alan Knothe on the  
Appalachicola CBC, a first for me.  The CBC, not spending time with  
Alan.  I stand a chance to pick up a few for Franklin since I have  
never been out on the river in winter before.  In the afternoon, I  
will spin through town and work the west end of the circle.  I will  
take some time afterward to hit a few counties where I am weak, such  
as Gulf where I don't have Song sparrow, Liberty, where I don't have  
Great horned owl, turkey, quail, and Savannah sparrow despite  
Appalchicola National Forest's domination of the county.  I may take  
another day to hit Holmes, Washington, and maybe Walton or Bay.   
Still, I would come up  short if it weren't for one thing.  I have  
never been to the coast in Jefferson County.  A look at the map shows  
there is precious little coast in Jefferson County.  Further  
investigation shows that unless you work or volunteer at St. Mark's  
NWR, you are going to have a difficult time even seeing the coast.   
One option, which I intend to do in the future, is to launch a boat  
on the Aucilla River on the Taylor/Jefferson border and paddle out to  
the gulf and turn right.  If you have a pick up vehicle and an east  
wind, you can paddle down stream and down wind over to St. Mark's  
Light and take out there.  The other way is to hike out from the  
walking trails at St. Mark's NWR and bust through a thin strip of  
woods into the coastal marshes of Jefferson County.  A mere 12.5 mile  
round trip.  That is my plan.  I have only a few gulls, terns, and  
shorebirds on my Jefferson list.  A bad day at the coast could net me  
at least 20 species.  A good day could net 40 or even 50.  Most  
likely I will get around 25-30.  If I do well in Franklin, Gulf, and  
Liberty, and maybe hit a few other counties, I could do it.  I won't  
have much internet access, so I may have to post it all afterward  
rather than a blow by blow.  One thing is for sure, it will be fun.

Meanwhile, as I write this, the local Great horned owl sounds off.   
He or she has been calling every day for weeks now, often in the day  
time.  Our winter flock of Painted buntings is up to six.  Our  
permanent flock of Peafowl is up to who knows?  The same batch of 15  
or so young'uns is still coming to the feeder and entertaining our  
cats.  "Our" male still roosts in one of our pine trees.  Most of  
their time is spent at the ranchette behind us.  I don't do much  
birding in the yard, but next year I plan to spend more time near  
home.  Maybe I'll start doing weekly surveys of the home front.

That's all for now folks.  I'll see ya out there.

David Simpson
Fellsmere, FL

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