October 11-14, 2014 West Palm Beach–Long Key, Florida, birds 676-678.
My friend Thor accused my of having no flies on me as he heard I had turned around from San Diego and was already in Florida. I am a man on the move, so I don’t give the little buggers a chance..no..no flies on me. This wasn’t just a birding trip as friends Jan and Stuart from Florida were having a 40th Wedding anniversary and their friends and I guess ours now, Lydia and Howard from England who we stayed with this last summer were there as well. It was nice visiting them and just visiting. Visiting is so underrated.
This was also a bit of a nude birding trip as we stayed at Sunsport Gardens and visited a new nude beach north of Jensen Beach during the trip, with our friends. I had been to Sunsport in my nude year. My best naked birding sightings were Wood Storks, Caspian Terns, anhinga, and Wilson’s Plovers, to name a few…and even a palm warbler, but nothing really good but we like the rustic charm of Sunsport and the new nude beach, it is more laid back than Haulover and although also rustic it has potential but oddly is next to a nuclear power plant. Maybe I’ll turn green someday?
My arch nemesis bird is the a purple gallinule was my number one quarry which I had dipped out on multiple times before, and I went to my first spot and looked nothing, I looked at a spot nearby and again nothing ….then in a tree I heard parakeets……..Monk Parakeets, Bird #676
I photographed one on a powerline and then had it. This is a reliable spot for them as they are building nests. The next morning I looked for purple gallinule but still nothing. Frustrated after the beach I went to photograph a Florida Scrub-jay and saw 2 but they stayed in the scrub and I couldn’t get a camera on them.
I did see an Eastern Box Turtle
No gallinule, then later I went for my other missing parakeet, the Nanday. I ended up in a bad part of West Palm Beach and was politely encouraged by two black cops to leave the neighborhood I was searching in. The next day I went upscale to Lake Worth and went to a park. No parakeet, but I did see a picturesque Reddish egret
We crossed the bridge and bingo, bird #677, a flock of Nanday Parakeet were feeding in a tree.
Happy we spent the rest of the day with friends. The next morning my eagle eyed daughter spotted an odd hawk, it was later identified as an immature snail kite, despite my earlier doubt…good for her, her rarest sighting to date.
I dropped them off at the airport and made a beeline for the Green Cay Nature Center which is not on a cay but had a boardwalk. The last possible spot for a gallinule and then I heard it, right below me the board walk, could it be? Really? bird # 678…The Purple Gallinule, the feisty blocker was had!
They look like our white-faced ibis somewhat. One last night at Sunsport and luckily I got back before they closed the restaurant. I ate the meatball spaghetti special au naturel (meatless…well and clothless too)and then at 5am I headed to the keys to search for a rare bird, the Key West Quail-dove. The report was a bit stale and well, the intel update I got from Drew at NARBA was not encouraging. The location at Long Key State Park was the site I had bagged the black-whickered vireo at back in April and it was juts past mile marker 68, 68 miles from Hemmingway’s house on Key West and I got down there at 830 and found another birder who’d been there since 730, and then I ran into the state park surveyors, unfortunately none had seen anything. I staked out the area, nothing…then a dove came in, nope, just a white-crowned pigeon. Then I spotted a black-throated blue warbler a bird I had rarely seen, so at least something. I said this to the guy who made a face and left. Black throated blues are not that common….are they? No dove, after four hot hours I left too.
The traffic in south Miami was unbearable. I went to the Kendall Baptist hospital..THE place for the Miami exotics. Bad news for you guys needed birds here, they tore up the NE corner where you used to park and destroyed a couple of key parakeet trees. If anyone reading this is going email me, I got some pointers. Now anyone visiting must come early and park on the west side. There were still parakeets around, I didn’t check them out as I got into a fight with someone driving someone who was double parked and he accused me of being in the way. Traffic though was unbearable and so I headed to Bill Baggs State park on Key Biscayne and a sight of many rare sightings. Unfortunately not much was around. I did see a Mockingbird without wingbars,but alas, it was definatekly just a northern mockingbird, nothing unusual, I don’t know why it wasn’t showing wingbars, mockingbirds without wingbars could be Bahama Mockingbirds but without streaks on chest and a darker undertail this wasn’t one of those…oh well.
I stayed in Fort Lauderdale and stayed with my peanut butter diet. I added some wine, as a bought two cups of this wine by the glass I had seen on Sharktank on CNBC. Copa Da Vino.
The glass and packaging is really cool, but the “premium” wine, really sucks…it doesn’t gag sucks, but if I wasn’t so worn out from walking, I would have pitched it, but needing the buzz, I drank them. This is the same thing that the guys on sharktank said and they didn’t invest any money. The owner is an asshole, but hard to say if he will prosper or not, people don’t know what “premium’ means.
Thor is also a weather buff (Thor is like more interesting than me!) and he noted to me that the weather turned to WNW winds at St Paul Alaska and rarities were arriving in numbers. Odd things, some I saw on Attu, so not all was lost. Here in Florida, it is too nice for rarities, no bad weather, no hurricanes, just heat, sticky heat.
I went to the Pampano fishing pier, which was mislabeled on my Intel as being in Ft Lauderdale but after a helpful policeman directed me northward I found it but it wasn’t the best stop for birding but there was quite a gang catching fish. I saw five species caught in five minutes. I also saw Royal terns flying by.
It was a scenic morning so I drove along where the rich people live and in Huntington Beach watched a cop stop and harass an immigrant in a pickup. I was surprised they didn’t do the same for me. Olaf equals police stoppage. I suspect that everyone on this road owns 20, 40, 100 million worth of assets, people like me, bar the gate or get out.
I ended up back at Snook Island Natural area in Lake Worth, I met three nice local birding ladies and a gentleman birder. I heard the local birding gossip and saw the resident flock of nesting American Oystercatchers. They were excited over a clapper rail sighting the day before in the mini-mangrove swamp they have.
I don’t see the east coast version very often and in fact this was the last bird I have from my old days as I didn’t even see one last year (the Snail kite was the other bird). I have now seen all of my lifetime 678 ABA species in under 2 years. I have no old finds now.
There were also picturesque Sandwich terns, I have never photographed them before (Small one).
There were mottled ducks around.
It was a good trip, but with all the Ebola around, one gets a little reflective about ‘why birding matters’ and should I be traveling? and I do NOT trust our government in keeping us safe, well they haven’t proven themselves in Dallas. I is tough to be safe and politically correct. The future could be a scary one, but then again, the future is always scary, isn’t it? So I don’t know about my Seattle trip, in two weeks. I may have to sit on life list 678 for a while. My year list is starting to push 500, 475, but who is counting? I’d like 500 for a second year in a row, but am I being greedy? I’ll go home and think about it. A hurricane hit our place in St martin but not too bad although the beach is beat up they say, so may have to go there in November.
Birding…deadly Viruses….life is got so many choices. Parakeets yes! Quail-dove and Copa da Vino…No…..and American Oystercatchers are also a yes….Ebola..NO….and the Purple Gallinule…..Finally! Thor wonders what my new blocker nemesis bird is, he says we all need nemesis birds. I’m afraid to make that call, maybe it should be Delta airlines? I’m happy to have none for a couple of days. One will appear, they always do he says. Thor is so wise.