I awoke naturally at about 5:30 am, much refreshed after my first good night's sleep in more than 24 hours. I headed south for Bill Baggs shortly after 7:00 am from Fort Lauderdale but was delayed by morning traffic and arrived shortly after 9:00 am at the parking lot at the end of No Name Road. The first birder that I met was Ed B. (sorry I cannot remember your last name) who looked very familiar. Later I remembered that I had met him in Arizona in the first decade of the 2000's on a Melody Kehl trip to California Gulch for Buff-collared Nightjar. Ed was the engineer for Attour after Al Driscoll stopped being the engineer. Al Driscoll, also from New Jersey, was the engineer for Larry Balch's Attour trips to Attu when I was on Attu for one week in 1998 and three weeks in 1999. Ed's travelling birding companion for this trip was Fred Virrazzi also from New Jersey. They had been looking for the Thick-billed Vireo, and this was the third and last day of their scheduled trip. They were still looking for a definitive look at this secretive bird. They had heard it and seen parts of the bird but did not have a definitive look for identification and verification. The Bahama Mockingbird may have been heard earlier, but the song of the Bahama Mockingbird became a subject of discussion later in the day. More later about this.
There were a lot of migratory warblers in the area, as well as Painted and Indigo Buntings. Slowly I picked up migratory warblers. First new bird for the year today was Ovenbird seen in and below a sea grape near the white gate that indicates Restricted Entrance, where the Thick-billed Vireo was being seen. Then I finally found a Cape May Warbler, then Palm Warbler, and then closer to noon, a Black-throated Blue Warbler a female. All of these were new for the year. However, no success in the morning on either hearing or seeing Thick-billed Vireo or the Bahama Mockingbird. Near lunch time I met a young family, Ed and Kelley Casper from Illinois with their two young sons, Eddie and Brett (hope spelling is correct). Eddie and Brett were the obvious birders in the family being led by Joe (Jose) Barros, who is the president of Tropical Audubon, and being helped by another man whose last name is Weber, a familiar name to me. Both Joe and Ed Casper, the father asked me why I was wearing a t-shirt with Crest on it. I told them about my career with P&G, but I may have forgotten tell them that I worked on all Crest products from 1994 until the end of October, 2013, when I retired from P&G to do this Big Year. Both Joe and Ed are dentists, but maybe not Crest advocates, perhaps advocates for Colgate, just an impression that I got.
While we were gathered in the parking lot, Eddie and Brett pointed out a Gray Kingbird on the power line a new bird for the year for me. See photo.
They invited me to join them for lunch, but I had food in a cooler that I needed to eat before all the ice melted. However, I stopped by their table in the restaurant to thank Eddie and Brett for finding me a Gray Kingbird for my Big Year list and did meet them again later. I have a fine appreciation for the job that Ed and Kelley are doing with their two sons, because I got interested in birds at the age of four, and my interest continued, with some waxing and waning in my teen-age years. When I was the current age of Eddie and Brett, there were not the opportunities and information available for birding that there are now, and there were very few good field guides available when I was ten years old. Later I told Kelley how cool it was that she and Ed were taking their young sons birding. Eddie and Brett have really sharp eyes and ears and are already very good birders, even if done only with cameras. If I recall correctly, their list for the year was 275 when I met them.
There were four or five Black-throated Blue Warblers in the trees after the first open area. I found a male American Redstart, new for the year, with the Black-throated Blue Warblers. I continued down the trail until an intersection with a white gate on the left with a sign saying Restricted Entrance. I found a smaller myiarchus flycatcher with pale under-parts at this intersection that I identified as the La Sagra's Flycatcher. See photos of the only two shots I obtained before the bird disappeared. Unfortunately, the flycatcher was silent and was not giving its distinctive "wink," almost towhee-like call. I know the call of La Sagra's Flycatcher having seen and photographed La Sagra's Flycatcher before in Florida on March 17, 2002 at Loxahatchee NWR. My photograph was at one time in the archives of the photos affiliated with Florida Birds. This bird at Bill Baggs was very white on the throat and breast and light yellow on the belly and toward the under-tail coverts. Later, I showed the photos to Robin Diaz, who found the La Sagra's Flycatcher at Bill Baggs, and she believed that it is a La Sagra's Flycatcher. She originally found the La Sagra's Flycatcher at the same spot where I saw it. This La Sagra's Flycatcher behaved the way over-wintering La Sagra's flycatchers behave. It came out in the open for a short period of time and then disappeared back into the under brush. The intensive direct sunlight over head near noon and the shadows are affecting the colors in my photos, but most people who have seen these photos agree that it is a La Sagra's Flycatcher, perhaps showing more yellow than expected possibly due to lighting conditions..
On my way back out on the nature trail, I met Rack from Tennessee. When we arrived in the grassy open area, a male Bobolink in breeding plumage flew up and landed in a tree. This is also a new bird for the year.
The afternoon was spent looking for the Thick-billed Vireo. I finally found a Prairie Warbler at the white gate, another new bird for the year. Robin Diaz, a local expert, showed up about the middle of the afternoon. She head the vireo singing, so all the birders present followed her, and we heard it singing at close range. It was singing a more hoarse and burry song similar to but not exactly like a White-eyed Vireo. It was not exactly at the white gate but more toward the entrance to No Name Road. Earlier, before noon, I met the birder from Philadelphia, whom I met at the White-cheeked Pintail. He played a recorded song and call of Thick-billed Vireo for me. This singing Thick-billed Vireo sounded very similar, but was singing a lightly different version. Birds do change their songs, and not all birds of a feather, the same species, sing exactly identical songs. Unfortunately, this bird did not come out in the open to be seen. I have seen Thick-billed Vireo before in the Keys in the fall of 2004.
Later, as we continued to try to see the Thick-billed Vireo, two White-crowned Pigeons flew over, new for the year. Robin Diaz, who works in the park, also saw them and told us that a pair is in the park, perhaps trying to breed and nest in the area. During the continuing vigil for the Thick-billed Vireo, warblers were everywhere. Prairie, Black-throated Blue, at least two Northern Parula, Cape May and American Redstart were numerous and hawking insects in the open. An adult male Black Poll Warbler showed up, another new species for the year. I had already seen Common Yellowthroat and Black and White Warbler, not new for the year.
We heard a song, that was thrasher-like, that several of us thought might be the Bahama Mockingbird. However, Robin indicated that it was the whisper song of the local Gray Catbirds, which they sing before the breeding season. We were not convinced until we heard two different birds singing this same song. She stated that the experts agree that it is very hard to tell the difference between this whisper Gray Catbird song and the song of a Bahama Mockingbird. I have seen Bahama Mockingbird at least twice before, once obtaining a taped recording of a bird found by Larry Manfredi in Taylor Birch Arboretum, now State Park, on May 16, 1992. Today at Bill Baggs, we never heard or saw a Bahama Mockingbird.
I made one late day try for another look at the La Sagra's Flycatcher, but could not find it on the Nature Trail at the intersection indicated previously. I continued on the trail toward the light house, and found a beautiful male Painted Bunting. I also found two male breeding plumage Indigo Buntings on the Nature Trail.
Finally, I decided to stop birding and got some dinner at the restaurant in the park near the parking lot at No Name. A storm with very heavy rain came in and I was trapped in the restaurant for an extra 30 minutes. By that time, my phone's battery was almost dead, and I could not use my phone to find a motel room in Kendall for the night. However, I got some help from a lady at a quick stop and used my Road Atlas (a book in this digital age!) to find my way.
Ovenbird, Cape May Warbler, Palm Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Gray Kingbird, American Redstart, La Sagra's Flycatcher, Bobolink, Prairie Warbler, Thick-billed Vireo, White-crowned Pigeon and Blackpoll Warbler makes the total 353.
Apology: I am not sure why, but the link to my list disappeared from my blog. Yesterday, when I up-dated my list, the list disappeared from my blog. Then the link disappeared. I spent almost two hours yesterday morning trying recover them, but finally gave up. There is a problem between Google and Word for Windows Excel. I will continue to try to recover the link and keep access to an up-dated list, but not at the expense of birding time. I was able to recover the link and the list this morning in a short period of time. Hope that it stays. Sleep does wonders!