I am writing this entry from a motel in Kendall a suburb of Miami. I left driving for Florida on Saturday, April 20. I stopped for about an hour in Knoxville, Tennessee for a sit-down meal and to fill my gas tank, and then continued driving. I stopped frequently for bio-breaks on the way after eating, because I took a large raspberry iced tea with me and a cup of coffee. At about 2:30 am, I stopped to snooze in a rest area in south Georgia, and awoke after a three hour snooze at about 5:30 am, and continued driving, crossing into Florida on I-75, sometime close to 7:30 am. My first new bird was a Swallow-tailed Kite at about 9:00 am on I-75 about 45 miles north of the juncture with the Florida Turnpike. No pictures of the kite, because it was seen soaring over I-75 at about 70 mph! I headed toward Pelican Island NWR south of Sebastian Inlet on the east coast of Florida to try to see the White-cheeked Pintail. This will be a life bird for me, if this bird is counted as a wild bird, first by the Florida Bird Records committee and the records committee for the American Birding Association. White-cheeked Pintail is native to the Bahamas, and a number of previous birds reported in the US, mostly in Florida, were deemed to be introduced or escapes from captivity. I had never previously chased any of those reported White-cheeked Pintails, because I expected them to not be counted as wild birds. However, the word through the birding grapevine, suggests that this bird has a chance of being accepted by the Florida Bird Records Committee, and thus also by the ABA Records Committee; therefore, I needed to try for this bird, because I would be in the area--Florida--relatively speaking at least.
Near the entrance to I-95 on Florida 528, I saw a small dove with very little tail and red in the primaries fly across the road and dive into a back yard. A Common Ground Dove, the second new bird for the trip. A few minutes later, at the entrance ramp for I-95, I saw a Wood Stork soaring with a group of about twenty Black Vultures. Shortly, while I was getting back up to speed on I-95 south, two very large, gray birds with outstretched necks in front and outstretched legs behind flying diagonally close to the highway. Sandhill Cranes, the forth new bird for the year, since arriving in Florida. This is what I expected, new birds being seen quickly and in bunches in Florida. I arrived at Pelican Island NWR at about 12:00 noon, not the best time of day to start birding. This time of day is usually slower than early or late in the day.
I followed the directions that I obtained off of the internet via NARBA (North American Rare Bird Alert) to the parking lot at the Centennial Trail, gathered my binoculars, telescope and camera, and my water bottle and walked out the trail. As I approached the pavilion by the butterfly garden, a Common Ground Dove flew up off of the ground and landed behind a bush. This close look was apparently my belated reward for my previously unrewarded patience at least two weeks ago in Texas at Falcon State park, where I awaited in vain for a Common Ground Dove to show up at the feeders. There were scattered small flocks of Blue-winged Teal in the pond where the White-cheeked Pintail. The information I had indicated that early morning and after 3:00 pm is better for the pintail, but I decided to stay and check things out anyway. There were Blue-winged Teal sitting on the shore of an island in the pond. I walked to another pavilion to sit in the shade and check out this group. I found a larger bird roosting with its head tucked, and showing white on the sides of its face. I waited to see if the bird would raise its head. Eventually, another birder from Connecticut came by, I pointed out the bird and he walked a short distance along the edge of the pond. When the bird raised its head, it was the White-cheeked Pintail, showing the white face and upper neck whence the name. I managed several long distance photos, both of which also show the orange color at the base of the bill.
Soon another birder from Philadelphia, PA came by. I pointed out the roosting bird, and we waited for it to raise its head, which it cooperatively did again. While I was waiting for the pintail to show its face, three Wood Storks flew over the pond and circled but never landed. They were so cooperative that I took several photos of the birds flying. See photos below which show how it is possible to identify this bird soaring while driving, showing the black primary and secondary feathers on the wings and white wing linings and under-parts, the long trailing legs and the dark head with downward curved bill. I left Pelican Island NWR at about 2:30 pm and drove south, intending to stop at Spanish River Park in Boca Raton to look for a Western Spindalis, which had been reported about two weeks ago, but had not been seen again. I arrived close to 6:00 pm. When I drove into the park, I was informed that the entry fee was $18.00. I decided that was too much money for such a short stay for a bird that had not been
reported again since the initial sighting almost two weeks ago. There is another Western Spindalis, a tanager from the Bahamas, that has been present for quite a while near Key West. I am headed that way. I drove away from Spanish River Park and found a McDonalds to get something to eat and drink. My energy level was fading fast, and I had been very drowsy during the 2.5 hour drive south on I-95 from Pelican Island NWR to Boca Raton. I also needed gas, and asked a customer where a local gas station was located, because in this area, stores and businesses are well disguised with palm trees
and landscaping without obvious signage. There was still some daylight available and enough time to visit nearby Loxahatchee NWR. At Loxahatchee NWR I walked the dikes from the Swamp Viewing Area and found, Gray Catbird, Anhinga, Glossy Ibis, and last but not least, Limpkin. At first I did not find Limpkin, but as I arrived back at the parking lot, I heard a Limpkin calling, giving its weird sounding call that is used in the sound effects in movies in jungle scenes. I usually also find Snail Kite, but I suspect it was too late, too close to dusk and with a storm approaching. I drove to Fort Lauderdale to stay the night, and crashed immediately without further food, really beat due to the long day and drive without much sleep.
With the addition of the eight birds mentioned, and not counting the White-cheeked Pintail....yet (but holding) the total is now 341.
Tomorrow, I will try for the Thick-billed Vireo, La Sagra's Flycatcher and maybe the Bahama Mockingbird at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. More later.