I’ve made a lot of great friends birding over the 11 years of my quest. I met Chris Feeney December 1, 2010 on Amherst Island, by asking him “would you like to see a Saw-whet Owl”. With that began a friendship of 5 years with trips, pelagics in the Carolinas, sparrow’s hunt in Georgia and a great 28 day adventure in Alaska.
Any occasion to bird with Chris and I’m in. We planned to bird for 6 days in the Miami area, Chris would be trying for his 765th ABA bird the Key West Quail-dove and I was just trying to stay within 100 birds of him. 🙂
Chris has a second passion and that’s helping people find birds, I truly believe he gets as much out of helping you find your bird as he does finding his. Why else would a person stay somewhere for 6 extra days, when he’d already seen the Quail Dove.
I just really enjoy his company, make him laugh sometimes. We make a great team he can hear the birds and I can spot them.
I could go into all the details but I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. I picked up 6 new life birds and a bunch that will probably be on the list some day. The only bird I didn’t get a photo of is the Key West Quail-Dove. With this bird you think Pigeon or Dove not a tough bird and relatively tolerant of humans. Well the Key West Quail-Dove is neither, its fast, any movement sends it running like a quail.
I saw it, it saw me and it was gone. Below is he only time I even got it in the lens. Dark, overgrown vegetation but I did see the bird. The Dove is the blob in the middle. You might have to use your imagination on this one.
Key West Quail-Dove no photo but ABA lifer #681
I finally did get to see a White-crowned Pigeon on Long Key ABA Life Bird #682.
There was a reported Zanieda Dove in the Keys that we went looking for but were told the person who reported it, wasn’t really the reliable type. Maybe next time.
Kendall, Florida’s, Matheson Hammock Park and Marina was lucky for me last year and didn’t disappoint this year. ABA Life Bird #683 – Short-tailed Hawk. Giving us great late day views of both dark and light phase birds going to roost.
The next day Chris and I planned to go into the Everglades and try for Cape Sable Sparrow, American Flamingo, Shiny Cowbird and Black Rail.
On the way we stopped at the Kendall Airport, which we were told was a good spot to look for Shiny Cowbird. Not much luck but a few really good viewing opportunities.
We looked for the Sparrow at a well know location for this bird, we did see a few Savannah’s but not much else.
First stop was Royal Palm to check out the small forest trail for warblers (none). Then walk the boardwalk. A word of caution: the Black Vultures will try to eat anything rubber on your car. They do supply tarps to cover your car, use them, I mean it no joke.
The boardwalk was great for getting up close and personal to some of the local residents.
Next stop was at the visitor center and campgrounds. Lots of activity but the heat haze made it tough. Flamingo’s hadn’t been seen in a week, even then they were only there for two days.
We then walked out the Coastal Prairie loop for about 2 miles, hoping to hear a Black Rail or see one cross the trail. We knew where the birds were from a recent birder who’d been lucky enough to see one. I’d heard them before but never seen one. Today wasn’t any different, we had 3 within 10 feet could here them calling but not a prayer of seeing them.
It was a fun day of birding with a good friend. It must be true what they say a camera makes you appear smaller.
We did find a few shorebirds as we glassed the glades just before dark. A Short-billed Dowitcher and a Black-bellied Plover were both just begging to be photographed.
The TAS (Tropical Audubon Society) bird board reported a Smooth-billed Ani, a real tough unexpected bird for this trip. ABA Life Bird #684 – Smooth-billed Ani
Chris’s contacts gave us a home to stake out and after 1 1/2 days, Chris’s exceptional hearing and a lucky Red-tailed Hawk flyby netted a Spot-breasted Oriole. It flew up and voiced its displeasure. Chris heard it and called me down from my stake out.
ABA Life Bird #685 – Spot-breasted Oriole
There were frequent Psittacidae flyby’s during this stakeout and a Cardinal buzzed me a few times while I was on the street.
At this point most would have said what a cool trip 13 life birds but superstitious Paul wanted one more. Well the next morning found us at the Ocean Bank building, waiting for the White-winged Parakeets. Like clockwork as soon as the sun came up out they came from their roosts. These little guys come out of the nesting holes, like bullets, luckily they sit in the surrounding trees before leaving to forage.
ABA Life Bird #686 – White Winged Parakeet
The last day was spent looking for warblers and our final count was 11 species not bad for January.
I’d always felt guilty ticking off the Egyptian Goose and wanted to look for one just on principle. We drove over to Key Biscayne Park and they just seemed to be everywhere.
While walking around it pays to also keep and eye out there are some big spiders out there. Like this Gold Orb Weaver. Check out the skull shape on the head. Cool
We still had a few hours of daylight and we drove 25 miles to a part of Everglades National Park within 15 miles of our hotel.
Many good birds but I wish the King Rail had come out in the open. Maybe next time.
A fantastic trip but after 13 days away from home, the last 7 getting up at 4:15am and hitting all the spots. 14 life birds and 15 improved images, I was burnt. Now you’d think this was the end of the story but the next day I was to fly out of Miami to Ottawa via Newark. Well it just so happens that the storm of the century had other plans for me.
To make a long story short, plane broke down twice, would have been stuck in Newark for 3 days. United took care of me and sent me home via Air Canada.
Ciao for now