It never fails rare birds always show up just as I start my shift and disappear when I approach my days off.
In early January a Rose-throated Becard was being seen at Estero Grande Park, Texas, in Florida there was a Western Spindalis and a Bananaquit. So in mid January I booked a flight to Texas for 4 days and then on to Florida for another 4 days.
I asked Sue if she wanted to go with me but because of a conflict at work she could only join me for the Florida leg of the trip.
On February 4th I left for on a milk run, crazy 4 stop, flight to San Antonio. Arriving at 2:30pm I figure I had enough time to go to Refugio and hopefully get the Gold-crowned Warbler (not a life bird but wanted it for my year list). Arriving at 5:15pm I got a partial look before it got too dark and then followed a 3 hour drive to McAllen. I did find a very obliging Barred Owl in the park.
I was up early, had breakfast, then headed over to Estaro Llano Grande State Park and began my morning looking for the Becard. There were many great birds but the Becard was a no show for 3 days.
Grapefruits didn’t only attract Birds
I met up with a friend Huck Hutchens and He was going to search for sparrows, that afternoon. Since there wasn’t much happening at the park, I decide to join him. Was a fun but slow afternoon (the general theme for my 4 days in Texas, SLOW)
The next morning I planned to go to the NBA (National Butterfly Centre) and Bentsen Rio State Park, to see what butterflies and birds were in the area. It also was close enough to Estero that if the Becard was spotted I could get over there quickly.
There were plenty of butterflies at the NBA but birds again were slow.
Large Orange Sulphur
Laviana White Skipper
Eastern Screech Owl
Mating Queen Butterflies
Red Eared Slider
I spent 5 hours there, spending at least two hours up on the levee scanning for Hook-billed Kites, then I headed over to Bentsen Rio’s hawk watch tower and spent another hour on the tower scanning for anything without luck. On the way out I stopped at a few of the feeding stations.
Next morning I went to Anzalduas Park for a quick hour and then it was time to head back up north back to Refugio and on to San Antonio. While none of my target birds were very obliging, a few of the locals did appear for the camera.
Quite an disappointing trip to Texas but was great meeting up with Huck Hutchens for a afternoon of sparrow hunting.
It was time to meet up with Sue in Florida but the weather had other plans, an ice storm cancelled flights from Ottawa. I arrived at 11am and found out that Sue wouldn’t arrive until 6pm. You gotta love Air Canada.
Since I had some time to kill, I drove to nearby Bass Pro Shop and bought a pair of knee high boots I’d need for my next days trek through the Everglades in search of the Cape Sable Sparrow.
I left the next morning at 5, meeting up with Larry Manfredi in Homestead at 6:30. After a quick coffee off we went.
The Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis) is a subspecies og the Seaside Sparrow a bird endemic to southern Florida. In my Golden Guide 1966 edition it was considered a species and therefore I needed this bird for my book.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried for the Cape Sable Sparrow without success so I decided I needed help on this bird. I contacted Larry Manfredi one of the best Florida Guides out there, fun to be with and he knows his birds.
Check out his website: http://www.southfloridabirding.com/
I knew the spot well where you could find the birds but snakes and alligators will put a damper on going off road, alone. Larry led the way saying that he could hear the birds ahead. I couldn’t hear a damn thing but I had faith. Within minutes we were watching 3 sparrows in the grasses.
Cape Sable Sparrow (#682 of 706)
My photos would have been a lot better but that morning there was a heavy fog and I upped my ISO when getting out of the car and forgot about it when the birds showed up in front of me.
We had a good but long day, with many good birds.
Bannanaquit – ABA Life bird #721
The Western Spindalis was a no show at Crandon Park but while waiting a few good birds were found.
Black Racer a 1st for me..
Great Crested Flycatcher
Sue and I returned to Crandon Park a few more times over the next few days, seeing lots of good birds but the Spindalis was nowhere to be seen.
Lesser Black-backed Gull
It was a great 4 days with Sue, good food and a few drinks…just good getting away.
Ciao for now…