Winding out my Florida trip after the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival was over, I tried once again for some of the rare birds that were still around. The bananaquit had not been seen in the last 2 weeks, but the western spindalis was still sporadically being reported from Virginia Key near Miami, FL. Although unsuccessful again with the spindalis, the bonus bird was a nice adult dark morph Short-tailed Hawk. Returning in late afternoon to Green Cay in Boynton Beach, FL, I was successful with the La Sagra’s Flycatcher. Not only did I get to hear it call, but I got to see it in fading light, perched and fairly well hidden behind quite an array of branches and leaves. Unfortunately, not a one of my photos turned out very well. None are presented here. But the Short-tailed Hawk? Ah. Well. That was quite rewarding as this species goes. It is often seen flying at quite a height or you just catch a glimpse as it zooms overhead at treetop level hunting the treetops for small birds.
Short-tailed Hawk adult dark morph above treeline – Virginia Key – near Key Biscayne, FL – 2013-01-30 photo by Greg Miller
Short-tailed Hawk adult dark morph overhead showing whiter patches in underwing – Virginia Key – near Key Biscayne FL – 2013-01-30 photo by Greg Miller
On 1/28/2013 I was on a pelagic trip out of New Smyrna Beach, FL as part of the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. Unfortunately, I do not have any photos from that day since the forecast was for choppy waters and I figured my opportunities would be few. As it turned out, the waters were not all that bad. So I did miss what would have been a good shot at a bridled tern on a little buoy and numerous shot of northern gannets in flight. But the distant fly-by razorbill and several red phalaropes were tough enough to get on just with binoculars, let alone a big camera lens.
On the 29th, I had to turn in my rental car and had a little over half a day from Titusville, FL. Solution? Short visits to both Merritt Island NWR and Viera Wetlands again. At Merritt Island NWR on this day I happened across a pool that was a wading bird feeding frenzy. And I shot freely with my camera. What a great opportunity!
wading birds feeding frenzy – Merritt Island NWR – near Titusville FL – 2013-01-29 photo by Greg Miller
egrets spoonbills and storks – Merritt Island NWR – near Titusville FL – 2013-01-29 photo by Greg Miller
Ha! Right into part 2 with no delay. I’m ready to roll after skimming through my 3,000+ photos for Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. In my previous post I had posted a bright red dragonfly I labeled “is this a very bright Roseate Skimmer” from Green Cay in Boynton Beach, FL. Thanks to the expertise of Angel Abreu of Miami, FL, this dragonfly has been correctly identified as a Scarlet Skimmer. Cool. Thank you, Angel!
January 23, 2013 I was only scheduled for my opening keynote speach. Unfortunately I forgot to take any photos, but the auditorium was packed and the audience was great. During the day I got to relax with leisure birding at a fabulous little spot called Rich Grissom Viera Wetlands (or referred to by me as just Viera Wetlands in Viera, FL).
Blue-winged Teal pair – Viera Wetlands – Viera FL – 2013-01-23 photo by Greg Miller
Carolina Satyr – Viera Wetlands – Viera FL – 2013-01-23 photo by Greg Miller
Anyone who keeps bird lists and wants to get the best bang for the buck has to go to several geographic locations at different seasons. For Big Year folks, this means (in addition to chasing rarities) visits to what refer to as “The Big 5”. These are the 5 states where you can pick up a huge number of regular species and also be in proximity to potential rarities showing up while you are there. These states are Alaska, California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida. All of these states have unique specialty birds–birds that occur more commonly there than many other places (and a few are completely unique to those areas). What’s it like to visit a birding festival in one of these locations? Read on. I will tell you about my trip to Brevard County, Florida for the an old and well-recognized festival, the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. The epicenter of the birding action here is the very birdy Merritt Island NWR near Titusville, FL.
I arrived in Florida late Sunday afternoon, 1/20/2013, with 3 hours of daylight to burn. Spending that time at Merritt Island NWR seemed like a good plan. And 70 species later I would say, “Yes. That was a good choice.”
Merritt Island NWR is a big wildlife refuge near Cape Canaveral where the space shuttle launches occurred. Here are a few pics from the Black Point Wildlife Drive.
Northern Pintail male in alternate plumage – Merritt Island NWR – near Titusville FL – 2013-01-20 photo by Greg Miller
UNTRUE! ahaha. Ok. I don’t know about any of those rumors. But…it has been an excessively long time since my last post. I’ve been all over the place and keeping a pretty hectic (but exciting) schedule. Since I’ve last posted there’s been Florida and the Dry Tortugas, West Virginia and Swainson’s Warblers, Flora-Quest in Southern Ohio, Biggest Week in American Birding in NW Ohio, Great Salt Lake Bird Festival in Utah, Roger Tory Peterson Institute in New York and more!
And now…10,000 pictures later…the first few photos are appearing here (yes, with my trusty Canon Rebel T2i and new Sigma 50-500mm lens with optical stabilization). These pics are from Southern Florida to the Florida Keys on the way to the Dry Tortugas in April 2012: Continue reading →