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
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