Planning for Panama 2014

Woo-hoo!  It’s back to birding on the this birding blog.  I have a busy upcoming fall with events here in Ohio, Ontario, Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina, and Massachusetts.  Check out my calendar (you can access it by clicking on the Calendar tab above or by clicking here).  Today I have Panama on my mind.  Yup.  January 18-25, 2014 with Wildside Nature Tours!  Check out the details for Panama Canal Zone and Pipeline Road Birding with Greg Miller!

Did you know that is only about 21 weeks away?  I know you are thinking to yourself “That’s a long time–waaay into next year”.  And being completely bored with summer you are probably thinking of innovative ways to use up all your extra time.  Haha.  I am speaking in jest, of course.  Reality for most folks is “When will I get a breathing moment to do anything for myself?”

Magnificent Frigatebird

Magnificent Frigatebird near Tampa FL March 2013. Photo by Greg Miller

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2013 Florida Ornithological Society Spring Meeting – Day 2

 

Yesterday i headed to Fort Desoto Park with Mark Obmascik and Ron Smith to catch the ferry to Egmont Key. We met many other participants on the field trip.

Here is the ferryboat.

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Openings Still Available for Dry Tortugas Tours 2013

There are several openings still available with Florida Nature Tours (http://www.floridanaturetours.net) with Wes Biggs and other fine leaders this month (April 2013). I went to the Dry Tortugas April 24-27, 2012 with Wes and company and had a blast.  The birds were in good supply, the weather was phenomenal, and the exotic blue waters were as magical as ever.

The brunt of the available spaces occur on the last trip in April 26-29, 2013.  Is this a good time to go?  If you check on eBird, you will find that almost 300 species of birds have been recorded in just the Dry Tortugas and Key West in Florida.  Of those 300 species, 221 have been recorded during the last week in April (the best week of the year in this area).  A whopping 39 species of warblers have been recorded in eBird for this area and 34 species during the last week of April.

I really love the mild weather and beautiful blue waters.  And the birds are fabulous.  You can walk around the Fort or you can sit on a bench and watch the show.  The show, you say?  Yes.  The Fountain.  A fresh water fountain is in the middle of the Fort.  Most all of the species of birds there will eventually show up at The Fountain for a drink.  It’s also a fun place to set up for photography (if that is your inclination).

The Dry Tortugas are a must-see spot for any birder.  A few specialty birds occur in the Keys and the Dry Tortugas including Mangrove Cuckoo, Antillean Nighthawk, White-crowned Pigeon, Black-whiskered Vireo, Gray Kingbird, Brown Noddy, Sooty Tern, Brown & Masked Boobies, and Magnificent Frigatebird.  Excited yet?  You should be.  It’s a great place to go birding.

Here is info from Florida Nature Tours:

Dry Tortugas photo & message for Florida Nature Tours

Dry Tortugas 2013 info sheet for Florida Nature Tours

And here are some photos from my trip last year to the Dry Tortugas with Wes Biggs (and a host of other fine leaders):

American Redstart adult male displaying - Dry Tortugas FL - 2012-04-26 IMG_5154

American Redstart adult male displaying – Dry Tortugas FL – 2012-04-26 photo by Greg Miller

 

Black-throated Blue Warbler - Key West FL - 2012-04-24 IMG_3859

Black-throated Blue Warbler – Key West FL – 2012-04-24 photo by Greg Miller

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Florida Space Coast 2013 – part 1

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

Northern Pintail male in alternate plumage – Merritt Island NWR – near Titusville FL – 2013-01-20 photo by Greg Miller

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The Dry Tortugas part III

Gallery

This gallery contains 6 photos.

The Dry Tortugas are a collection of small islands 70 miles west of Key West.  One afternoon I was up on top of Fort Jefferson and captured this cool sequence of photos of an adult male Magnificent Frigatebird flying right … Continue reading

The Dry Tortugas part II

Gallery

This gallery contains 28 photos.

Bird movement was pretty significant on April 26, 2012 and many of the migrants showed up at “the drip”, a fresh-water fountain found inside Fort Jefferson.  The days in the Tortugas this year were quite memorable.  I spent hours watching … Continue reading

The Dry Tortugas part I

Gallery

This gallery contains 13 photos.

To me, there are many great birding spots in North America, but there are few that rival the idyllic crystal blue waters of the Dry Tortugas.  These small islands are located in the Gulf of Mexico nearly 70 miles west … Continue reading

Preliminary Bird Reports from Hurricane Irene

Here in Ohio things have been relatively quiet with the passing of Hurricane Irene EXCEPT for a report I just found out about from yesterday of a flyover ANHINGA seen west of Walnut Creek, OH and flying in a northwesterly direction.  Birders in Ohio should keep a lookout of this individual.  Not only is this a rare bird for Ohio, it is quite unusual for the bird to be traveling northward into the wind.  The winds on the west side of the hurricane actual rotate counterclockwise, so for us in Ohio, the winds from the hurricane have been out of the North.

But thing were most certainly NOT quiet on the East Coast as Hurricane Irene traveled north all the way up the coast.  Birders near the coast had outstanding results as the eye of Irene was very close to the coast and at times actually came inland.  Birders just to the EAST OF THE EYE often have some of the best opportunities.  Birders from the Carolinas all the way up into New Hampshire were delighted by the diversity of birds deposited by this storm.

I quickly scanned through many of the listserves along the East Coast and here is a preliminary (and entirely unofficial) report:

Carolinas
-Magnificent Frigatebirds
-Sooty Terns
-Bridled Terns
-Brown Noddy
Virginia
-Bridled Terns
-Sooty Terns
-BROWN-CHESTED MARTIN
Maryland
-Sooty Terns
-Bridled Terns
Delaware
-Sooty Terns
-Bridled Tern
-storm-petrel spp
-White-tailed Tropicbird
New Jersey
-3 White-tailed Tropicbirds
-Leach’s Storm-petrel
-possible White-faced Storm-petrel
-Bridled Terns
-Sooty Terns
-Brown Booby
-Black-bellied whistling Ducks
-White Ibis
New York
-Bridled Terns
-Sooty Terns
-Wilson’s Storm-petrels
-Leach’s Storm-petrel
-Greater Shearwater
-several White-tailed Tropicbirds
-Black-capped Petrel
-South Polar Skua
-jaegers
Connecticut
-Sooty Terns
-Long-tailed Jaeger
-Band-rumped Storm-petrel
-Leach’s Storm-petrel
-Bridled Tern
Rhode Island
-Sooty Terns
-Bridled Terns
-Leach’s Storm-petrels
-Pomarine Jaeger
Massachusetts
-Bridled Tern
-Sooty Terns
-White-tailed Tropicbird
-jaegers
-Wilson’s Storm-petrels
New Hampshire
-300 Black Terns (unusually high)
-109 Hudsonian Godwits (high)
-27 jaegers
-Leach’s Storm-petrel
-20 Greater Shearwaters
-4 Manx Shearwaters
-Sooty Shearwater

Inland reports of Magnificent Frigatebird came from the Hudson-Mohawk region of New York and Eastern Pennsylvania.  I did not include the numerous reports of Royal Terns, Black Terns, and even Sandwich Terns and a Gull-billed Tern further North than normal due to the hurricane.  This report was compiled from information collected by Jack Siler’s regional mailinglists at birdingonthe.net.   Congratulations to all the intrepid birders who braved the elements for a chance at some really good birds.  It looks like it was very rewarding!