April 10, 2015 - Back in March of this year Jeremy and his girlfriend Sarah spent a nice week in Florida soaking up the sun and findi...

RBS - Florida Free Time Part I - by Jeremy Dominguez

April 10, 2015 -

Back in March of this year Jeremy and his girlfriend Sarah spent a nice week in Florida soaking up the sun and finding some really cool birds. This is Jeremy's first Rogue Birder post - let him know what you think. You can find more of Jeremy's photos on his Flickr page!!

Florida Free-Time 
 - Jeremy Dominguez

Alright here it is at last. The story of the trip down under. That’s Florida not Australia. Sarah and I set sail from Ohio to head all the way to southern Florida. We left on Feb 27Th and spent the night in Atlanta with some friends. After enjoying some BBQ and saying goodbye to our friends we headed out to Florida with a pit stop made in GA to snag a red cockaded woodpecker and brown nuthatch. (got em!). Now we drive!
Red Cockaded Woodpecker
Florida - Day One

Little Blue Heron
Honeymoon Island was our first stop for the day. As we were driving Sarah and I were getting antsy, ready to be out of the car but most of all ready to see some birds. We started off good by snagging a couple lifers just after getting out of the car - Common Ground Dove and Royal Tern. Next, we saw a Swallow-Tailed Kite flyover. It was pretty exciting but then we got really excited when we saw a Tri-Colored Heron and a Little Blue Heron! A first for Sarah and I.

American Oystercatcher
Stop #2 for the day brought us to Fort De Soto Park. Sarah and I decided to bust out the scope there and scan the flocks of shore birds. We had pretty bad lighting and were unable to make a positive ID on most of the birds but some of the highlights here were Reddish Egret, Black Skimmers, Marbled Godwits and an American Oyster Catcher. 

Not a bad first day in Florida but we wanted to see the real Florida specialties and there was a certain Quail-dove with our names on it.

Florida - Day Two

We woke up early and started our first day in the Everglades. We knew coming to Florida we would see lots of alligators but nothing could have prepared for how close these giants reptiles were to us. You actually had to make sure not to walk into one. We birded “shark valley” (not sure why it was named that because we didn’t see a single shark). What we did see was a Limpkin! It was only a few feet from us. Such a beautiful bird and a Florida specialty. Some other highlights were Purple Gallinule, Wood Storks (a bird Sarah really wanted to see), our first Anhinga, and a Barred Owl that perched in a tree right next to us. Now that the day we coming to an end it was time to drive further south into the Everglades and set up camp.
Florida - Day Three

“Sarah wake up! Let’s look for a mangrove cuckoo!”

Roseate Spoonbill
We birded in the Everglades all the day seeing lots of birds and dodging a couple of more alligators. I’d stop and “awww” every time a Swallow-Tailed Kite flew overhead. Regardless of staying at “Camp Flamingo” we didn’t see any Flamingos and the Mangrove Cuckoo avoided us the whole time as well, but we did see something pink: Roseate Spoonbill! Finally this alien looking bird was very close to us. Stunning pink wading in the marsh. A Florida specialty that I certainly won’t forget. Maybe next time we come down we will see a Flamingo or a Mangrove Cuckoo.

Florida - Day Four

Sarah and I were up before the Prairie Warblers were singing. We had 2 goals for the day Black-Faced Grasquit and Key West Quail-Dove. I had been thinking and dreaming about this day for a while and it was finally here. Positive sightings the day before reassured me that it was going to be a good day! My main target bird for this trip was this Quail Dove and I was determined to get it.

We arrived at Long Key State Park early and there were already other birders there. They all had one goal Key West Quail-Dove. We spent the entire morning walking the trail where the bird had been seen previously with no luck. Sarah and I were hungry so a quick lunch break (PB&J made right in the parking lot) and we were back it walking the trail searching and constantly listening. Many birders came and went through the day but all had fallen short and left without seeing the bird. Sarah and I started thinking we might miss this bird and the Grassquit. The idea of missing either was a depressing thought but missing both would have been a huge blow. So we made the decision to leave Long Key and head to Bahia Honda to look for the Black-Faced Grassquit.

Black-Faced Grassquit
When we pulled up to the stop there were birders on site and they told us, “The bird was just here ten minutes ago”. Finally some hope tat we might actually see this bird. Sarah and I made ourselves comfortable behind the women’s restroom of the campground at Bahia Honda (where the bird was being seen). As we are waiting a beautiful Northern Parula popped out for us. A couple of more minutes go by and there it was! “Sarah there on the fence! The Grassquit!” A drab small bird landed right in front of us and began eating seeds off the ground allowing for lots of pictures to be taken. Moral is up again!

So now that we saw the Grassquit we decide to head back to Long Key SP for the quail dove. “It has to be there” I reassured myself…

Florida Free Time Part II - Coming soon!!

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