March 17, 2016 -  As mentioned in the previous post, Jeremy has been chasing all over the place lately adding some amazing birds to h...

There and Back Again - A Chaser's Tale by Jeremy Dominguez

March 17, 2016 - 

As mentioned in the previous post, Jeremy has been chasing all over the place lately adding some amazing birds to his Lifelist and to the RBABA list. Read about his amazing adventure with a few friends and a local legend. Bird On!!!
There and Back Again - A Chaser's Tale
by Jeremy Dominguez

There is no one bird to rule them all, but when a code 5 bird is reported, the question crosses every chasers mind for second, how can I get there? Zenaida Dove is a bird of the Caribbean and has been reported in the US less than ten times and when it was reported on February 21st (first seen on February 20th) I thought to myself, how can I get there? The bird was seen on Long Key State Park in the Florida Keys (the same place where I saw the Key West Quail-dove). The Keys are a long distance from Dayton, Ohio. Nineteen hours to be exact. I quickly checked flights and the price was a bit too much. Flying was out of the question so it looks like I’m driving. Since I hold down a full time job, I just can't leave and since this was so far I’d need more than just a two day weekend to snag this bird. I couldn’t call off with such short notice with a lack of coverage at my job. So, I texted a few other people who might be interested, and within a day I had plans to go the weekend of March 4th – 7th. The fellowship would consist of Jason and Jess from Delaware Ohio and we would be picking up Wes Hatch along the way in Georgia. Now we waited until the day of departure and checked reports of the bird daily. 

On March 3rd the bird was still being seen, so it was confirmed that we would for sure be leaving March 4th after we all got off work. I would be driving from Dayton to Delaware and leaving Delaware in a gas efficient, but small, Yaris. The car didn’t leave much for leg room but at least I had the whole back seat to myself until we picked up Wes. Jason and Jess did all the driving since their names were on the rental agreement. We drove all through the night with minimal stops and got to Long Key SP by Saturday March 5th at 1PM. Long Key SP has a mile long trail that goes in a circle. The bird was seen about in the middle of the trail. We quickly got to location on the trail where the bird had mostly been seen and many birders were already present including, Neil Hayward (ABA big year record holder). The bird hadn’t been seen by anyone since the morning of the day before.

My Black-faced Grassquit from March 2015
Also sighted at Long Key SP was a Black-faced Grassquit (code 4) a bird I saw in March 2015 in Florida. It was decided since I had previously seen the Grassquit, and that it would be a life bird for everyone else I was with, that I would stakeout the Zenaida Dove and call them if I see it. So I waited patiently with the other group of birders present for the dove to make its grand appearance and it didn’t. So, Long Key SP closes at dark, 6:15pm and the hours were ticking away. Birders started leaving, including Neil (had to catch a flight home). It was now 5 o’clock and it seemed the birders who were sticking around were going to be there till close and I was again joined by my travel companions after they successfully snagged the Grassquit. 5:45 hit and there seemed to be a mass exodus of people packing up and saying they would be back in the morning.

It was looking like we would have to be here bright and early again on the 6th to see the dove too, but at 5:55 it happened. The bird casually walked out of the thick mangrove and started feeding right in the middle of the trail allowing great looks and even some decent pictures in the fading light. I couldn’t believe that after weeks of waiting I was finally looking at the Zenaida Dove. SUCCESS! Right before the park closed we got our main target and the rest of the group got both of their targets.

Zenaida Dove
With the success of the Dove and the Grassquit, this freed up our day for Sunday to bird and snag other Florida goodies. I told the group that I really wanted to see the Pair of Smooth-billed Anis (code 3) that have been at Loxahatchee and the group agreed to end the day there to try for the anis. Jason and Jess pretty much cleaned house on previous trips to Florida so it was up to Wes and I to pick what our target birds were for the day. We made a List and pretty much snagged everything.

Mangrove Cuckoo
First thing first was Mangrove Cuckoo. I saw Laura Keene had the cuckoo on the day before at Biscayne National Park so I messaged her and asked for details and she told me the exact spot she had it in. Pretty much as soon as we pulled up the cuckoo started calling and finally popped into view for us. A lifer for me! Laura also told that she would be trying for the anis today so I told her I would keep in touch and hopefully see her later.

White-crowned Pigeon

Wes and I both needed White-Winged Parakeets, an established exotic bird countable on your ABA list. Jason knew right where to take us for this, they nest/roost in the palm trees outside a bank in downtown Miami. We drove around the bank a couple of times and sure enough we heard the parakeets. Wes and I jumped out the car and enjoyed the parakeets for a moment. We also saw Common Myna, another established exotic and another lifer! We decided to go from there to neighborhood where Red-whiskered Bulbuls are seen, yet another established exotic species. After creeping through the neighborhood for a little bit we decided to dip on the bulbuls. Wes needed White-crowned Pigeon for a life bird so a quick search on ebird and Wes took us to a place where one was seen recently.

Eastern Screech-Owl
We arrived at the dolphin mall which had no pigeons and no dolphins either. We decided to try another place for the Pigeon A.D. Barnes Park. We got to the park and decided to split up and I quickly found myself in a flock of warblers, Black and white, Prairie, Yellow-rumped, Pine and Northern Parula. As I was checking out all the warblers I somehow noticed a pigeon hiding in a tree right above me. It was the White-crowned Pigeon, I quickly called Wes to come over and look at it. A lifer for Wes and we were quickly moving on. The group wanted to bird Green Cay Wetlands and it was a great choice. We saw many herons, egret, ibis, and more. Gray-headed Swamphen, another life bird on the trip for me. The wetlands were great and provided excellent looks at lots of birds. Highlights for me were a Least Bittern that quickly flew across the wetlands and an Eastern Screech Owl that was perched in a palm tree. We worked up an appetite and decided to eat an early dinner at an Italian place close to Loxahatchee. Jason jess and I enjoyed Pizza while Wes had eggplant parmesan.

After our meal it was time to search for the anis, I talked to Laura and she said she had been looking for the anis all day with no luck but she was still searching. We drove over and as soon as we pulled in I get a text from Laura saying she has the birds! We ran over and had amazing looks of the pair of Smooth-billed Anis. Thanks again Laura for another awesome bird.

Smooth-billed Ani
After being satisfied with the anis we decided to head to the Loxahatchee visitor center and wait for Nanday Parakeets to come in to roost. They came in right as dusk and we got good looks at them (another lifer for me) and almost a clean sweep of all the targets for the day, missed the bulbuls. Now it was time to start the long drive home! Wish I could say the story ends there but it doesn’t.

Nanday Parakeets
All weekend I had been hearing about a Great Cormorant that was being seen in the Cleveland area, a first state record for Ohio! I wrote this bird off thinking my next opportunity to see this bird wouldn’t be until next weekend but thanks to Jason and Jess and their awesome driving skills we were back in Delaware by 11:30AM Monday. This put me only two and a half hours away from Cleveland with positive sightings from that morning. I had to try for it. I was at Whiskey Island by 2pm and saw the bird by 2:25pm. Great Cormorant another lifer and a new state bird! What an end to an already amazing weekend. I even had enough time to come home and get my haircut by my barber that closes at 6pm. 

Great Cormorant (with the white patch)
It was a great adventure and we didn’t even have to battle any orcs.  

-Jeremy Dominguez     

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