Yesterday I went through the first half of our South Florida Big Day but I saved the really good stuff for today. You'll have to continue reading to find out what we scored!
After finding the kites we headed towards the Anhinga and Gumbo Limbo Trails. The walk to the Mound had been longer than we anticipated and we were all feeling a little tired. Also we were feeling the need to pick up some more birds. We had a few target birds in mind and immediately we found our first one right out of the parking lot, a Short-tailed Hawk mixed in with a kettle of vultures. It was a dark morph and it really got us pumped up. After that we searched the wooded trail for flycatchers but came up empty. We decided that time was of the essence so after we found a Black-crowned Night Heron and an Anhinga for the day list we shot off towards the campground area for a late lunch.
Click the photos to see all the little black specks in the air, those are Tree Swallows.
The pines around the campground are crucial for a Everglades birding day and you must pick up the specialty species there like Brown-headed Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird, Pine Warbler, Northern Flicker, and Eastern Towhee. After eating a quick bite to eat we walked out towards the pond to find thousands of Tree Swallows flying overhead. The winds were picking up and our specialty birds were nowhere to be seen or heard. We were just turning back towards the car when not one, not two, but ALL of the birds we needed somehow popped into view. It was an amazing feeling to find all the birds we needed for the day and we left the area feeling satiated.
After seeing those Pine species we decided to stop by Mahogany Hammock to check on the warbler show. It was around 2:00PM and we didn't have high hopes but we nailed a feeding flock that included Black-throated Green, Black-and-White, Northern Parula, and Prairie Warbler. As we were looking at the Black-throated Green two Barred Owls began calling back and forth through the hammock. After a little backtracking we found one of the owls perched directly by the trail. On our way out of the hammock we heard Sandhill Cranes flying by and we deemed the stop more than successful.
Unfortunately Mrazek Pond wasn't as happening. A month ago I had seen a nice group of Northern Pintails there but today we just had a few teal and some woodstorks. We continued down the road to Flamingo where the visitor center gave us great looks at some terns and sparrows. But the big find of the day was yet to come at Eco Pond. We went there to see the Roseate Spoonbills and Black-necked Stilts but we certainly weren't expecting to find a Mangrove Cuckoo!
Mangrove Cuckoo at Eco Pond, 10 feet away and at eye level out in the open.
Usually when you're on a Big Day mission you can't take time to enjoy the birds to the full extent but we made an exception with this one. We soaked in the looks of our Mangrove Cuckoo until some people collecting firewood eventually spooked the bird. It was a great find and one of the many highlights of the day. After that we went back to Flamingo where Kim found her lifer Bonaparte's Gull and in her new scope to top it off!
The Big Day was coming to a close but we still continued searching for just one more bird.
At sunset we hauled ourselves back to Eco Pond in hopes of catching a few more birds. Along the way we did find a couple of good day birds, Common Ground-dove and Spotted Sandpiper but the final bird of the day would be Lesser Nighthawks calling overhead. This was a perfect ending to a great day of birding.
After dark we were still persistent to find another bird but after scouring the campground and part of the Coastal Prairie Trail with headlamps we still couldn't find a Whippoorwill or any owls so we called it a day and headed to our tent for the night. Before daylight we were back at Eco Pond in time to catch an owl flying by and a whole mess of Lesser Nighthawks cruising low over the water. Really it was a perfect weekend birding with friends. And we even stopped back by and saw our Bell's Vireo sans crazy humping dog which made it that much better.
In order of appearance.
Dump Marsh: Killdeer, Barn Owl, Northern Cardinal
Cutler Wetlands: American Avocet, Boat-tailed Grackle, Long-billed Dowitcher, Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Greater Yellowlegs, Black Vulture, European Starling, Green-winged Teal, Ring-billed Gull, Northern Shoveler, Mourning Dove, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Red-shouldered Hawk, Laughing Gull, Herring Gull, Great Blue Heron, American Coot, Brown-Headed Cowbird, Muscovy, Little Blue Heron, Red-Winged Blackbird, Tri-Colored Heron, Lesser Yellowlegs, Northern Mockingbird, Glossy Ibis, Northern Harrier, Blue Jay, Cattle Egret, Turkey Vulture, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Fish Crow
Dump Marsh: Loggerhead Shrike, American Kestral, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Tropical Kingbird, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Painted Bunting, Common Moorhen, Osprey, Belted Kingfisher, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Great Egret, Palm Warbler, American White Pelican
In Transit from Cutler to the Annex: Rock Pigeon, Double Crested Cormorant, Feral Gray-Lag Goose, Common Myna, House Sparrow
The Annex: White-Eyed Vireo, Gray Catbird, Great-Crested Flycatcher, Blue-Headed Vireo, Bell's Vireo, House Wren, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Common Yellow-Throat, Magnolia Warbler, Indigo Bunting
Lucky Hammock: Grasshopper Sparrow
Everglades National Park: Pied-Billed Grebe, American Crow, Eastern Meadowlark, White-tailed Kite, Tree Swallow, Hooded Merganser, Snail Kite, Snowy Egret, Short-Tailed Hawk, Anhinga, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Eastern Towhee, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Flicker, Brown-Headed Nuthatch, Pine Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, Northern Parula, Black-Throated Green Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Barred Owl, Sandhill Crane, Green Heron, Brown Pelican, Caspian Tern, Willet, Royal Tern, Savannah Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Black Skimmer, Black-Necked Stilt, Mangrove Cuckoo, Roseate Spoonbill, Bonaparte's Gull, Common Ground Dove, Spotted Sandpiper, Lesser Nighthawk
Big Day Total: 103 species