10 February 2009

South Florida Big Day

Friday night Kim and I drove to Andy's house to prepare for our South Florida Big Day. We fueled up on a great tomato basil pizza and then went to bed early in preparation for our 5:00AM wake up call. Our plan was to be at Dump Marsh in southern Miami-Dade County by 6:00AM.

Breakfast of champions on top of our Everglades planned route.

With a little help from the French press we were out of the door early and just in time to get to Dump Marsh before sunrise. We started the day with Killdeer calling. Shortly later a Barn Owl graced us with its presence. The day was beginning on a high note because none of us see owls very often. After the owl we made our way to Cutler Wetlands (just around the corner) where we picked up some ducks, gulls, and waders. We scanned the Brown-headed Cowbirds for Yellow-headed Cowbirds but came up empty. So we high-tailed it back to Dump Marsh for a few more birds such as the Tropical Kingbird that's been hanging out all winter. We even got lucky and found a beautiful male Painted Bunting before departing to the Annex.

Checking out the Tropical Kingbird and Eastern Phoebe at Dump Marsh.

For those that don't know the Annex and Lucky Hammock are officially called the Frog Pond Wildlife Management Area and Southern Glades Wildlife and Environmental Area. Both birding hotspots are located just outside the entrance of Everglades National Park and are on the same road. They both host an impressive bird list and warrant a visit if you're in the area. We went there to try and catch some passerines for our Big Day. Luck would hand us some great birds including three vireos: Blue-headed, White-eyed, and Bell's Vireo. The latter being a lifer bird for both Andy and me. Of course during our views of our lifer Bell's a stray dog disturbed our birding but we somehow regained composure and headed toward Lucky Hammock which was unusually quiet. Of course we did pick up Grasshopper Sparrow for a day bird so it wasn't a complete bust.

The dog getting a little frisky with Andy. Even though I thought it was rude to cut into our lifer views I found this whole situation mildly entertaining.

Our next stop was Research Road in Everglades National Park. Our goal was the White-tailed Kite and a few minutes after reaching the abandoned missile base our kite soared over the glades and perched in a nearby tree. It was still a pretty good distance off but I tried my hand at some rough digiscoping. I apologize for the mediocre photos but they are identifiable and not bad considering I don't have a digiscoping rig.

After soaking in our White-tailed Kite looks we headed to the Mound by Gate 15. This is a great spot to get aerial views of the wetlands surrounding this area. We came up with a small flock of Hooded Mergansers and an unexpected Snail Kite.

Andy scanning for something other than a Hooded Merganser to add to our day list.

The hike up to the top of the Mound is always fun because it's really the only elevation change you will get at Everglades National Park unless you climb the stairs at Flamingo.

Two kite species, three vireos, and a few good grabs like Common Myna at the Homstead gas station meant we were rolling along right on schedule. By noon we were up to 73 species but it's always the end of the day that's crucial for picking up every little bird. We had a lot of miles ahead of us before reaching Flamingo and a few unexpected finds as well. But you'll have to come back tomorrow to find out what was waiting for us at the end of our South Florida Big Day!

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