Category Archives: Bird-a-Day Challenge

B-A-D -17

Vermilion Flycatcher record shot
A bad photo of a B-A-D lifer: Vermilion Flycatcher on February 15

Today is the 100th day of the year. This is the third year in a row I have made it at least this far in the Bird-a-Day Challenge. My goal in the past was simply to improve upon the previous year’s total. This year my goal is a bit less ambitious, because soon I will be traveling somewhere where there are no birds! I will be out of the game before the end of April, probably by the 27th (17 days!).

Lesser Black-backed Gull
This exact bird’s second B-A-D appearance: Lesser Black-backed Gull on January 25

Knowing I don’t have a chance to beat last year’s record has made my strategy this year much simpler. I’ve certainly fretted less about using up easy birds early in the challenge. It helped that I got some pretty good birds in our yard: Painted Bunting on January 14; Ovenbird on January 29; House Finch on March 20.

Florida Scrub-Jay
A B-A-D staple: Florida Scrub-Jay on March 23

Even so, picking out a bird each day still makes me think about things like the timing of migration and species abundance on a regular basis. Doing this for the last few years has been a great exercise in learning local birds in my new home state.

Hooded Warbler
Best B-A-D of the year so far: Hooded Warbler on March 31

And again it’s been a lot of fun! I am already looking forward to playing in 2015, with a target date to beat. ๐Ÿ™‚

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A B-A-D ending!

On April 10th, the 100th day of the year, I figured I had 23 “easy” birds left in the Bird-a-Day challenge. And with birding prospects bleak (house guests coming, a move to complete and new home to work on), I wondered if I would even make it that far.

Since the number of expected possible birds was relatively small, I used that handy prognosis list as the days wore on.

Birds #101-110, April 11-20

Nine of these were on my prognosis list. The one unforeseen species was a Least Tern. At least one LETE was seen at Ponce Inlet during a trip there with Arthur and my friend Kim who was visiting from Illinois. That left just 14 gimmes from the prognosis list. Lasting until May 23rd, to at least match my 2012 performance, seemed unlikely.

Common Gallinule
Common Gallinule | 17-APR-13

Birds #111-120, April 21-30

I lucked out here; half of this bunch weren’t on the ‘easy’ list, even though a couple of them kind of were easy. When we went to Kennedy Space Center with Arthur’s parents on the 28th, I knew before we even left the house that my bird would be Laughing Gull. I always can count on finding a Mallard at Disney, so it isn’t so remarkable that it was my bird when we visited Animal Kingdom. A pair of unexpected Spotted Sandpipers at Audubon Park was a great bonus. And I was extremely excited to finally, finally get my FOY Limpkin on April 24th (!!). Finally, during a visit to Merritt Island with Kim, a marathon birding-by-car excursion yielded a very welcome Peregrine Falcon. With just five ‘easy’ birds used, I still had nine left. Could I make it another 23 days?

Laughing Gull
Laughing Gull | 28-APR-13

Birds #121-130, May 1-10

Another ten days, and another five “unexpected” birds. On a couple of day trips with my in-laws I managed to pick up Sandwich Tern and Royal Tern. An evening at Downtown Disney brought a flyover peenting Common Nighthawk, and a very quick visit to Mead Garden after a volunteer shift got me Northern Waterthrush. I also used Muscovy Duck in this group but I should have included it in the ‘easy’ list. That’s a given at Gemini Springs lately, unfortunately.

Barred Owls
Barred Owls | 03-MAY-13

It was during this period that I booked a flight for a quick trip up to visit my parents in northern Illinois for May 16-21. I had four easy birds left before my flight… four days later. Yikes.

Florida Scrub-Jay
Florida Scrub-Jay | 05-MAY-13

Birds #131-140, May 11-20

Right off the bat I used a super-easy gimme: Red-shouldered Hawk. On May 12th Arthur and I took a walk at Lake Woodruff NWR and I heard a Clapper Rail which was the best bird of the day — even though I got my first Florida Bobolinks on the same walk. This was followed by the super-easy Boat-tailed Grackle and then a totally unexpected Caspian Tern flyby at Lake Monroe Boat Ramp. I had driven to the ramp to look for Barn Swallows but after the tern I didn’t mind missing them.

I had thought to go to Lyonia Preserve on the 15th to look for, or rather listen for, Northern Bobwhites. I had second thoughts and ended up going to my trusty patch, Gemini Springs, hoping that something good might turn up there. As I was wrapping up a pleasant but unremarkable walk, I heard a Northern Bobwhite calling from a part of the park I would not expect to find them. The bird called twice more so I could confidently call the ID. All hail the patch, long live patch birding!! ๐Ÿ™‚

On May 16th I flew to Chicago and for the next six days I had easy pickings for the challenge. Birds I wouldn’t expect to see in Volusia County made the list: White-crowned Sparrow; Mourning Warbler (lifer!!); Olive-sided Flycatcher; and Black-capped Chickadee were joined by Yellow Warbler. That last bird isn’t unexpected in Volusia but I missed them during spring migration. Plus I got a nice picture, so…

Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warbler | 19-MAY-13

After this group of ten birds I had one more day in Illinois and three days total to reach my target of May 23.

Birds #141-143, May 21-23

A Swainson’s Thrush in my parents’ back yard on my last day in Illinois was a good find. On May 22nd I again drove to Lake Monroe Boat Ramp to look for Barn Swallows. Again I struck out on my target, but a totally unexpected pair of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks saved the day — they flew by just as I was about to leave. My FOY BBWD too! On May 23rd I tried one last time to find Barn Swallows at the boat ramp, and struck out for the third and final time. I was happy to have made it as far as I did — after all, I had gimme Osprey left, and it was May 23rd. I used the same last bird from 2012 for this year’s challenge, on the same date. I never thought I would make it so far, so I was actually well pleased. That is, until I realized that last year was a leap year. So I was out of the game on the same date, but one day short of last year’s final. Yeah, that stings.

2014?

I am not yet sure if I will try again next year. In April I will (if all goes to plan) be spending 8 days at sea on a transatlantic voyage from Miami to Barcelona. I doubt I will be able to find birds each day during the crossing, so that may be a good excuse to forgo the challenge next year. We shall see! Meanwhile, tomorrow is June 1st and that means a new challenge awaits!

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B-A-D 100 and prognosis

Today is the 100th day of the year, and I am still alive in the Bird-a-Day Challenge! But I am fading fast…

Last week Arthur and I bought a house. We got the keys late Tuesday and have been busy with it every day since. Moving stuff, cleaning everything, little repair jobs, meeting contractors, and trying to keep up at least a little bit with work has made keeping up with the challenge extremely difficult. There’s not much time to gaze at the back yard feeders at length, let alone go out birding.

Brown Thrasher
15-MAR: Brown Thrasher | DeBary, Volusia Co. FL

Since my last update on March 13th I have added 28 birds. Of these, an alarming number came from the back yard (some at the new house, some at the old house): Downy Woodpecker; Mourning Dove; Fish Crow; Blue Jay; Great Crested Flycatcher; Tufted Titmouse; and Red-bellied Woodpecker. A further five were added from various spots in DeBary as we have been running around shopping and doing house-related errands: Brown Thrasher; Pileated Woodpecker; European Starling; White Ibis; and today’s House Sparrow in the parking lot at the grocery store.

Swallow-tailed Kite
25-MAR: Swallow-tailed Kite | Gemini Springs, Volusia Co. FL

I did sneak out to Gemini Springs a bit, especially before last week, where I got 8 species. Most were expected birds: Snowy Egret; American Crow; American Coot; and Black-necked Stilt. The American Redstart I found on April 1st was my first of the year (FOY). I also had my FOY Indigo Bunting that morning and had a hard time picking which of those to use.

Black-crowned Night-Heron
26-MAR: Black-crowned Night-Heron | Gemini Springs, Volusia Co. FL

Swallow-tailed Kite is pretty common down the Spring-to-spring Trail towards Lake Monroe, so seeing one at Gemini Springs was not totally unexpected but a very pleasant surprise. (I added Sharp-shinned Hawk on a bike ride along the Spring-to-spring Trail on March 24th.) On March 26th I laughed out loud when I saw a Black-crowned Night-Heron standing across from the fishing pier — “yippee!” — BCNH is a very good bird for Gemini Springs. The very next day I was extremely surprised to see my first ever Lesser Scaup in the park, swimming in the spring run behind the dam.

Lesser Scaup
27-MAR: Lesser Scaup | Gemini Springs, Volusia Co. FL

On March 14th I stopped at Lake Monroe on the way home from Audubon Center for Birds of Prey. There I found my best bird of the day, a Common Yellowthroat. On March 21st I had the great opportunity to release a pair of Short-tailed Hawks near to where I live. The birds were picked up following a territory fight and brought to the Audubon Center for rehabilitation. Fully healed, both birds were released close to where they were first found. And the local Chimney Swifts returned to the Audubon Center last week, so they were my species of the day for April 4th.

Short-tailed Hawk
21-MAR: Short-tailed Hawk | Seminole Co. FL

Twice in the last 28 days Arthur and I went to Blue Spring State Park to see some special visitors. A cold snap on March 29th meant that the manatees might be back — and they were, probably for the last time this spring. I heard a Red-eyed Vireo for my B-A-D. Then yesterday we went back to Blue Spring to see the fireflies, which are only active for 2-3 weeks each spring. I used another heard-only bird yesterday: my FOY Chuck-will’s-widow.

An outing last month to Disney World got me Purple Martin for March 22 and a stop at Kennedy Space Center on March 19th yielded Roseate Spoonbill.

Prognosis

Now, since it seems like I have been bleeding easy birds of late, I made a list of the birds I can still expect to find as the challenge goes on. There are just nine birds I can expect to find in my yard or on a local errand run. There are another 10 I would expect to see on a typical day at Gemini Springs. Just getting out there is a problem these days, though. Another 4 species would be easy peasy if I could just get to where they are. See my lists below and fear for my future in the challenge when you see them get checked off! And wish me luck as we prepare the house not only for ourselves, but for house guests – nonstop from April 18 to May 6! I seriously doubt I’ll stay in the challenge through April. Surpassing or even reaching my total from last year is extremely unlikely. But I’ll certainly try!!

Remaining birds expected to see or hear (estimated % of the time) at home or locally:
(100%) Carolina Wren
(100%) Northern Cardinal
(100%) Northern Mockingbird
(100%) Osprey
(100%) Turkey Vulture
(95%) Black Vulture
(95%) Carolina Chickadee
(90%) Northern Parula
(80%) Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Remaining birds expected to see or hear on a normal day at Gemini Springs:
(100%) Boat-tailed Grackle
(100%) Common Gallinule
(100%) Red-shouldered Hawk
(90%) Great Blue Heron
(90%) Red-winged Blackbird
(90%) Tricolored Heron
(85%) Great Egret
(75%) Anhinga
(75%) Barred Owl
(75%) Barn Swallow

Remaining special birds:
(100%) Eastern Towhee (at Lyonia Preserve)
(100%) Rock Pigeon (I-4 in Longwood)
(95%) Florida Scrub-Jay (at Lyonia Preserve)
(85%) Loggerhead Shrike (local neighborhood)

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Halfway B-A-D

Today is the 72nd day of the year. Last year I made it through 144 days in the Bird-a-Day Challenge, so I’m just shy of halfway to making my goal (to beat last year’s total). The halfway point seems like a good time for me to share some more awful photos and a little progress update.

As in my last update, 10 birds of the most recent bunch came from Gemini Springs: Blue-winged Teal; Fox Sparrow; Tree Swallow; Pine Warbler; Glossy Ibis; Northern Harrier; Bald Eagle; Marsh Wren; White-eyed Vireo; and today’s Double-crested Cormorant.

Northern Harrier
06-MAR: Northern Harrier showing white rump very nicely! | Gemini Springs, Volusia Co. FL

Two birds were found at Epcot: Ring-billed Gull and Green Heron. Two birds came from Trout Lake, a rather dry wetland along I4 in Orange City: Wood Stork and Least Sandpiper.

I only went to the coast with Arthur twice in this last bunch, where I used Dunlin on February 20th, and a famous Lesser Black-backed Gull on February 27th (more on this bird in a future post).

Lesser Black-backed Gull
27-FEB: Lesser Black-backed Gull | Frank Rendon Park, Daytona Beach Shores, Volusia Co. FL

On a really nice six-mile walk at Lake Woodruff NWR on March 10th I used one of the first birds I saw as I began my walk: Sedge Wren.

Sedge Wren
10-MAR: Sedge Wren | Lake Woodruff NWR, Volusia Co. FL

I only used one yard bird: Common Grackle; the rest of the birds came from various locations during routine errands or making stops between errands or other outings. In this way I used a surprise inland Brown Pelican on a volunteer day at Audubon Center for Birds of Prey; a Cattle Egret between house viewings in DeBary; one of the many abundant Savannah Sparrows at Audubon Park during a pit stop on the way home on February 28th; and a Bonaparte’s Gull at Merritt Island NWR before viewing the SpaceX launch from nearby Playalinda Beach.

Bonaparte's Gull
01-MAR: Bonaparte’s Gull | Peacock’s Pocket, Merritt Island NWR, Brevard Co. FL

The next couple of weeks should be fine, but I’m expecting some major (but very welcome! and very good!) disruptions to my normal routine coming up in April, including some highly anticipated visits from a good friend and my in-laws. Eek! For now though, I’m halfway there! Onward to the next 72!

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Bird-a-Day 50

Red-tailed Hawk
12-FEB: Red-tailed Hawk | Spring-to-spring Trail, Volusia Co. FL

Today is the 50th day of the year, and I’m still alive in the Bird-a-Day Challenge.

Since my last update on January 17th, I’ve added 33 birds.

Ten birds came from Gemini Springs or the adjacent Spring-to-spring Trail: Hermit Thrush; Eastern Phoebe; Merlin; Forster’s Tern; Green-winged Teal; House Wren; Red-tailed Hawk; Belted Kingfisher; Swamp Sparrow; and today’s American Bittern.

Swamp Sparrow
17-FEB: Swamp Sparrow | Gemini Springs, Volusia Co. FL

Another eight birds came from our back yard. I always have a tiny little feeling of despair when I have to use a yard bird for the challenge, even though I have a lot of yard birds yet to use. A fair bunch of the birds I used are migrants that will soon leave, plus there was a pair of seldom-seen-anywhere species that I shouldn’t lament at all. The latest yard birds: Palm Warbler (ouch but will leave for the summer); Brown-headed Cowbird (abundant last year but a three-day wonder this season (so far)); Common Ground-Dove (new yard bird and seldom seen by me otherwise); Black-and-white Warbler (a rare yard visitor); Ruby-throated Hummingbird (visited two days after putting up the feeders and a regular visitor since); Yellow-rumped Warbler (ouch but will leave for the summer); Yellow-throated Warbler (seldom seen by me anywhere); and Chipping Sparrow (ouch but will leave soon).

Common Ground-Dove
26-JAN: Common Ground-Dove | our yard, Volusia Co. FL

A few birds came from neighborhood outings or errand runs: a Gray Catbird and flyover Sandhill Cranes while house-hunting; and a Pied-billed Grebe pit-stop on the way home.

I picked up three nice birds during the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife festival at the end of January. I didn’t take a lot of field trips but Arthur and I had the chance to visit Merritt Island during the festival where I picked up Lesser Yellowlegs and Eurasian Wigeon. I used a lifer, Bridled Tern, during the festival’s pelagic trip.

There were just two Disney birds in this bunch: a Eurasian Collared-Dove at the Magic Kingdom and a lovely posing Cooper’s Hawk at Hollywood Studios.

Cooper's Hawk
08-FEB: Cooper’s Hawk | Hollywood Studios, Orange Co. FL photo by Arthur de Wolf

I also picked up a pair of birds at a new-to-me birding spot in nearby Deltona: Audubon Park. There I added Greater Yellowlegs and Killdeer. Two more came from morning walks at Lake Woodruff NWR: Brown-headed Nuthatch (when we were looking for Red-breasted!) and Sora.

Finally, I picked up another lifer (American Pipit) on a targeted outing, a coastal bird on a day I joined Arthur on his volunteering day (Common Loon), and a flock of Cedar Waxwings at my volunteer gig.

Common Loon
05-FEB: Common Loon | Port Orange Causeway Park, Volusia Co. FL

I’m not sure how much longer I’ll last! With no travel planned I’m afraid I’ll be burning up regular, common local birds at a crazy rate. Hopefully there are some surprises out there for me! Bird on!

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Two and a half B-A-D Weeks

Painted Bunting
14-JAN: Painted Bunting | our back yard in DeBary, Volusia Co. FL

I had hoped to share frequent updates and photos from the Bird-A-Day challenge this year, but several days of gloomy weather, a new camera I’m not sure of, and a generally unlucky start to the birding year have all conspired against me.

That said, I’ve survived the first two weeks plus of the challenge, even if I don’t have fine photos or exciting stories to show for it.

After a fun night ringing in the new year at Epcot, Arthur and I got a late start on January 1st. We hit a couple of birding spots on our way to our second annual New Year’s Day dip into the Atlantic Ocean. I ended up with just 39 birds at the end of the day; for my first B-A-D I picked a species I didn’t use at all last year: American White Pelican.

The week rounded out with birds found in our back yard (Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and American Robin), one at my volunteer gig (Wood Duck), at Gemini Springs (Wilson’s Snipe and Blue-headed Vireo), and around town (Wild Turkey). The robin and Wood Duck were a bit painful to cross off, but they were the besties for their days.

Week two started off with a bird at my local patch (Ruby-crowned Kinglet). Last year I got 41 out of 144 birds at Gemini Springs, a pace I expect to continue into this year.

just an eBird record shot
09-JAN: Purple Sandpiper | Lighthouse Point Park, Ponce Inlet, Volusia Co. FL

Arthur volunteers in Ponce Inlet each week, and I tag along when I’m able. While he heads to his good work, I take off to watch birds at spots along the coast. The car’s going there anyway, ya know?

In this way I was able to use Purple Sandpiper on the 9th and Red-breasted Merganser a week later. Three of the remaining birds of week two were found in our back yard (Baltimore Oriole, American Goldfinch, and Painted Bunting). Three weeks ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of using American Goldfinch as my B-A-D so soon, but about ten days ago our goldfinches scattered and we only see one or two a day, if any.

American Kestrel
13-JAN: American Kestrel | Brickyard Slough, Volusia Co. FL

An American Kestrel at Brickyard Slough, a Hooded Merganser at Magic Kingdom, an Orange-crowned Warbler at Gemini Springs, and a Little Blue Heron round out the first 17 days of the challenge.

Hooded Mergansers
11-JAN: Hooded Mergansers | Magic Kingdom, Orange Co. FL | photo by Arthur de Wolf

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Goals for 2013

It’s that time of year! Here’s what I hope to accomplish, bird-wise, in 2013.

  • I’ll be keeping a BIGBY list again. With 115 birds last year, I surpassed my goal. That total will be hard to beat; I will be happy to get 100+ again in 2013.
  • I will be participating in the Bird-a-Day Challenge once again. My target is to beat last year’s total of 144 birds. I also strive to not stress about it too much. It’s a lot of fun but it messed with my head a bit last year. ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • I would like to crack 200 birds in Volusia for the year. My Volusia life list is at 180, my 2012 list was 167 (#1 on eBird), and the eBird total for Volusia in 2012 was 249 (all as of December 30). The Big Year record for Volusia is 278 birds set by Michael Brothers in 2007.
  • I will try really, really hard to review at least 20 books this year. I post my reviews on MagnificentFrigatebird.com and last year I was a huge slacker.
  • I’d like to fill in the missing weeks for Gemini Springs on eBird. Right now there are three eBird hotspots for Gemini Springs (I have suggested these be merged, but I am not sure how this process works). I use Gemini Springs and there are just two greyed-out weeks: the second in February and the second in May (from my own checklists, there are 7 weeks missing). The hotspot Gemini Springs County Park has more checklists over fewer months; between May and November there are only two weeks of data. This location appears to be used heavily by a snowbirder! ๐Ÿ™‚ Combining all of the Gemini hotspots leaves just the second week of May missing.
  • I would like to improve my raptor handling skills at my new volunteer place, but I feel moving forward here isn’t in my hands as much as I would like. So I would consider it a “nice-to-have” if I could handle 4 more birds in 2013.

Do you have any goals (bird-related or otherwise!) for the coming year? Let me know in the comments! And best wishes for a fantastic and successful 2013!

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Challenge changeover

On May 23rd I counted one of the most abundant birds in my neighborhood for the Bird-a-Day Challenge. With Osprey as my 144th bird, I’m finished in the game for 2012.

It was already getting tough at the beginning of May, but I was relieved to reach May 8th, so I could count some non-Florida birds on my list. Though I did a fair amount of birding, I didn’t manage to take one photo of any of my game birds during my visit to family and friends in Illinois May 8-15. They were all new birds for the year (May 10th’s Black-throated Green Warbler was my 200th bird of 2012).

When I returned home to Florida, I knew my days in the game were seriously numbered. My first day back, I had to use a neighborhood regular, the Northern Mockingbird. A lucky, rare flyover of Roseate Spoonbill at Gemini Springs gave me an extra day, as did the Common Nighthawk Arthur and I spotted at Epcot at the end of our visit on May 18th (I literally jumped up and down for that one – it saved me Rock Pigeon for another day). An eBird alert sent me to a previously-unknown-by-me wetlands in a neighboring town to find Semipalmated Plovers on May 19th. Everything else was entirely expected and a misery to check off each day. Now at least I have a nice goal for 2013.

And I am ready for the next game for this year: the June Challenge! I first learned about this by following the Florida birding listservs last year, and from this great post by favorite Florida blogger Limeybirder: June Challenge. We moved here late in the month so I didn’t participate.

Here is a brief description of the challenge that I swiped / paraphrased from a post on BirdForum:

In 2004 Becky Enneis proposed a contest. She was scandalized that most birders spent the summer indoors, and she thought that competition might motivate some of them to get out in the field during the warm months. And so The June Challenge was born.

There are some rules for this friendly competition:

– Birds must be seen. No heard-only birds.
– Keep county lists.
– Keep track of ABA and non-ABA species are on your list. Report them in this format:
Total (ABA countable / non-countable), e.g., 115 (112 / 3)

Last year, there were two participants for Volusia, coming up with totals of 120 (119 / 1) and 73 (73 / 0). I’m going to try to get at least 75, but that sounds very ambitious for an inland Volusia girl. We’ll see! I’m looking forward to trying out this new challenge. Good luck to all that continue with Bird-a-Day!

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Bird-a-Day 111-128

Well, I’m getting down to my last gasps in the Bird-a-Day Challenge. I am really happy to have made it to today, though, since my last mini-goal was to bring the game to Chicago. Tomorrow I’ll fly up north to visit my family and friends… and pick up seven new birds. ๐Ÿ™‚

In this last batch, Gemini Springs came through with 8 of 18 birds. Unfortunately, all of these were expected species, except for the surprise – though not super-rare – Cooper’s Hawk I saw as I was leaving the park on April 30.

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker at Gemini Springs | 29 April 2012

Of course I took advantage of trips outside of DeBary to pick up birds. A quick stop on the way to Turtle Day at the Marine Science Center yielded American Oystercatcher for April 21st. On May 4th, Arthur and I went out to Merritt Island to watch an Atlas V rocket launch – and a quick spin around Black Point Wildlife Drive gave me a few special birds to choose from. I picked Least Sandpiper.

Least Sandpipers
Least Sandpipers at Merritt Island | 04 May 2012

We drove out to Lake Monroe Conservation Area on the night of the “super moon,” May 5th. A Florida listserv post suggesting that birders go out and listen for Chuck-will’s-widows was all the encouragement I needed. I checked eBird for local sightings, but came up empty. Not wanting to drive too far, I checked Google Maps and thought the Kratzert Tract of Lake Monroe C.A. looked promising. Score! We ended up hearing at least three Chucks, plus a bonus Barred Owl.

I’m hoping for lots of birds to choose from in the coming week. White-crowned Sparrows, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Black-capped Chickadees are regular visitors to my parents’ feeders (and unlikely in central Florida). Other possible challenge birds I expect to find include Eastern Wood-Pewee, Canada Goose, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Bobolink, and Mute Swan. And warblers! Oh, how I miss warblers! I’ve seen a few this spring, but not enough to satisfy. Hope to remedy that in the coming days! Bring it on.

American RedSTART
American RedSTART at Gemini Springs | 27 April 2012

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Bird-a-Day 101-110

The Bird-a-Day Challenge rolls on!

In the last 10 days I picked up half of my birds at my trusty local patch, Gemini Springs. White-eyed Vireo, Snowy Egret, Common Yellowthroat and Little Blue Heron were all sort of gimmes – birds I would reasonably expect to find on a normal birding day at the park. I was glad to see a Swallow-tailed Kite on the 14th along the (Gemini Springs-adjacent) Spring-to-spring Trail. They are back in town after spending the winter in South America.

On April 11th, Arthur joined me on a morning bird walk. We spent the last part of the outing on the fishing pier watching birds flying out over the bayou. A wading bird flew over and I (insert sheepish grin) called it a Tricolored Heron and (insert sheepish grin) moved on. Arthur kept on it and shouted out “NIGHT HERON!” Yikes! I got back on the bird and boy, am I glad I did. At great distance we were able to put doubts on calling the bird the more common Black-crowned. Luckily the bird proceeded to FLY DIRECTLY ABOVE US right over the fishing pier! I had a horrible klutz attack while fumbling with my camera and I ended up taking zero photos of the bird. I am very glad I got good looks, though, at my BIGBY / Volusia County / 2012 / second ever in my life Yellow-crowned Night-Heron!

Two planned non-birding day trips yielded a pair of nice birds I wouldn’t expect to find locally.

On April 15th Arthur and I went to Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando. Prior to the trip, I looked at eBird to determine what birds I might expect to find there. Rock Dove is my go-to theme park bird, which I luckily have not had to use thus far. eBird divulged the strong possibility of finding a White-winged Dove at Islands of Adventure, so that was my “target bird” for the day. We saw them a couple of times during our stay; Arthur took this photo with his point-and-shoot.

White-winged Dove
White-winged Dove at Islands of Adventure theme park | 15 April 2012

I always wonder about the poor saps (including me) who submit eBird checklists from the theme parks. Were they dragged there by family? Did they bring their binoculars and wait / bird while the rest of their party experienced rides or shows? I love going to Disney and our day at Islands of Adventure was a blast (Wizarding World of Harry Potter FTW!) – don’t get me wrong. But… “always be birding”, you know? So I have to pause when our path takes us close to water (any ducks? any waders?!) or if I see something flitting about in nearby trees (was that a dove? what kind?!). Anyway, I’m very grateful to my fellow eBirders for helping me to find my Bird-a-Day on April 15th.

The other day trip occurred last Tuesday when Arthur and I headed to the Space Coast to bid farewell to the Space Shuttle Discovery as she was transported by Boeing hearse to Washington, D.C. After the 7AM departure we spent some time at the Visitor Center before devoting the afternoon to some birding. Usually on days like this (we’ve been to a few launches in the past year) we head to Merritt Island NWR. I’ve got county birding fever though, so I devised a plan to hit a couple of Volusia County spots instead. One of those spots was Smyrna Dunes in New Smyrna Beach. Along a stretch of beach accessible to cars, a flock of Royal Terns harbored a pair of Sandwich Terns – my Bird-a-Day for April 17.

Sandwich Tern
Sandwich Tern at Smyrna Dunes | 17 April 2012

On Thursday mornings I volunteer at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland. Birding hotspot Mead Gardens in Winter Park is nearby, so I decided to head there last week after my volunteer shift. Reported warbler sightings enticed me, but I came up empty, warblerly speaking. I briefly spoke with a pair of birders along a part of the boardwalk, who helpfully told me about the Ovenbird, Worm-eating Warbler and American Redstart seen earlier in the day, and the Black-throated Blue they had just a moment ago. Sure. A Great Egret hanging out with a Wood Stork and a Great Blue Heron became my Bird-a-Day last week.

Apr12_GREG
Great Egret at Mead Gardens | 12 April 2012

For today I used the Great Crested Flycatcher that landed on the creance line at the Center at the start of my volunteer shift. It pained me to use a “yard bird” but it was the “best” bird I saw all day.

I’ve revised my list of “easy” local birds down to just 11 species, three of which I can find in our yard on a normal day. With 18 days to go before I head to Chicago, I wonder if I have a chance? Stay tuned…!

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