Milestone 700, ch 40, Florida Revisited…

 

Florida Revisited, Marooned in Tallahassee and the Goal

20 March 2015

Crossing the invisible border between Alabama and Florida is exciting.  Florida will be the state supplying the requisite number of species of birds to allow me to reach the 700 mark.  It seems inexcusable that so many species residing in Florida are missing from my ABA life list, but for many reasons, some illogical and others I suppose are logical, I had not been in Florida since January 1963.  Florida is not that far from my former home turf, Washington, DC, but my travels while working at the nation’s capital were mostly to Oregon.  The logical reasoning might be that I believed I need the time to research birds in the Pacific northwest and, of course, to have time with my parents.  Illogically, I thought a trip to Florida was not as interesting as pouring over specimens of birds at Smithsonian or field time in the Mojave, the open prairie or an Antillean island. 

There were many good people working in Florida.  Back in the recesses of my mind, I know I need to admonish myself for not revisiting friends and colleagues from Florida.  People such as Bill Robertson visited the museum during my employment there, but I would have enjoyed a few more hours of field time in Florida with him.  Bill, like many others who hosted my youthful time in Florida are gone forever.  I tell myself that I must stop by to see Dave Steadman, but I know that cannot be this year.

In a few miles, somewhere west of Pensacola, I see my first Florida bird since 51 years ago.  It is foraging a few yards off the interstate.  I am surprised, since not many birds are visible while driving the break-neck speeds required on such highways.  I am even more in shock since the bird is unquestionably a chicken!  It is not a full-sized Kentucky friar, but a smaller version of chicken.  It is a bantam.  In fact, in size and in plumage coloration and pattern, the bird perfectly matches a Jungle Fowl, a species introduced in Hawaii and Florida.  Should I place the bird on my growing escrow list? 

It is getting late and hunger reminds us of the chicken in the refrigerator.  Traffic is somewhat forgiving and we finally arrive at the east side of Pensacola.  Our plan to stay in a state park is impossible as campgrounds are full.  Spring Break is not over yet.  We will be glad when it is since competing for limited recreational space is tiresome.  It surely is even more so for birds as shorebirding locations such as Bolivar Beach in Texas is under the feet of youthful frolickers the day we drove to Winnie.

21-23 March 2015

Because the state park was full, we spend the night at the side of the junction of two country roads in the pine forest.  We are under a power line and relatively close to the park.  During breakfast, the microwave door sticks shut, entrapping a second cup of tea.  Thankfully, the eggs had been scrambled and cooked.  I note the eggs are much too large for those of yesterday’s bantam.

As the day rolls on while speeding down the interstate, as the sun sets lower in the sky to our backs, a car pulls parallel to us.  A woman is mouthing something.  It looks some sort of warning such as you are eating too much chicken and eggs.  Should I give the birds I watch a break?  Should I not eat so much food belonging to a bird?  Moments later, an 18-wheeler pulls to our side and the copilot points to the back-end of our stead.  What is going on? 

After taking the next exit, we park on a vacant lot of a bank.  It is Saturday afternoon and no one is around.  A quick check reveals the sewer pipe is hanging to the rear of our RV by a couple of wires.  Luckily, the dangling plumbing is on the outside of the valves that keep our foul storage from spilling out onto the road.  Otherwise we would be guilty of littering in the worst kind of way.  It is a long story, but we find a RV repair shop in Tallahassee.  Of course, it is far away from the city, and is difficult to find since several people providing directions were faulty or was it that the directions were faulty.  Finally, the RV place is located, but a sign on the door informs closure for the weekend.  We are stuck until Monday, marooned in Tallahassee for an unknown time.  The clock ticks away, first one day, then another.  It seems the parts ordered from Atlanta did not get on the truck.  We wait another day, still marooned in Tallahassee.

25 March 2015

The much-awaited parts arrive and we at last travel away from the yolk of time marooned in Tallahassee.  Finally, after too many interstate miles, we turn south on US 19 toward Tampa.  This is the route traveled in reverse when I decided to experience a winter in Maine in 1963.  That was too many years ago to be able to compare the lay of the land then and now.  In 1962, the population of Florida was about 5.5 million.  Our trusty large-print road map gives the 2014 population as 18,801,310.  All those people, businesses to support them, fields to feed them and roads for transport causes one to believe that habitat for birds is taking second fiddle to the human and economic growth of Florida.  Someday, something will give in the chaos of developing the earth.  As an acquaintance said, only a madman or an economist can believe unlimited growth is a lasting commodity.  

We feel a sigh of relief from putting behind us the dense population of Tallahassee now to the west and some foreboding of the packed southeastern part of the state.  In the meantime, more open spaces and being back on the road feels great.  The route passes through the towns of Perry and cross the Suwanee River.  Somewhere near Chassahowitzka and west of Withlacoochee State Forest, a Swallow-tailed Kite sails across the highway.  It is flying high above the trees but low enough to give away signs of its identity, the telling long swallowtail.  Although a common species, this is the first one seen in ABA territory.  We missed it in our 2005 trip, but did see the species the same year in Panama.  Another Swallow-tailed Kite flies into view while I check a roadside bush for water.  Before the end of the day two more kites, this time apparently a bonded pair, take space in my notes for the day.

26 March 2015

Sometimes it is impossible to know how a day will go.  Today was a day of good and bad luck, but I am getting ahead of myself. 

A reasonably early start brings us to Weekiwachee, written as single or as two words in Bill Pantry’s finding guide, our road map and on road signs.  There must be a reason for the two spellings, but it is not time to wonder why.  Today’s first birding destination is Hernando Beach, which is one of the last localities I recently read might produce Budgerigars known by many as dime-store parakeets, the ones that come in blue, red, yellow and green.  The Florida birds we hope to find are flavored green.

I had a Budgerigar during my late teens.  Based on the color of its cere, albeit very pale, the family decided the bird was a male. Billy, was blue and spent most of the time in its 12 X 12 inch cell, the standard parakeet cage of the 1960s.  For some unexplainable reason, Billy liked me.  Maybe it sensed my guilt for caging it.  During my absence while enduring an invitation with the Navy, Billy became despondent, lost feathers and ate very little.  Was he depressed? Did he miss me?  At the time, I was feeling the cage of my contract with the Navy.  I likewise felt despondent, but managed to eat whatever the mess hall threw at me.  In the meantime, Billy was renamed Billie when she laid an egg.  Not long after that, she died.

Budgerigars remained popular cage birds and every now and then I would hear or see an individual that escaped its domestic confinement. Decades later, the chance to see a Budgerigar from an established breeding population seemed possible. However, based on information gleaned in 2014, Budgerigars were not doing well. If fact, reports of “wild” birds were slim to none, but the sites where last reported are on our way to Tampa.  

As for the Budgerigar hunt today, there may be an analogy with poor Billie.  It seems that some Florida residents loved the idea of little budgies running around their neighborhoods.  However, the birds may have not received the attention the parakeets deserved.  Populations soared, but later they plummeted.  Some believe it is that the little green wild Budgerigars were forced out of their natural cavities for nesting and roosting by starlings and House Sparrows.  Maybe, but those birds were around before the Budgerigars and surely were around as the Budgerigar population climbed.  Eastern Bluebirds are at almost every turn in the quiet neighborhoods of Hernando Beach and may have also competed for cavities, including bird boxes. A resident of Hernando Beach of the human variety tells us that vegetation used by the birds either for shelter or foraging is removed in many neighborhoods and that the 200 he regularly saw have not been seen in two years since residential beautification. 

With crackers ready to offer, we leave Gulf Winds Circle of Hernando Beach and the surrounding streets and troll for Polly along Campanara Entra.  Half way down a side street, I hear a call note heard so many times from my parakeet so many years ago.  In seconds, I see a flash of green and yellow.  It is a bright green, the green of a wild Budgerigar.  The small bird is most certainly our target species, but is it an individual from the established population or is it someone’s recently escaped pet?  It flies across the street towards trees in a back yard.  Relocating the bird is impossible.

*****

As anyone keeping up with bird news know, relocating the bird or not is moot insofar as counting Budgerigar on the ABA list. However, the official word on the demise of Budgerigars in Florida was not public information. Lacking the latest word, Budgerigar, based on that problematic bird in late March 2015, the species is checked as a new ABA lifer. There is more to the story and the curious should see beyond.

*****  

This is a good start for the day, this late March day, but the drive further south to St. Petersburg and to the county park of Fort De Soto is longer than anticipated.  Fort Desoto is located on Mullet Key, an island in Tampa Bay.  A fort built there during the Spanish-American War was a bastion to prevent invasion that never occurred.  The island remained under military control for several years before coming under ownership of Pinellas County.  

We reach Ft. De Soto State Park by crowded Pinellas Bay and a bridge.  Clearly, Mullet Key is under invasion and our hope to camp there is futile.  So long as spring break is in force, there is no room at any inn.  The park does take reservations early as six months in advance.  In other words, to stay in the park requires more planning than any free spirit might wish to undertake.  Nonetheless, today the park offers possibilities for three species needed to achieve the goal of 700.  A Groove-billed Ani has been frequenting the island and Nanday Parakeets are home to the park.  Finally, a Gray kingbird might be there.

We have to sundown to vacate the park.  Beside birds, the entrance park ranger said we could use the public showers.  Because the ani was on North Beach and because showers are available there, we naturally elect for that destination.  Not far from the fee station, a Nanday Parakeet is perching on an electric line to the right of the road.  It is impossible to pull off the road and the traffic nudges us forward.  Even so, I slow just enough to see the dark head and I am surprised that the red legs are visible.  Okay, two targets in one day. 

In about a half-mile, I see another wire sitter, but it is not a parakeet.  Is it a mockingbird?  They are everywhere.  However, the bird is not slim or have a longish tail even remotely similar to a thrasher.  I know mockingbirds, and this is no mockingbird as Senator Bentsen might have said.  In split seconds, I entertain the possibility of a shrike, but the dark area through its eye is not black enough or sharp enough for any self-respecting shrike.  Besides, the wings are not black although they are darker than the back.  The contrast of the dark back and light underside pattern does not approach that of Eastern Kingbird.  The gray color of the head appears about the same as that of the back, or at least as much as I am able to observe.  Those characters and its large bill should rule out Loggerhead Kingbird.  The bird is without a doubt a Gray Kingbird. 

This is a species I had become familiar with on St Kitts.  Although in the 1970s, my memory is clear.  I saw Gray Kingbirds almost daily on the island where the species is no less than conspicuous.  During my investigations on St. Kitts, I had occasion to collect an individual Gray Kingbird.  At that time, I had just descended Mt. Misery and my guide was still present when I shot up into a tree.  The guide began yelling for me not look up.  The unfortunate kingbird landed near me and so did several wet drops of liquid from the tree.  The guide may have saved me from becoming blind by the poisonous tree.  Incidentally, the Gray Kingbird is a specimen at Smithsonian and data from it has contributed to results in several publications.        

If good luck continues, the Groove-billed Ani is next. Of course, owing to luck, I have doubts, especially since I have a track-record of missing this species over a wide span of years.  We park near the bathhouse of the parking lot, which is large enough to land a passenger jet.  Why would a secretive ani want to frequent such a place? 

Our showers are by cold water only.  That is not unbearable.  The weather, which is not terribly hot, produces a breeze that is comfortable after shower time. It is now time for looking for the fourth new bird of the day.  I am beginning to think that I should accept that the Groove-billed Ani is taunting me.  Still, if only I could find it, Groove-billed Ani would be my ABA 699, which would make room for 700, and a species I hope will be Snail Kite.  Why should Snail Kite be 700?  There are reasons, I think, but that will wait the day when I actually see a Snail Kite.  Perhaps I will not see a kite when and where I now think.  Anyway, today, I can add three more species to my ABA life list.

As good citizens, we depart Fort De Soto at sundown and head north and then west to Florida State road 60 toward Lake Kissimmee.  We are reasonably sure we cannot drive that far, but the plan is to escape the traffic and congestion of Tampa.  However, either through map errors or misreading the available maps, we end up in downtown Tampa.  We are not supposed to be there.  We were supposed to be west of Tampa.  Nonetheless, yet another city starting with the letter t causes considerable trouble.  We had learned more roads than we wished to know in Tucson and had been marooned in Tallahassee.  Now, we negotiate a highway through the skyscrapers of Tampa.  Minutes of traffic funneling us along interstate routes, rain and detours become hours.  Fortunately, the gas tank is full, at least at the start when naively departing the park.

Yes, the day is a great one, except perhaps missing, again, a Groove-billed Ani.  No, the entire day is not wonderful.  The waning hours were grueling.  It was a long day.  Sleep is welcoming.

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Lake Kissimmee

27-29 March 2015

Driving east on highway 60 feels right.  Our miles to cover for the day are few.  Entering Lake Kissimmee State Park is at first tense.  Will space be available for overnight camping?  There is, and we sign up for three nights.  The park nestles up to the shores of Lake Rosalie and Lake Kissimmee.  This is the headwaters of the Everglades, but it is interrupted by agriculture, urbanization and channeling water that never arrives to the river of grass to the south.  Cattle country occupies much of central Florida.  Orange groves dot the landscape and we read that many regions that were once marsh are denatured, altered by human kind. 

Snail Kite is in the forefront of attention and as soon as possible, I am walking northeast on Gobbler Trail.  A park ranger told me the trail leads to the shore of Lake Kissimmee and that is where he has seen Snail Kite.  In the winter of 1962-63, I tried to find what then went by the name Everglades Kite.  In my notes at that time, I wrote that there were eight individuals.  Despite that small number, I devoted hours of time searching for the elusive kite.  There may have been more than eight, and today there are at least 1,000.  It would seem fitting that Snail Kite should by my 700th ABA species.  Maybe it will be number 700.  Perhaps it will be 701 or some other number.  I could miss Snail Kike at Lake Kissimmee and perhaps find an Egyptian Goose or a Purple Swamphen before finding a Snail Kite.  Time will tell.

The sky is full of clouds.  They are not the white and fluffy variety.  Most are shades of gray, some darker than others, with shapes moving from round to flat and solid.  I did not notice the clouds as I happily stepped into the humidity of the trail.  The route is sandy, although a kind of low growing crabgrass covers most of the trail.  I hear a rumble and decide it must be a jet’, but face reality when the rumble can no longer be identified as anything but thunder.  The clouds behind me are now darker and more solid.  They appear angry and poised for more thunder and rain.  With thunder is lightning.  I am in a relatively flat habit.  There is no place to go but forward.  The breeze turns to a wind.  A Swallow-tailed Kite soars high, then low with and against the mounting wind.  A few scattered drops of rain wet my shoulders.  I count the seconds between lightning and thunder.  Five minutes ago, the storm, the electrical part at any rate, was six miles away.  Now it is four miles to my back. 

Walking faster, I reach a cosp of Spanish moss laden oaks.  The trail passes through the trees and there is the lake.  I scan up and down the shore as far as I can see.  In front of me are water lilies and to my left tall vegetation obscuring the view.  I scan back and forth.  The wind is increasing as are the raindrops.  Minutes go by.  Should I leave for safer ground?  Before answering the question, a Snail Kite sails from my right and over the water lilies.  It is in no hurry and flies as if a storm is not brewing.  In three minutes, the glorious Snail Kite, my Everglades Kite of yesteryear, sallies beyond view behind some tall emergent vegetation.  The kite is ABA 699 and I cannot but be happy about that.

Red-shouldered Hawks, Osprey and Bald Eagles occupy our attention for the next two days.  One Swallow-tailed Kite flew over for Linda.  Great Crested Flycatchers and Brown-headed Nuthatches vocalized.  A nearby White-eyed Vireo out called them all.  A trip to Lake Kissimmee on the last day, a day of clear blue sky and a faint breeze, is not productive for a Snail Kite.

30 March 2015

Traveling deeper into the megapolis of southeastern Florida is easier than I had thought.  Perhaps it is because of the flat terrain and that almost all roads are either north/south or east/west in direction.  Fortunately, the maps in our bird finding guide offer detail absent in our large-print road map.  With some luck and consternation, including a U-turn or two, we reach Lantana Nature Preserve.  A La Sagra’s Flycatcher is the target.  The postage stamp sized preserve hardly seems large enough to support many flycatchers or any other animal that might need a corner of Lantana.

The tiny parking lot of the preserve is next to a trail leading into heavy vegetation.  There must be some openings here for a flycatcher to snap up a morsel, but the nearly empty parking lot may be the foraging grounds.  If it is, it is absent of any fly catching birds.  Next to us parks a small car.  Its passenger is Marcello and he is enthusiastically knowledgeable about birds in this neck of the megapolis.  Marcello, maybe four decades our junior, is unequivocal when he tells us that the La Sagra’s Flycatcher is gone.  I had hoped it might hang around, but since it was reported last on 19 March, the chances of finding the rarity would be slim.  Great Crested Flycatchers, Marcello relates, moved in about 10 days ago and probably drove out the interloper. 

31 March 2015

Lantana was a less crowded place during my youthful visit there in 1962/63, the time I found a dead bird probably not far from the present Lantana Nature Preserve.  That was when the late Howard Langridge and I flushed from his library the identity of the bird.  It was a Black-faced Grassquit, the one I cannot count.  Now, decades later, Linda and I take time to regroup and to follow some leads for other birds as offered from the pleasant and clear directions from Marcello.  Our first destination is a small park on the west side of the Intracoastal Waterway not far north of the Lantana site.  We arrive there by driving north on A1A, the road more coastal than U.S. 1 to its west.  A1A was my route in the 60s as I traveled the Florida coast barrier islands.  U.S. 1 had more traffic and less access to the beach.  Today, A1A is awash with plush looking gated communities sitting on the sand I once birded or parked my VW for the night.  Public access to the beach is extremely limited.  A view of the Atlantic Ocean barely exists.

A stop at the foot of the drawbridge adjacent to A1A is futile although I do spy a Monk Parakeet looking down at me while I crank the steering wheel to extract ourselves from the economy sized parking space.  I am uncertain whether we are still within the approximate three square miles encompassing Lantana or we have entered a different community.  During my visit to southeastern Florida some five decades ago, I felt I knew when I was in Lantana.  Today, the boundary of Lantana is firmly abutting the next densely populated settlement.  Easier parking on the other side is welcome and I stride to the waterway edge for what Marcello said would be the region to search for Egyptian Goose.  There are no geese.  There is a group of men to ask about the goose.  However, I hurry on since they are prisoners on a work assignment.  A lone man, although without binoculars, is my first informational victim.  He has not seen the goose, but points out two American Oystercatchers nesting on a sandy island a few yards offshore.  He suggests I try the Snook Islands reached by a boardwalk.  Two Least Terns punctuate the man’s directions.

Three people stand at the end of the boardwalk.  One is wearing birder gear, a pair of binocs.  She tells me to check a pond in the adjacent golf course and that I keep the cyclone fence between the goose and myself, otherwise “they (the golfers) will chase you out.”  The last statement related to her earlier comment to another person that the golf course was ruining the habitat by cutting down surrounding vegetation.

The fence is keeping me safe from in irate golfer as they get their exercise from getting in and out of their electric carts.  I come to a pond.  Something is on the shore.  It is a Mottled Duck.  This pond is not visible from the clubhouse and must not be the correct water trap.  In a few yards, the high fence turns and borders a residential street.  People walk by as I point my binoculars into the land of grassy knolls, little flags and portly men in shorts and wide-brimmed hats.  Hats.  In my haste, I forgot my floppy hat.  The sun beats down and passers-by smile and say hello.  Because of one person’s look of curiosity, I explain I am looking for an Egyptian Goose.  The person smiles, says “cool” and continues onward.

Another pond, one within sight of the clubhouse is surely the correct location.  It has to be since the cyclone fence turns abruptly and is now between the back yards of houses and the big lawn with flagged holes.  I should have brought the scope.  Luckily, my 10 power binocs show me the face of an Egyptian Goose.  It is sitting in the shade on the far side of the water.  I should be sitting in the shade, but presently it is a great moment as I identify a bird I have seen only in Oregon as someone’s captive goose.   Today, this moment, is my look at a species gone wild, an established breeding bird of the Florida avifauna and a countable bird by ABA standards.  While still 70 years of age, with but days to spare, the Egyptian Goose is my 700th ABA species.  At last, the goal is met.

1 April 2015

Somehow, weaving in and out of the traffic, we turn on Atlantic Avenue and turn again, northward, on Jog Avenue. Thankfully, there is less traffic and we find our target, 56-acre Wakodahatchee Wetlands. The site is a wastewater treatment facility that pumps two million gallows of treated wastewater through a series of three ponds. Habitat created from the site attracts all kinds of waders, ducks and more that are easily viewed from a boardwalk wending its way past nesting herons, anhingas and Wood Ibis and Wood Storks. Throngs of people crowd the rails for easy photo opportunities. It is hot, but the entertainment almost makes us forget the heat. Time ticks by as we encounter so many birds and so many people who seem to have a genuine interest in the birds the see.

Clockwise from upper left:  Great Egret, Wood Stork, Anhinga and Tricolored Heron (sure hope I have that correct)

We pull ourselves from the wonders of the Wakodahatchee Wetlands early enough to avoid the afternoon rush. Traffic heading west, then south, and then west again jangles nerves, but perseverance and perhaps good luck puts us in Markham County Park.  The cost per night is slightly over $40, which seems steep compared to state parks north of the Everglades, but warnings from fellow travelers impart the bad news:  the further south you go, the fewer northern Florida prices you save.  We mind, but we also know that the further south you go, the fewer northern birds you see, and, we are hungry for southern birds such as the newly countable Purple Swamphen.  The species was first noticed in 1996 and has flourished ever since and is waiting for our eyes.

2 April 2015 

A morning walk on the levee west of Markham County Park offers an endless view of the Everglades.  Actually it is not endless, since the interstate highway bisecting the sea of grass is to my back as I walk north.  To the right is a large canal, one of too many draining the Everglades.  In the distant western horizon are a few cormorants and their relatives, Anhingas, which are sailing thousands of feet high.  Why?  After walking a few minutes, I hear a strange honking sound.  It is of low-frequency and the noise suddenly stops.  My travel is about the distance of a football field, of which I have really no idea the length except there is something about the 50 yard line, so perhaps I walked a 100 yards.  The honking occurs while I am looking south toward the faint roaring traffic of the interstate.  Spinning sideways on the whitish and dry gravel surface of the levee, I see a bird flying.  It is large, a gallinule on steroids and it is colorful.  Before I can think camera, the bird, with feet dangling, lands in the emergent grasses.  The bird is a Purple Swamphen.

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Everglades to the left

Walking further north, perhaps three, maybe four football fields worth of levee, I see three additional adult Purple Swamphens.  Two adults each have single juveniles in tow.  While returning to the bridge over the drainage canal, two parakeets fly over.  They are calling and land on the top of one of the tall metal structures supporting large power lines over the edge of the emergent grasses.  The birds, Monk Parakeets, are nesting in an open cavity between two metal parts of the unattractive buttresses.  It is hard to imagine that the heat the young parakeets will endure.

 

The temperature is edging into the high 80s, but Linda wants to see the Swamphens.  A gratifying breeze eases the discomfort from the heat and humidity.  Now, less than a few yards, something large and dark flaps its wings.  That is all that is visible above the emergent grasses.  As hard as we try, we cannot find the bird.  We trudge the same distance as a couple of the ugly power lines stanchions.  Not a swamphen, not a yellowthroat, a frog, anything is within our view.  We look back over lily pads showing whitish pink buds and endless grasses at the spot where the unidentifiable wings were seen.  As strongly believed, the wings belong to a Purple Swamphen.  There are bonuses to the search:  two juveniles accompany the lone adult giving us swamphens all around.  The endured heat and humidity take second chair to Linda’s delight in viewing the swamphens.  Knowing to not be loud, she whispers her delight from seeing how beautiful the adult and how cute are the chicks.  Linda likes a growing life list, but often has a deeper appreciation for what she observes than I do. After all, the Purple Swamphen was not a milestone species. Sure, ABA 701 is exciting. It is, after all my first bird of 100 before reaching 800.

Swamphens

*****

Post Script

Little did I realize that, at the time, Purple Swamphen is my milestone species. Why?

The August 2015 issue of Birding carries an article by Bill Pantry on Budgerigars. The species was reported as last seen in April 2014. That is the official date for the end of Budgerigar occupation on ABA soil. Nonetheless, I held hope that somehow I could count Budgerigar. I emailed Bill Pantry: “Based on you article, what we probably saw was someone’s pet running loose in the neighborhood.  Because the last birds were seen in 2014, the bird seen in 2015 is not countable.  On the other hand, our bird might represent a remnant from  the established population.” He replied: “Given the 12-month period between the “last” Budgie and “your” Budgie, along with the abundance of Budgies in captivity, I am confident in stating that you saw an escapee.” Okay. I am not counting Budgerigar.

Based on Birdings section called Milestones, it seems I join several birders in counting Purple Swamphen as ABA 700. That is not a bad species for my milestone 700 bird and actually more interesting than a cage bird originating in a dime-store. Yes, standing on the dike, looking west over the grassy Everglades while experiencing a Purple Swamphen felt great and now, in September, it feels even better.

This has been a wonderful journey that taught me many facets of birding and birds, scenery and history and opportunity to enjoy the country fondly known as ABA land. The many hours planning, birding in good and bad weather, time alone and especially for the last several months, birding with my pal. It has been delightful watching Linda’s growing zeal for birds on the horizon and her knowledge helping achieve the goal of 700. Traveling down the trail while wondering what is around the corner, the journey and anticipation of what panorama, what sunset at the end of tomorrow and what species of birds will be around the next bend is the carrot for more adventures.

Last but not least are thoughts of appreciation to the individuals who found some of the species allowing me to reach 700. Thanks also to the authors of books, papers and website posts whose tireless efforts continue to update bird finding information. Gratitude also goes to those who walked me up to a bird missing from my list and pointed me in the right direction.

Beyond is my list, with the state and year as they were found.

600 Gray Partridge WA 06

601 Pine Grosbeak MT 06

602 Sharp-tailed Grouse MT 06

603 Connecticut Warbler AB 06

604 White-winged Crossbill WA 06

605 Northern Fulmar OR 06

606 Buller’s Shearwater OR 06

607 Falcated Duck OR 06

608 Brown Booby CA 07 (Feb)

609 Black-vented Shearwater CA 07

610 Long-billed Murrelet CA 07

611 Horned Puffin CA 07

612 Laysan Albatross CA 07

613 Monk Parakeet TX 07

614 Whooping Crane TX 07

615 Green Violet-ear TX 07

616 Hook-billed Kite TX 07

617 Green Parakeet TX 07

618 Red-crowned Parrot TX 07

619 Black-headed Gull MD **

620 Sharp-tailed Sandpiper OR 07

621 Bar-tailed Godwit OR 07

622 Arctic Loon OR 08

623 Yellow-billed Loon OR 08

624 Wood Sandpiper OR 08

625 Emperor Goose OR 09

626 Slaty-backed Gull OR 09

627 Tufted Duck OR 09

628 Flammulated Owl OR 09

629 Botteri’s Sparrow AZ 09

630 Plain-capped Starthroat AZ 09

631 Five-striped Sparrow AZ 09

632 Varied Bunting AZ 09

633 Sinaloa Wren AZ 09

634 Thick-billed Kingbird AZ 09

635 Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher AZ 09

636 Montezuma Quail AZ 09

637 Buff-collared Nightjar AZ 09

638 Yellow-footed Gull CA 09

639 Blue-footed Booby CA 09

640 Rufous-capped Warbler AZ 09

641 Berylline Hummingbird AZ 09

642 White-eared Hummingbird AZ 09

643 Lucifer Hummingbird AZ 09

644 Yellow Grosbeak AZ 09

645 White-tailed Ptarmigan WA 09 Black-f Grassquit uncountable

646 White-collared Seedeater TX 10

647 Muscovy Duck TX 10

648 Northern Jacana TX 10

649 Gunnison Sage-Grouse CO 10

650 Mexican Whip-poor-will ’10 split from Eastern Whip-poor-will

651 Pacific Wren ’10 split from Winter Wren

652 Lesser Sand-Plover OR 10

653 Brown-backed Solitaire AZ 09; made official in 2010

654 Brown Shrike CA 10

655 Himalayan Snowcock NV 11

656 Dusky Grouse NV 11

657 Common Ringed Plover CA 11

658 Black-tailed Gull WA 11

659 Black Storm-Petrel CA 12

660 Least Storm-Petrel CA 12

661 South Polar Skua CA 12

662 Guadalupe Murrelet CA 12

663 Red-billed Tropicbird CA 12

664 Willow Ptarmigan YK 13

665 Spruce Grouse YK 13

666 Northern Hawk Owl YK 13

667 Aleutian Tern AK 13

668 Common Redpoll AK 13

669 Ross’s Gull AK 13

670 Long-tailed Jeager AK 13

671 Northern Wheatear AK 13

672 Arctic Warbler AK 13

673 Bristle-thighed Curlew AK 13

674 Little Stint AK 13

675 Hoary Redpoll AK 13

676 Eastern Yellow Wagtail AK 13

677 Red-throated Pipit AK 13

678 Rock Ptarmigan AK 13

679 King Eider AK 13

680 Spectacled Eider AK 13

681 Bluethroat AK 13

682 Red-faced Cormorant AK 13

683 Kittlitz’s Murrelet AK 13

684 Smith’s Longspur AK 13

685 Bell’s Sparrow CA 06 ’13 split fm Sage Sparrow

686 Scaly-breasted Munia CA 05 ’13, estab. Intro

687 Ridgway’s Rail CA 09 ’13 fm Clapper Rail

688 California Condor AZ 05 ’14 counting change

689 Aplomado Falcon TX 05 ’14 counting change

690 Rufous-backed Robin AZ 14

691 Blue-gray Tanager FL 62 ’14 counting change

692 Little Gull CA 15

693 Rosy-faced Lovebird AZ 15

694 Gray-crowned Yellowthroat TX 15

695 Swallow-tailed Kite FL 15

696 Budgerigar FL 15 not now countable

696 Nanday Parakeet FL 15

697 Gray Kingbird FL 15

698 Snail Kite FL 15

699 Egyptian Goose FL 15

700 Purple Swamphen FL 15

Several species in the list of 100 are accidentals. Had those species been ignored, I would still be trying to reach the 700 mark.

** Old record, not sure of year, some time during SI years

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