Monday, November 23, 2015

Florida Trip 2015!

I was in the beautiful state of Florida for much of last week, officially to visit a college, but of course it turned into more of a birding trip. The college I was visiting is in Collier county, which is not wanting in the birds department by any means. The trip started on a definite positive note, with about 50 Roseate Spoonbills (lifer!) seen from the plane just before touching down in Fort Myers. After driving down to Naples, my dad and I decided to take a late afternoon walk at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, which I'd heard many good things about. I was really hoping for a Painted Bunting or a Limpkin, but no such luck. But--I did get my lifer Wood Stork, a bird I'd wanted to see for a long time. Sadly, though, it was a flyover and I didn't get any photos.
I did, however, get quite a bit of photos of other random things in the swamp:

The greatest of egrets
A strangler fig on a bald cypress

Close to the end of our walk, I got one of the most welcome lifers I've had in a while: Palm Warbler (in a palm tree, appropriately). There are no words to describe the frustration these warblers have given me in the past, as they were my long-time nemesis. Finally, I emerged victorious. And proceeded to see about 54782397318 more of them in the following days. Ah, well. 'Tis the nature of nemeses.

The next day I took a tour of the college and found that its campus was not too shabby as far as nature goes. I saw two Loggerhead Shrikes just hanging out, an alligator in the canal next door, a Tricolored Heron in one pond, and many, many Anhingas. I could take four years of that.

After completing my college visit, my dad and I headed down to the beach at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. I was happily photographing the Willets, Sanderlings, Black-bellied Plovers, and Ruddy Turnstones when I happened to glance up at the sky and saw nothing other than a Magnificent Frigatebird! I almost squealed out loud. I remember reading about MAFRs when I was about ten years old and dreaming of some point in the far future when I would actually see one. Six years later, I was looking right at a beautiful male.


Black-bellied Plover
Ruddy Turnstone
Magnificent Frigatebird!!

The next day, Thursday, my dad and I drove over to the Fort Lauderdale/Miami area because my dad had a meeting there on Friday. We were surprised to find our hotel was right on the beach, whereas we had thought it was a block or two away. We weren't complaining.
Walking along the beach yielded large numbers of Laughing Gulls, Willets, Black-bellied Plovers, Sanderlings, and Ruddy Turnstones. (And let's not forget the pigeons. Pigeons everywhere.) Also present were Royal Terns, Western Sandpipers, and a lone Herring Gull. To close out our walk, who should make an appearance but another Magnificent Frigatebird!

Brown Pelicans

Ruddy Turnstones

Friday morning meant sitting on the balcony in my pajamas while my dad was at his meeting, scanning the beach with my binoculars. As well as the usual suspects I had counted the day before, I saw Eurasian Collared-Doves, Boat-tailed Grackles, and two flyover Monk Parakeets (lifer!). There was also an American Kestrel perched on the hotel next door, and I probably creeped out the people staying there because I was staring at it through binoculars. It wouldn't be the first time.

Look at all those shorebirds

That afternoon, before our flight home, we decided (or I decided, and my dad complied because he's nice) to check out a local park called Tall Cypress Natural area, which had a lot of good data on eBird. Sadly, however, we went in the middle of the day when not much was out except a multitude of Gray Catbirds and grackles of both the Common and Boat-tailed varieties. While I didn't see the birds I wanted, I was impressed by the rich habitat and biodiversity it had to offer.

Golden-Orb Weaver

Cuban Brown Anole

Florida was cool. I want to go back now.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Looking Back

Four years. That's how long ago I started this blog. I was twelve years old, with a lifelist of 143 species. I had a point-and-shoot camera (*gasp* the horror!). I didn't know the difference between a Savannah Sparrow and a Swamp Sparrow.
It's so weird to compare that to now--I have a lifelist of 255 species, a DSLR camera that is my best friend, and if I ever called a Savannah Sparrow a Swamp Sparrow I would wonder if I was going insane. I've discovered that birding's not about the lists or the numbers; it's about the birds, the thrill of the chase, and the people you meet.
Birds have always been a part of my life, ever since I could point and yell "Blue Jay!" (which, as it turns out, was when I was about 18 months old). But in these past 4 years I feel like I've grown more as a birder than ever. Trips to Wyoming and Utah, the Delaware Bay (*cough*Camp Avocet was awesome*cough*), and even just out in my local area have really opened my eyes to just how much there is to see and learn.
So yeah, I'm not exactly sure what the point of this post is. I just thought it was cool to think about then vs. now.

 Complimentary bird photo: an Eastern Screech-Owl from Camp Avocet this August.