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Posts Tagged ‘White-crowned Pigeon’

On Tuesday morning, April 14, I headed off to Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park to look for a Mangrove Cuckoo. I dipped on the cuckoo, but found a gazillion White-eyed Vireos. Well, maybe that count is exaggerated a bit, but not much. The only other bird as numerous at Dagny is Northern Cardinal. After searching fruitlessly for a couple of hours, I decided to head to Long Key State Park. My late husband, Burt, and I frequently camped at Long Key in the early 1980’s, so it holds many fond memories. Plus, I could get lucky and find a Key West Quail-Dove. Could get lucky, but I didn’t. I found only two birds – a Prairie Warbler and a Red-bellied Woodpecker. It was the wrong time of day, but at least I had tried. I went back to Dagny Johnson for another attempt at finding the cuckoo. I dipped again, went to my motel, and sent Angel and Mariel a note about my failure to find the cuckoo. Angel and Mariel Abreu operate “Nature Is Awesome,” a birding and wildlife tour company, and I would be going out with them on Thursday. I quickly received a reply with specific directions to where the cuckoos are usually found at Dagny.

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo.  Photo by Andy Reago.

I really wanted to find the Mangrove Cuckoo on my own rather than have someone show it to me. Even though I had only looked for it once before, it had been one of my most wanted birds for years. And, now I had one day to find it for myself or Angel and Mariel would find it for me the following day. I went to the spot at Dagny that they described and got nothing. So, I walked around for an hour and then went back to the same spot. I played the call. And, the bird answered! First I heard it to the right and then to the left. And, then it perched right over me and I got a great look. I was just numb with disbelief. I watched until the bird moved and then I stepped out into the open circle where the paths converge. And, now the cuckoo was out in the open! This was one of the happiest birding moments of my life.  I didn’t get a photo, but here is a shot of a Mangrove Cuckoo that Mariel Abreu got earlier in the year.

Mangrove Cuckoo

Mangrove Cuckoo

I slowly walked back to the car and met Ottawa birder Paul Lagasi as I was about to leave the park. Paul also has a blog, BIRDQUEST2004, which is a showcase for his gorgeous photos. His accounting of this part of the trip is here. Paul wanted the cuckoo as badly as I had. This was his seventh attempt to find it. So, of course, we went back and attempted to relocate the bird. Unfortunately, the bird was done with birders for the day. Paul and I walked the big 2-mile loop in the mid-day head with hopes of finding either the cuckoo or a Black-whiskered Vireo. We had no luck with either bird, so I invited Paul to join me with Angel and Mariel the following morning.

Seaside Dragonlet

Seaside Dragonlet, a “lifer” dragonfly on the 2-mile walk at Dagny Johnson.

Have you guessed what happened? Yep, we missed seeing the cuckoo the next day. We went to the location where it had been reliably seen for months.  The cuckoo called, but refused to come out and show itself. Now I really understood how incredibly lucky I had been the previous day. Paul headed off to pick up his wife at the Ft. Lauderdale airport and Angel, Mariel, and I headed to El Mago de las Fritas for the best fritas in town. Mariel and I had ours with an egg on top of the meat patty. Yum!

White-winged Parakeets in front of Ocean Bank

White-winged Parakeets in front of Ocean Bank

Red-whiskered Bulbul that I photographed in China.

Red-whiskered Bulbul that I photographed in China.

That afternoon, Angel and Mariel took me on a tour of Miami searching for established exotic avian species. Many of these birds are now ABA countable and they found every single one that I needed. That afternoon I added FIVE birds to my ABA list – Spot-breasted Oriole, Red-whiskered Bulbul, White-winged Parakeet, Muscovy Duck, and Egyptian Goose. I had seen the Red-whiskered Bulbul many times in China and India, but I still learned something new from Angel. The red patch on the face really is whiskers, just as the bird’s name suggests. If you look closely, you can see the whiskers stand out from the face.

Spot-breasted Oriole.  Photo by Angel Abreu.

Spot-breasted Oriole. Photo by Angel Abreu.

Non-native species frequently create serious environmental problems, including pushing out native species. As far as I know, though, the exotic bird species in Miami have not created any problems. The parakeets, for example, seem to have found a unique niche not utilized by other birds, so there is no competition.

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Mr. & Mrs. Egyptian Goose in the photos above.  The male with the darker neck and breast spot is on the left.  Below, they take their goslings for a swim.

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In addition to the exotic birds that we found, I also enjoyed my best ever looks at a native species, White-crowned Pigeon, which reaches the northernmost limit of its range in Miami.

White-crowned Pigeon

White-crowned Pigeon

We finished the day near dusk with more exotic species, the not yet countable Orange-winded Parakeet and Common Hill Myna, and our first-of-the-season Common Nighthawk. It was a lovely end to a wonderful day. Angel and Mariel not only know where to find the birds, they are incredibly nice people and it was fun to spend a day with them. If you need a birding guide in South Florida, I highly recommend Nature is Awesome. I’d had some wonderful birding, but the trip was not yet over.  Watch for Part 3.

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American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher at the Dunedin Causeway

“Shelley, look, there’s your Oystershucker!” I fondly remembered finding my life American Oystercatcher with my friend, David, in St. Pete as I flew there on March 2. David and I had a day and a half to bird together before he would drive me to meet my son-in-law, Jeff. David is not a real birder and that’s why I love birding with him. We once watched a Great Blue Heron try to eat a fish for half an hour. If I had been with a “real birder”, I’d have been embarrassed to pay so much attention to a common bird. This time we watched three Mourning Doves for 15 minutes. While field guides don’t show differences between males and females, we were sure that the grayer bird was a male and the browner ones were females. The male showed a patch of glowing iridescence on the side of his neck as he puffed himself up and strutted towards the females. We thought that they would mate right in front of us and prove who was who, but picking for food in the grass won their interest. A little research after the trip revealed that there IS a difference between male and female Mourning Doves which Bill Hilton describes and illustrates with gorgeous photos MOURNING DOVE: EXTERNAL ATTRIBUTES OF A FAVORITE GAME BIRD.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Saturday we visited Kapok Park, where we saw both Great Horned owlets and mom. The owlets were big “branchers” now and out of the nest, fuzzy and adorable. Great Horned Owls have nested at Kapok for several years. The photo at left was taken by David in 2009.

Sunday dawned so windy that we had to change our plans for morning birding. Instead of looking for Marsh and Sedge Wrens, we decided to drive the Dunedin causeway to look at shorebirds (much to David’s relief, I suspect). We enjoyed quite a few birds including our favorite Oystercatcher, but I was most excited to realize that I could confidently identify winter-plumaged Red Knots. All the shorebird study was paying off!

On Monday, Jeff and I drove to Miami to look for White-crowned Pigeons and countable exotics. We headed to a location in the middle of Miami where two pigeons had been reported on utility wires. Sure enough, we surveyed the area for 15 minutes and a White-crowned Pigeon appeared right in front of us just as we here about to leave. Life bird #1 for the trip!

Jeff’s friend, Tom Trotta, joined us for a day in the Everglades on Tuesday. Tom is President of Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge and Jeff is a volunteer with this wonderful organization. Our target bird was Short-tailed Hawk, which we failed to find, but it was a pleasant day that started with a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and produced another White-crowned Pigeon. It was much more satisfying to find a pigeon hidden in a clump of trees eating pigeon berries than to see one on a utility wire. The shy bird was well hidden, but we clearly saw was its face, white iris, and white crown. This was how birding should be.

Another highlight was finding Stilt Sandpipers. I immediately suspected that’s what we had when I saw two birds the size of Lesser Yellowlegs completely submerging their heads under water while feeding. Close scope views confirmed the field marks – a long black bill slightly drooped at the tip, the prominent white eyebrow. It was a life bird for Jeff and Tom and I was thrilled that I could make the ID. I could be the poster child for Doug and Bob’s Shorebird Workshop. “Shelley attended our workshop and now she can identify a winter-plumaged Stilt Sandpiper. You, too, can learn this birding feat!”

After another couple of pleasant days birding, it was time to head back to the St. Pete airport. We had time for one quick stop on my last day and we decided to try for the Short-tailed Hawk at St. Pete’s Sawgrass Lake Park, where they have bred in previous years. Before we reached the first observation area, a man called us over to see a Limpkin that has just eaten a snail. While watching the Limpkin, an Osprey plunged into the water 20 feet in front of us and flew off with the fish he caught. We looked up and saw a Short-tailed Hawk circling with nesting material. Life bird #2! It was a great week, but I have more birds to find in Florida. I remembered my late husband’s advice to “save something for next time.”

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