Spring Break 2016…South Florida!

SARAH and GCW

SARAH and GCW

The spring break plan was always centered around seeing our Miami-based Sarah…the person who originally suggested this birding blog. A trip to the Everglades was sandwiched between South Beach exquisite dinners, retail therapy and even Bikram yoga. Chasing rare birds was honestly not on the agenda but Sarah’s business trip and Nina’s encouragement presented me with an opportunity to race down to the Florida Keys this morning…4am departure to be exact. Two mega-rarities had been consistently seen since mid-February in the same state park that produced lifer #704 (Key West Quail-Dove) last March.

Both of these species are primarily West Indies natives; the Zenaida Dove is a code 5 (seen a few times EVER in North America) and the other mini sparrow-like Black-faced Grassquit is a code 4. Seeing both on the same day is like a baseball player turning an unassisted triple play AND hitting a game-winning home run in the same game.

With directional assistance from a man who had driven 12 hours from Charlotte to guide his two Sacramento friends, we hastily walked a few hundred yards along the Golden Orb path and stopped at the previously marked pink streamer “spot” in the mangroves. We waited less than a minute and gasped expletives as the dove emerged from the jungle into the sandy path and fed at our feet. The white patch distinguishes this bird from any other dove.

Code 5!

Code 5!

The Grassquit was going to be more of a challenge. Besides being only 4 inches, drab in color, and quiet (it was a female), it had not been seen in three days…..and that was in a private RV area. Add the uncooperative park ranger who did not appreciate us in his campground full of “paying customers”, we had a recipe for disappointment. Three hours elapsed, our group grew to more than twenty as folks from Michigan, Texas, and NYC joined the hunt, but there was no hint of the target bird.

I wasn’t going to quit on the Grassquit but I did separate from the group to grab my sunblock from the car. As I applied the lotion I could interpret the body language of excited birders 400 yards away. A short jog at a moderate pace brought me to the spot thirty seconds after the bird was flushed into a tangle of who knows what. Turning away in disappointment, I saw a little olive-gray thing sitting on a water hose contraption next to a RV. Before I could raise my binoculars, the Californians raised their voices and I fired away with the digital zoom and prayed this was our bird. It was a home-run…the score now stands at 709 North American lifetime species.

Black-faced Grassquit (LONG KEY STATE PARK, FLA)

Black-faced Grassquit (LONG KEY STATE PARK, FLA)

About George C. Wood

A birder since age ten, but not necessarily an avid "lister", I am closing in on 700 (*800!) species seen in North America.....hoping to capture each sighting with my camera.
This entry was posted in Quest for 700 (*800!). Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Spring Break 2016…South Florida!

  1. Glass, Dennis says:

    Wonderful!

    Dennis

  2. Thomas S. McIlwain says:

    YOU ARE THE MAN!great report – thanks for the excitment.

    From: birdtalesblog To: t10ugger@yahoo.com Sent: Tuesday, March 29, 2016 7:30 PM Subject: [New post] Spring Break 2016…South Florida! #yiv6438934816 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv6438934816 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv6438934816 a.yiv6438934816primaryactionlink:link, #yiv6438934816 a.yiv6438934816primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv6438934816 a.yiv6438934816primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv6438934816 a.yiv6438934816primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv6438934816 WordPress.com | George C. Wood posted: “The spring break plan was always centered around seeing our Miami-based Sarah…the person who originally suggested this birding blog. A trip to the Everglades was sandwiched between South Beach exquisite dinners, retail therapy and even Bikram yoga. Ch” | |

  3. Tom Mason says:

    Wow!!! Two great birds … Florida has treated you well the last year, or so.

  4. mselverian@gmail.com says:

    You’re absolutely amazing. The storytelling is so great and the photos are too. I love reading your posts. 709 is astounding. Only one contradiction. You say that the female is quiet. CHALLENGE! “The Grassquit was going to be more of a challenge. Besides being only 4 inches, drab in color, and quiet (it was a female),…”

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Cheers Mike, always appreciate yr taking the time to read and remark. As for the female bird….well, it is near breeding season and the males are the ones making noise to attract the generally silent females. Why this female was in Florida, probably 100 miles from a suitable male…we can only speculate!

  5. Jeffrey Dingle says:

    Oh yeah!!

    You know how to find ’em Egroeg!

    Is the right pic of you and Sarah at Anhinga Trail?..

    – Ffej

    Sent from myPhone

    >

  6. Julie Foster says:

    Great photos! Always enjoy your blog.

  7. Jeff Day says:

    Way to go GCW’75 and Sarah!

  8. Thanks for sharing… I felt like I was right there with you!

  9. David pocock says:

    Congratulations! Love the quality of the photos, the accomplishment and the original purpose to see Sarah!
    Well done, my friend!

  10. John Cox says:

    GW – The 007 birder! Need to get you a wing suit!! Last night we watched a 1944 British film “Tawny Pipit” you will love it, check it out. Happy Trails…JLC

  11. Lars says:

    Your perseverance is impressive and inspiring

  12. Dorothy Weisbord says:

    Great story!

  13. Hank says:

    Whoa! Great going George.

  14. Martin, Lisa says:

    awesome George! Great trip – birding and spending time with Sarah!

  15. Mike O'Leary says:

    George,

    Great birds! They are really turning up some rarities down there. Looking forward to spring migration. Take care and I hope to bird with you someday soon! Mike O.

  16. Julie says:

    YAY!! So glad you made it to the keys, found the birds and shared with all of us. Hoping you had some yellowtail while there as well – delish!

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