Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Deep South (9)...and Finally!

Two days then.

ANTILLEAN NIGHTHAWK was my first target. I had a number of sites lined up, ...Key West and Marathon Airports being the main ones. I tried on 5 occasions, obviously at dawn and dusk. I bumped into the tour groups on more than one occasion. First two joy.

I then tried Key West Airport at dawn. I was on my tod this time. The sun was threatening to break the horizon...then, there it was shooting across the tarmac...pity-pit-pit...the diagnostic call! Again a massive relief. I tried on a further two occasions but this was my only sighting.

ABA 665

Key West is a fascinating place, full of character...and characters!

Key West Rooster...can't tick this one!

We spent quite a bit of time at Fort Zachary Taylor S.P.  This park has a superb track record for turning up rarities. I was still hopeful! Pretty  dry as you can see by this trail. Also )and most important) Louise was happy reading her novel under the palm trees by the ocean!

I check the internet daily for the latest news and on our penultimate evening things got interesting. A BAHAMA MOCKINGBIRD had been reported...guess where...yep...Fort Zachary. Next morning after another failed attempt for further views of the NIGHTHAWK we made our way to FZ and set our stall up under the trees. No sign of the bird or any birders (which was surprising considering the number of tour groups in the area). Some on there way surely. It's not a MEGA Stateside, being more or less annual in Florida BUT it was obviously a BIG deal for me.

By lunchtime it was HOT and it was time for a drink. As I crossed the car park I saw 2 birders sat in the back of their truck. I walked over and asked if they knew about the BM. "Yes", one of them said, "we've just seen it!!!" I think they guessed I'd like to see it and they kindly offered to walk back with me to where they'd "had it", which was pretty impressive (and kind) considering the temperature.

5 minutes later I was looking at my ABA 666...

I was elated to see this bird, another rarity and therefore a bonus for the trip. I thanked them both for there help. It was later to transpire that they were tour group leaders from North-East Florida, namely David Hartgrove and Gallus Quigley. Thanks chaps.

There were also some commoner species around the park. To think I travelled to Rum to see this one, slightly different circumstance granted...

A tad closer...

Mourning Dove
...and another special bird...the spectacular White-crowned Pigeon...

who says pigeons are boring?
David and Gallus gave me a good lead for my final target BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO. My previous trip to Florida in 2009 was slightly earlier in April and this species hadn't arrived in force. I was hoping/praying that May 2nd would pay dividends. As we arrived at the site I noticed several other birders and cars. Guess who was there...yep David and Gallus with their group (15). They told me they'd been looking for MANGROVE CUCKOO since dawn. I'd been lucky.

I could hear BWV almost immediately. At least 4 birds singing. Things looked good. Difficult to see and photograph as they stayed deep in the mangroves and were constantly on the move in the increasing heat and humidity. Eventually I managed a photo...

Black-Whiskered Vireo
ABA 667

So, success. All my 6 targets achieved PLUS 3 bonus Rarities.

We'd had a fantastic holiday. Never had a bad one yet in the States. Great weather, sights, food, drink and of course birds. All possible thanks to my wonderful partner...she enjoyed it as well!

On the way back to the airport in Miami we stopped off to try and get a glimpse of the localised Key West Deer. We got lucky to say it was the 11am...

Now that IS Cute!
That's it then. Only took me 9 months! Hope you enjoyed at least some of it? I'm going to stay on the ABA front this week as I have day shifts. Next I'm going to do a (brief) summary of my list, I have a few armchair ticks to add plus a look at future possible additions. Be nice to reach 700 before I peg out. Not bad for spring and summer holidays. I must do a winter trip one time...if I can convince Louise to go.

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