Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Birding Away in Margaritaville - the 2009 List and Plans for 2010

Without doubt, in my biased view, the coolest bird in Florida is the Anhinga. There is simply nothing that beats this bird in the cool department. Nothing. As idiotic as they look, when I sit and watch them just sitting around being Anhinga's I have developed a kinship with them unlike any other species in this state dripping with species. When I moved into my current residence on February 26, 2009, the first bird I saw from my house was an Anhinga. I knew my current home was a great place to live.

As 2009 has progressed I've kept track of the birds I've seen or heard from my lanai and or master bedroom and in 10 months I've recorded 137 species. Sarasota County being a new county to live in became the focus of a lot of extracurricular birding and unless I miraculously find an Eastern Screech-Owl in the next two nights (doubtful) I will end 2009 with a Sarasota County list of 231 species for the county and 225 of those species were recorded in 2009.

And speaking of state lists, at least 501 species of birds have been recorded inside the borders of Florida and as of today my state list is 423 species. No doubt the best bird added to my state list this year was North America's second-ever Greater Sandplover found near Jacksonville in May.

I've seen lots of Greater Sandplovers in Asia - from Eilat Israel east to Hong Kong but this was the first one I've seen in the Western Hemisphere and most appropriately it was here in Florida.

A couple weeks ago I made a mad dash to the Florida Panhandle (a.k.a. the "Redneck Riviera") to look for and find !! a Broad-tailed Hummingbird that was hanging out at a feeder near Fort Walton Beach.

After adding it to my Florida list I stopped by Tallahassee to look at a Buff-bellied Hummingbird that was at a feeder near the city.

After getting the Buff-bellied Hummingbird I darted down to incomparable St. Mark's National Wildlife Refuge in Wakulla County where I picked up a Long-tailed Duck (called Oldsquaw before political correctness invaded ornithology). It was new for my Wakulla County list and a new bird for my Florida 2009 list.

Returning from this, my fourth birding jaunt to the Redneck Riviera in 2009, I entered my observations in my Avisys database and discovered that throughout all of 2009 I had seen 297 species in Florida - just three species short of the mythical 300 species a goal that many fanatic listers set for seeing in each of the states over their lifetime not just in a year.

Being that close to 300 for the year - a number I had reached only once before - in California in 1993 when I had 358 species for the state in a year - I decided that I was too close to not go for it.

Knowing that there was a La Sagra's Flycatcher in Everglades National Park and three introduced species in the Kendall area I took off for the menagerie of south Florida on Christmas Eve day. I scored early and easy on the La Sagra's Flycatcher, a species from the Bahamas, mon, and then on my way back to Florida City I picked up a flock of Canary-winged Parakeets. I was only one species short of 300 for the year.

Christmas morning dawned crisp and clear and I headed directly for the tennis courts on Southwest 120th Avenue in Kendall where, on schedule, a pair of Red-whiskered Bulbuls put in a show - species 300 for the year in Florida.

Then for added measure I drove over to Mattheson Hammock Park where I found a singing male Spot-breasted Oriole - a species introduced from Central America and established in a small portion of Dade County.

Since that trip I've added Virginia Rail and Canvasback to my state list for 303 species for the list. And I could still get a Jaeger or maybe a Eastern Screech-Owl to end the year.

But I digress.

In recent years many people have gotten into keeping lists of the birds they have seen in each county of a state like I have done for Sarasota County.

I recently did a summary of my county lists and discovered that among the 67 counties in Florida I have seen at least 101 species each of 9 counties. I have more than 200 in Sarasota County and 194 in Monroe County (the Keys). So, after kicking it around for about a nanosecond and washing it down with a couple pints of Stella Artois, I've decided that my 2010 goal is to work on getting a minimum of 101 species in each of Florida's 67 counties. Right now I have my county lists displayed on a state highway map and know where I have to focus. I have a large goose egg of ZERO species in Charlotte County that shares its northern border with Sarasota County and there are zero species on my Hendry County list in the middle of the Glades and only 25 species on my Broward County list - Fort Lauderdale. I just never recorded stuff when I was over there.

So....starting tomorrow with an exploratory trip to Charlotte and Hendry Counties I'm kicking into gear with the goal of ending 2010 with 101 species in each of Florida's counties. And I'm still going to get my baseball novel completed. Whew. Thankfully I don't have to go to work daily and screw up this planning.

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