Friday, August 27, 2010
Definitely a Red Letter Day in the Everglades
Yesterday I was up at 5 AM to make my 7 AM flight down to Miami. I was in my rental car and heading down to Everglades NP by 9:30. I met Pete Frezza at the visitor center. I had read about Pete last March on the Tropical Audubon Society's bird board when a posting talked about him helping a birder find a greater flamingo. I have been checking in with him periodically to see if any flamingos have shown up. The very cold winter in Florida pushed the flamingos out of the Everglades, and until this past Saturday no birds had been reported.
With the sighting of a single bird, I decided to fly down to try for the flamingo with Pete's help. Not only does Pete know Snake Bight bay very well--he works for the National Audubon Society in its science center at Tavernier, FL--but he also is a fishing guide which means he has a very nice small boat with a motor. Given that the flamingo that was reported was a considerable distance out in the bight, having a power boat, as opposed to kayaking to the location, was a huge benefit.
We were on the water by 11:45. It was a remarkably nice day for south Florida in late August--sunny, but not too warm with a breeze. As a result, there were no mosquitoes bothering us during the 3 hours we were out on the water. We rode for about 30 minutes to get to the right area of Snake Bight, and scanned the shoreline. At quite some distance we picked up the unmistakable shape of not 1 but 3 greater flamingos (top photo above-remember to click on the photo to enlarge it). Their light color indicates that they are sub-adults--it takes 3-4 years for a flamingo to get its full pink color.
We worked our way towards them, poling the last few hundred yards in the very shallow water. I can not begin to describe to you just how cool it is to see this bird up close. This is one of those birds that in the flesh totally blows you away--the bird book images just do not capture how amazing this bird looks and carries itself. The 3 birds did not seem to pay us much attention, so we sat and watched them for probably 30 minutes, along with lots of other birds that were in the area.
We finally pulled ourselves away and headed back into the dock. On the way in I got a photo of the Wurdemann's form of the great blue heron (bottom above). When I was down in the Keys back in late April I had seen the white form of the great blue, but had not come across any of the Wurdemann's. My neighbor/friend who was birding with me at the time had really wanted to see this form, so this picture is for you gal.
We found the flamingos quickly enough that Pete and I had time to stop in for a late lunch at my favorite taqueria in Florida City. On the way to lunch we saw a crested caracara in the field which is not common this far south in Florida. I had 2 tacos with carne asada (skirt steak) and 1 with al pastor (pork), and Pete went for the shredded beef burrito. I was back at the airport in plenty of time to make my flight home. The plane then had mechanical problems which delayed our flight by an hour. Even the glitch at the end of a long day of travel could not take the glow off of another red letter day for this big year.
Week #34 is now in the books with a total of 88 birds seen, and the flamingo, which is a life bird for me, raises the YTD to 675. I am now home for a few more days before heading back to the west coast. I am keeping my eye on the bird boards hoping that a rarity shows up close by that I might be able to go see. Stay tuned!