Monday, April 22, 2013

Bahama Mockingbird--No; Todd McGrath--Yes!

Even though I was almost 250 miles north of Bill Baggs SP, and was heading north to attend the Masters golf tournament on Sunday, I decided that trying for the Bahama mockingbird since it had been seen as late as 6:30 PM on Friday made sense. I was not keen on adding 500 extra miles of driving, but it seemed better than chasing a Bahama in the future from my base in North Carolina.  So I climbed out of bed at 5 AM Saturday, put on several CD's and headed back to Miami.

I arrived at Bill Baggs at 8:30, and drove right to the spot where the Bahama had been found and seen easily on Friday.  This was the same location that we had seen a thick-billed vireo on Wednesday. As I drove up I was not surprised to see several birders given that it was Saturday, and the bird had just been found the day before.  I was surprised to find Todd McGrath there since he lives in southern California.  I had gotten to know him when we were on several pelagic trips during my big year in 2010.  He is one of the premier pelagic birders in the country, and always has a very big camera with him.  Saturday was no exception.  He was in Miami on business, and to visit his father, so he had come to Bill Baggs in hopes of photographing the Bahama mockingbird.

From 8:30 to 9:30 the birding group kept walking up and down a 100 foot stretch of roadway, looking intently at the thick foliage where the Bahama had been seen the day before.  At times we heard a quiet call that definitely did not sound like one of the many catbirds in the same area.  We particularly focused on the privet with berries that the bird had been feeding on the day before.  Regular pishing, however, did not bring the calling bird out into the open.

About 9:30 I very briefly saw the head and, and upper back of a mockingbird.  My maybe 5 second look before it disappeared made me think I was looking at a northern mockingbird because of the gray tones I saw.  I have never seen a Bahama mockingbird, and the illustrations I had reviewed seemed to indicate that it would be more more brown in color.  No one else was able to see the bird, and it never reappeared the rest of the morning.

To most of the birders delight, the thick-billed vireo came into view about 10 AM, and proceeded to be very vocal and visible for 15-20 minutes.  As a result, Todd was able to get many good shots of the bird like the one above (click on photo to enlarge).  Todd packed it in about noon.  Soon after dark clouds began to cover the sky with some thunder and lightening in the distance. With rain on the way, I also decided to give it up since I had many miles to drive still if I was going to make it to the Masters the next morning.

After I checked into my motel Saturday night, I went on line to look at photos of Bahama mockingbirds including ones taken of this particular bird.  After looking at them, I saw that in fact some Bahama's are gray in coloration, including the one photographed at Bill Baggs.  Thus it is possible that I did see the Bahama, but not well enough to count it--close but no cigar.  Even without seeing the Bahama, I picked up 4 ABA area life birds, and if the white-cheeked pintail gets accepted, then it will be 5, all of which made for a red letter week!  Short of a phenomenal trip to Alaska, I will probably never again see 4/5 ABA area life birds in a week.  It was great to bird with Dan and Doreene, and we saw just north of 100 species.

I will be heading to southern California on Thursday to bird, and will be on a pelagic trip out of Ventura on Saturday that Todd will be on as well.  Stay tuned!

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