Friday, April 19, 2013

Western Spindalis and Nanday Parakeet

We were on the road as planned by 5:30 AM to make the 125 mile drive down to Key West from Florida City.  We hit no major slowdowns at that early hour, and arrived at the Key West Botanical Garden on Stock Key right at 8 AM to find out that it did not open until 10 AM--bummer.  We headed into Key West and worked our way out to a beach area where we had several magnificent frigatebirds gliding overhead.  We made a short stop at Goldman's for breakfast--eggs and bagels for Dan and myself, and soup for Doreene.

We were back at the botanical garden at 10 sharp to look for a female western spindalis that has been hanging out there for several weeks.  We were told when we entered where to look for the bird, and proceeded to canvas that part of what is a not very big area.  We found very few birds again.  Later we checked out the small water area where we found black and white, and palm warblers, and both waterthrushes, plus moscovy ducks which are now countable in Florida.

Mid day we met a family of 3 from Oregon who was making their first visit to Florida.  We explained that we were looking for a rare vagrant.  A bit later when we were looking in another area, the wife came running up to us to say she thought her son might have found the bird.  We rushed over to discover that he had found 2 red-eyed vireos but not the spindalis.

About 2 PM we were beginning to wonder if we were going to strike out on the spindalis when another birder and her husband from Rhode Island told us about a sighting of the spindalis late on the day before over by the parking area.  We all went over there to find that a large fig tree had ripening figs on it, plus right next to it was a covered area with chairs.  We settled in hoping that the spindalis would come in to feed.  About 3:30 the young couple from Atlanta who had seen the spindalis on Wednesday came by, and told us more about seeing it.  While with us, they both heard it call.  We looked for it but could not locate it.  They had to leave, and the garden was about to close for the day.  We asked the volunteer who came to move us out about our predicament, and he graciously gave us a few more minutes to look.

Finally, at 4:30 he returned to say he really did need to lock up the gate.  The couple from Rhode Island drove off planning to return at 10 the next morning.  We pulled our car out of the parking area, and got out to listen some more while the gate was being closed.  Doreene heard a chip call, and low and behold, there was the spindalis right by the gate eating a holly berry.  We were able to get some nice looks at it, and I also got a "record" shot just below (click on any photo to enlarge).

We felt incredibly fortunate to have seen the bird at literally the last second since we were not staying in Key West for the night.  We climbed into my car for the long drive back north.  We stopped in Key Largo for a very nice seafood dinner, and then drove on up to Boca Raton to be in position to bird in that area the next morning.  As we were getting out of the car at our motel, Doreene realized that she had left her purse on a chair at the restaurant in Key Largo.  She called and found out they had it.  She would need it to have ID to fly home on Saturday, so we knew we would be driving back to Key Largo in the morning.

We were up early so that we could bird at Wakodahatchee wetlands before making the 100+ mile drive back to Key Largo.  Our last target bird, Nanday parakeet, also called black-hooded parakeet, had been recently reported from the wetlands, so we were hoping to find a few there.  We talked to one of the locals who said there had been a few 2 weeks earlier, but they had left the area.  We still had a nice hour of birding on the boardwalk, and then headed back to get the purse.  We picked it up just before 11 AM, and then drove to Florida City to have lunch at one of my favorite tacquerias, and to get a key lime shake from Robert's fruit stand.

Since we still needed to find Nanday parakeets, we decided after lunch to drive up to the St. Petersburg area where there are large numbers of them.  We were over 100 miles west of Miami when Doreene checked NARBA to find that a Bahama mockingbird, another rare vagrant, had been found that morning at the same spot as the thick-billed vireo we had seen on Wednesday.  It was mid afternoon, and we decided that we needed to keep going to St. Pete to get the parakeet because the traffic would be awful by the time we made it back to Miami.  We also needed to make a short stop in Venice to visit an old friend of Doreene's that was expecting us.

After winding our way thru town, we made it to Walter Fuller Park about 6:30, and were delighted to find a few Nanday parakeets flying about, and eating in the grass.  Dan got a very nice shot of one.  Since Dan and Doreene were flying out of Orlando the next morning, we made the 2 hour drive on up to the airport area to spend the night.  Before going to bed, I needed to decide whether I would get up very early and drive back to Miami to try for the Bahama mockingbird.  Stay tuned!

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