Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Tale of 2 Geese and a Quail-Dove

I was in Italy for 2 weeks at the end of October and early November.  As a result, I missed a chance to go look for the Eurasian hobby (code 4) that spent a couple of weeks during that same period in Washington state.  But then a tundra bean goose (code 3) was found at Nestucca Bay NWR, Oregon on November 10th.  Last year in November one was seen at the Salton Sea.  I happened to be in Arizona at the time, and met Neil Hayward to try to find it.  Unfortunately it was a 1 day wonder.  Another tundra bean goose showed up in Nova Scotia which Neil was able to see for his 2013 big year record total.

Another interesting rare bird this fall has been a Key West quail-dove (code 4) that was first reported on September 27th at Long Key SP in Florida--a 2 hour drive south of Miami.  It was not seen again until October 7th, and then was not reported again until November 15th. 

When the goose continued to be seen each day, I decided to make the trip to Oregon and then back home through Florida.  I left Wednesday morning the 19th.  I was up in the dark Thursday to make the 2 hour drive from Portland to Nestucca Bay NWR (click on any photo to enlarge).  I arrived about 7 AM as small groups of geese were gliding into the fields to feed.  About 7:20 the tundra bean goose flew in, and landed fairly close to the viewing platform.  Soon 2 birders from Oregon joined me. 

About 7:40 the goose flew off to the right, and joined a different group of Canada and cackling geese which were much closer to the entrance road.  This allowed me to get a decent photo of the tundra bean goose (front center with orange foot up).  When the rain began in earnest, I decided to head back to Portland to catch a train up to Seattle where I stayed for 2 nights.  I was able on Friday to have lunch with John Puschock of Zugunruhe bird tours. We first met in 2010 during my lower 48 big year.  It was good to catch up.

I arrived in Miami on Saturday evening, so I stayed near the airport.  I was out at first light to look for Egyptian geese, which is an exotic that has established its presence in the Miami area so the ABA added it to the list this year.  My first stop was a very well-known birding spot in the Miami area--the Kendall Baptist hospital.  I found several muscovy ducks, lots of white ibis and a flock of monk parakeets.  Across the pond I spotted what appeared to be a single Egyptian goose, but by the time I worked my way over to that side, the early morning speed walkers had flushed it. 

So I visited next the Grace Church which is only 5 minutes away.  I went there because my friend Doreene Linzell had seen 3 geese there last week.  I once again found plenty of muscovy ducks, and had a flock of white-winged parakeets fly over, but no Egyptian geese on the canal or lawn.  As I was leaving the church, I saw 3 Egyptian geese pass overhead.  I still wanted photos, so my next target location was 10 minutes away at Kendall Lakes.  I turned in at the sign, and immediately found many muscovy ducks, and upwards of 20 Egyptian geese.

With the Egyptian goose photographed, I was off to Long Key SP.  I arrived by 9:30 AM, and immediately made my way to a poisonwood tree that is the key landmark for beginning a search for the Key West quail-dove.  This bird got its name when it was first seen in the early 1800's at Key West.  The species has not bred in the U.S. for decades, and now is an extremely rare visitor from the Bahamas to the Keys usually in the summer.  The last fall record of one was in 1991.

I don't like birding in Florida especially when it is hot and humid, so of course that is what I got on Sunday--85 degrees and 80% humidity.  I spent all day slowly walking back and forth on about 150 yards of trail covering the area in which the bird had been reported.  Not only was there no sign or sound of the quail-dove, but the place was almost devoid of bird life.  I counted a total of 9 birds in 8 hours.  I did enjoy seeing the occasional Caribbean tree crab.

I finally gave up the hunt at dusk, and spent the night at Marathon which was another 15 miles further south.  I was back at 8 AM when the park opened yesterday morning.  I kept patrolling the trail until 11 AM when I needed to leave to make the drive back to Miami to catch my flight home to Chapel Hill, NC.  Again there was almost no bird activity--black and white warbler, prairie warbler, blue-headed vireo, gray catbird and 2 cardinals kept me company along with many lizards.

I am back home now getting ready for Thanksgiving.  While I struck out on the Key West quail-dove, at least I was able to add the Egyptian goose to my ABA life list along with the tundra bean goose.  Unless I go after another rarity that shows up before the end of the year, I won't do another post until I do my year end review.  Check back.