Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Variegated Flycatcher!!!

The sixth ever recorded variegated flycatcher in the ABA area was discovered at Evergreen Cemetery in Ft. Lauderdale, FL this past Saturday.  This is a species that breeds in northern and central South America, so its appearance in the ABA area suggests a post wintering reverse migration pattern. Neil Hayward emailed me asking if I was interested in chasing it.  I said I would think about going if it was reported the next day.

On Sunday morning it was reported again on the Tropical Audubon Society site, and then on Narba. I called my friend Bob Wallace who lives in Gainesville, FL to find that he was already on his way there with his brothers and his friend Dex.  He and I had spent over a month together in East Africa birding in the summer of 2012, and stay in touch.  I had met Dex and Bob originally in 2006 at Gambell, AK, and then reconnected in 2010 during my big year.  By mid afternoon his group had seen the bird, and were already driving back north (photo below taken by Bob.  Unless attributed to someone else, all photos were taken by me.  Click on any photo to enlarge).

Neil and I decided to come down on Monday morning.  He flew into Miami from Boston, arriving 2 minutes after my flight from Raleigh/Durham.  We got our rental car, and headed up to the cemetery, passing thru a brief shower.  As we drove in about 10 AM we passed a nice group of white ibis.  We immediately headed over to where all the birders were staring up into a large tree. 

With some friendly assistance we were able to locate the variegated flycatcher, but it took a few minutes because there were so many birds feeding in the tree including many warblers (photo taken by Neil).

As is common when a rarity is found, other birders from around the country had come to see it.  Susan Clark came up to us to say hi.  We had birded with her in September at the Pribs in Alaska.  Then Neil saw that Brandon Reo was also there with a friend.  They chatted briefly about Brandon's very successful year of birding (692 birds so far recorded on his 2015 ABA area ebird list).

After about 20 minutes the flycatcher flew back over to a strangler fig that has been its preferred feeding location, so we walked over to watch it some more.  Neil proceeded to take a huge number of photos, and shared the one above with me.  While watching the bird, Lucie Bruce and Nick Cooney walked up having flown in from Texas.  I had last seen them also in Pribs back in the fall of 2013.  While visiting, some other birders told us that there was a spot-breasted oriole feeding over by the canal that runs along the edge of the cemetery.

We walked over to try to find it, and ran into Monte Taylor who was in from California.  He is at the top of the ABA area list for photographed birds.  The variegated flycatcher raises his total to 851.  We did not locate the oriole, but a huge lizard was hanging out in the tree where it had been seen.

We kept moving back and forth between the oriole site and the flycatcher site, and finally we were able to see the oriole (photo taken by Neil).  The spot-breasted oriole is a Miami area specialty, so it was nice to be able to find one.

As it got closer to our time to head back to the airport, local bird guides Angel and Mariel Abreu arrived.  I had met them back in 2013 at Bill Baggs SP which is located on Key Biscayne.  I had come down that time to try to see a bananaquit and a western spindalis.  Unlike this trip, I missed both of those birds.  Jeff Bouton also showed up at about the same time.  Another birder took a group shot of us (Neil, Mariel, Jeff, me and Angel).  It was a nice way to end our short but very birdy visit.  In the 3+ hours that we were in the cemetery, we were constantly seeing birds, and totaled over 10 warbler species alone plus we ran into so many other birders we know from around the country.

One last note for this post.  On 10/26, Noah Strycker saw a flame-crowned flowerpecker in the Philippines for his 5000th new bird for 2015.  He still has 2 months of birding, so who knows how high his new world big year record will be.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Big Year 3/4 Pole Update

It is October 1st so I am doing a short post on this year's big year efforts as the birders turn onto the home stretch of their birding adventure.  As I have said in earlier posts, I do not know anyone that is definitely doing a full ABA area big year in 2015.  However, in checking the ebird top 100, it seems that Mike and Wendy Schackwitz (663 different species year to date), and Brandon Reo (653) are doing big years based on their high totals and constant birding activity.  In the lower 48 category, Dan Gesualdo (636), a birder from Ohio that I know who I have mentioned in an earlier post, is also still doing a big year.

I do know of one world big year that is being done by Noah Strycker.  I have mentioned him earlier this year saying that you can follow his efforts on his blog which can be found on the Audubon site.  On September 16th Noah passed the old record (4341) set back in 2008 by Alan Davies and Ruth Miller.  With his goal of seeing at least 5000 bird species in 2015, he is continuing to bird in Asia, and then will finish up in Australia and New Zealand.  As of 9/30 his world total for 2015 is at 4565 species with the most recent ebird post being Pallas's fish-eagle.  I have never seen a fish-eagle, but the photo above is of a Verreaux's eagle-owl that I took when I birded in East Africa in 2012 (the entire trip was recorded in earlier posts back in 2012).  He should have no trouble passing 5000 birds for the year.

I was also sent a photo taken by Cory Gregory (click on any photo to enlarge), one of our guides on the Pribs, of all of us except Neil Hayward taken in the upper cut of the quarry on the day that the Pallas's rosefinch was first found.  As I wrote in my last post, it is a great day for any birder when they get to participate in recording the first ever sighting of a bird in the ABA area.