Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Florida Trip, Day 6: May 16

Willet, Fort Desoto State Park

The Last Day

After a fine day in the Gulf of Mexico, our last day in Florida was devoted to a bit of “mop-up” and then some time in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. First off, we arose very early in the morning and headed back to Miami in search of Spot-breasted Oriole and White-winged Parakeet, both of which we had missed on Monday but had gotten some tips about good locations. We ended up back in the same neighborhoods, just at more likely times. We spent nearly 2 hours searching. An oriole was heard but never seen at our first location, which also featured Monk Parakeets and Yellow-chevroned Parakeets. Our target birds were not present, but a great bonus prize was an Eastern Screech-Owl that flew up and perched in a tree right in front of me! After two hours, we gave up on our target birds. We were stopped at a light right before the freeway ramp, ready to head north and west, when John yelled out “Oriole! It flew into that tree!” We all whipped our heads around and while not the best views in the world, there was a Spot-breasted Oriole, perched up in the top of a palm! It flew off, and our light turned green. Our mood of defeat was turned to triumph, and away we went, life bird number 415 safely ticked.

We made it to Fort DeSoto State Park about 1pm, a place known for shorebirds and as a location for Black-hooded Parakeets. We did not find the parakeets, but some careful scrutiny of shorebirds revealed an American Oystercatcher (ABA bird 383 for me) and a Snowy Plover (ABA 384, life bird 416)! After an hour and a half at the park, we followed some directions in Bill Pranty’s guide to a marina in St. Pete, and we drove around for a bit until we heard the screeching of parrots. We found a house with platform feeders and Monk Parakeets, along with a Snowy Egret in a pine tree and a Great Egret on their deck.

Snowy Egret, pretending to be a Pine Warbler

Suddenly, a big parakeet dropped down onto a platform feeder, and there it was – Black-hooded Parakeet, a recent addition to the ABA list, and now the most recent addition to my lists (ABA 385, life 417)! This was a big, good looking bird, and pretty vocal – this was the parakeet we heard that drew us to this location. The parakeet was also the only bird of the trip that was a life bird for everyone.

Black-hooded Parakeet, St. Petersburg

We headed north again, towards Hernando Beach and possibly the last place in Florida where there is an established population of wild Budgerigars, or Budgies. For a typical noisy psittacid, these guys were difficult to find, and we spent two and a half hours driving around a sleepy retiree neighborhood until, just as we were about to give up, a small flock flew overhead and perched in some bushes. This was our last target bird and closed out our trip, as we decided to head home a day early. I finished up the trip with a life list totaling 418 and an ABA list of 386, an increase of 46 birds. Overall, the trip was highly successful, with around 180 species observed and hitting almost all of our target birds, minus Greater Flamingo, White-tailed Kite, Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow, Red-crowned Parrot, White-winged Parakeet, and Fulvous Whistling-Duck.

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