Thursday, May 9, 2013


I arrived in Fort Lauderdale, not feeling much better, but at least I didn't break my perfect record of not throwing up on a flight! I headed straight to Bill Baggs, hoping to catch up with some late warbler migration, and hope that the Black-faced Grassquit was still hanging around.

The Black-faced Grassquit was, most definitely, not hanging around. But at least I got to see where it had been seen - up until last Sunday…

Which is directly opposite the other famous location there - the "Thick-billed Vireo white gate area"…

OK. I promise there will be some actual photos of birds in this post, and not just a nostalgic look at where birds *used* to be.

There were good numbers of migrants - many American Redstarts, Blackpoll Warblers, Northern Waterthrushes, and a few Black-throated Blues, Palms, and the odd Ovenbird. Bobolinks - a new year bird - were feeding on the grassy areas. No Connecticut Warblers though - which had been passing through in the past couple of days.

An American Redstart - one of the more common warblers at Bill Baggs today.

Of course, after chasing Gray Kingbirds the past two times in Florida, there was one here, laughing at me…

The Mocking Bird - Gray Kingbird.

Stopping at Starbucks on the way out of Bill Baggs, I was pleased to discover a state with worse drivers than Massachusetts…


On the way down to the Keys, I stopped off at A.D. Barnes Park, for one last try at Connecticut. Despite the very precise directions from the previous day - "walking on the ground between the boulder and the water fountain" - it was not repeating that activity today. I did however find a Gray-cheeked Thrush on the ground - another year bird.

My main target this evening was Antillean Nighthawk. This goatsucker is very similar to the Common Nighthawk, found throughout the US. The Antillean, however, is much rarer, restricted to a few locations on the Keys and the Dry Tortugas. Both birds call frequently, and their distinctive and diagnostic calls make identification much easier. Recent reports from Marathon airport sounded promising. 

I arrived at the airport with plenty of time, allowing me the unenviable activity of catching up on sleep inside the car. I never could manage to stretch out and find good places for my legs (which aren't ordinarily long - certainly not longer, I would imagine, than your average leg) or head, or really, any part of my body. It was 90 degrees outside, and probably hotter inside. Not much sleep was had, and any that I did get was offset by a whole bunch of new aches all over my body.

While I was waiting for dusk - the nighthawks were reported to come out around 7:30pm, about a half hour before sunset, I could enjoy some of the more common birds in the airport parking lot…

Northern Mockingbird - mimicking a Gray Kingbird call

and a grackle…

Common Grackle

Of course, it's not long before *another* Gray Kingbird drops in…

...joined by a second bird a couple of minutes later. Am I allowed to trade in Gray Kingbirds for Thick-billed Kingbirds? What's the going rate? Two for one?

At 7:30, I hear my first nighthawk - the nasal buzzing "peent" identifies it as a Common Nighthawk. Within minutes, I hear the Antillean - "pity-pit-pit". I can't actually see the birds, but the calls are loud, carrying over the runway. Eventually, I start seeing nighthawks - chasing invisible insects with aerial acrobatics. A calling Antillean flies right over the parking lot (I'm standing *on* my rental car so I can see over the fence - and the sudden shock of having this bird above me almost causes me to fall off.)

The birds are too fast for me to photograph through my scope, but here's a movie with audio - you can distinctly hear both nighthawks calling…

Audio of nighthawks at Marathon Airport. Listen for the "pity-pit-pit" of the Antillean first, 
which is soon joined by the nasal buzz of the Common.

Marathon Airport. A successful end to the day. 

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NEW YEAR BIRDS (4): Bobolink, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Common Nighthawk, Antillean nighthawk.

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