Thursday, 9 February 2012

I am just here to see the Bird!

So began the reason for a drive to the edge of NoWhere Florida, a place called Cockroach Nature Preserve. It's not a place you'd stumble on accidentally unless you were stuck in the middle of a Twilight Zone episode. Cockroach is a place you have to seek out and find, in this case based on a FLARBA report of a Fork-tailed Flycatcher, fly catching between dense posts, bushes and a large seemingly dead tree.

It was there in the heat of a Florida winter afternoon, that Sue and I, along with other Birders who made the pilgrimage to the edge of nowhere, searched and searched and walked in seemingly endless circles, hoping to find a rare bird that most likely was off hiding somewhere and laughing at us with the Great-horned Owl from Honeymoon Island.

Not that it was a total loss, as we did see Black Vultures, a Common Yellowthroat and a very nice Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. I had stalked the Gnatcatcher into a tree, thinking I might be pursuing the Flycatcher. Sue set me straight and by then was ready to move on, so off in search of the Florida Scrub Jay. They are supposed to be easy to find in Oscar Schemer SP, and in fact it was easy. We spotted it in a tree outside of the trail we were on our way to, where we were supposed to see it. It turned out to be a fortuitous sighting, as we saw not a single Scrub Jay on the trail. Since we already had the bird we didn't walk too far into the scrub before deciding to just take what we had and move on. But before we left we heard, then spied a Common ground Dove. Since only Mourning Doves can be seen in Toronto, this was a cool bird.

Our adventure continued over to Matlacha,(pronounced 'matt-la-che') and Pine Island, a quaint old fishing village, where the prize find was a Burrowing Owl, living in the ground at the edge of a front lawn in a nondescript sub division. We saw two of them, though not at the same time, as one popped its head up, then disappeared underground, only to be replaced by a second, cute, little owl. Owl-let might be more descriptive as they are quite tiny, compared, say, to a Long-eared Owl. They were too cute and we could have watched them for a long time but there were other fish to fry, or rather other birds to, well, ah find, including a Merlin on a telephone wire and a Loggerhead Shrike in a park tree.

At Ding Darling Natural Wildlife Preserve we found some lovely birds, including a Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Redish Egret and a Dunlin, a cute tiny shore bird you can only really see and identify through a scope. Great things those birding scopes and worth carrying on your back for a four mile ride through the park.

Next up, Corkscrew Swamp Wildlife Sanctuary and a reunion with Noreen and Edgar my amazing guides from San Francisco. But for now, I must sleep and dream of all the birds left to see.

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