As Spring Training draws to a close, so does my month of Birding when not working, here in the Tampa Bay area. I had hoped to average a bird a day for the month of March and ended the month with 27 new Year birds. If I leave Florida with close to 241 birds, a good couple of days in Arizona could get me to 300 before I return to Toronto on April 8. When I began this Big Year, 300 was my goal for 12 months. As anyone who has been following my misadventures over the last 90+ days, you'll know I started not just my Big Year on January 1, but literally started birding just a few days earlier. So, I am proud of what I have accomplished so far.
But there is much more work to do and so much more to learn. I feel a little worn out too. And it just occurred to me, last night, that there are still 9 more months to go. Sheesh! I think, though, I will be reenergized by a change of scenery when I arrive in Tucson, Arizona on April 3 and get to bird on my own down to Ash Canyon and then have a full day with my guide, Melody Kehl on April 4, before heading to Nevada for work and hopefully, a few more birds before heading up to Michigan for another day and then, finally heading home next Sunday night to Toronto. Whew! Just writing that added another layer of exhaustion.
The last couple of days, I took walks in both Dunedin's Hammock Park and Possum Branch, and got a nice look at a Barred Owl, and added my last bird of the month, a Northern Flicker, perched high in a dead tree near the entrance to Possum Branch, where I have yet to see a possum.
Last evening I returned to Hernando Beach and found one of the last an only communities of wild Budgerigars in North America. Beautiful green birds that reminded me of our pet budgie, Hamlet, when I was a kid. Hamlet was a blue bird. Wild Budgerigars are always green. I met the homeowner, who was only too happy to let me walk around back and get a good look at their living conditions,(the bird's, not the homeowners - though she did have a lovely back yard). The birds have houses and feeders and lovely trees to sit in. I think there are about a dozen, wild, breeding, chittering Budgerigars living there. Thanks, finally to good directions from an e-Bird poster, I found them easily this time.
My next stop was Weekiwachee Park where I was having one more attempt at the reported Le Conte's Sparrow. I walked the long mile down to the end of the main road, to where the small lake and washroom facilities are, and found the field where the bird had last been seen. In order to see it, you had to walk the field and flush the bird. Appropriate around a toilet, I suppose. And I did just that. walked in the tall grass and eventually got the bird to flush and then vanish and flush again. From what I read about the bird, the Le Contes Sparrow prefers to run along the ground rather than fly. I could see it quite clearly each time it flew a few feet, inches above the grass, but unless it settled on a bush I wouldn't be able to identify it, by sight. Sure it behaved like a La Contes, and I even heaerd it call, but I wanted to be sure I walked, flushed, walked and eventually the bird landed on a bush. I had my Le Conte's Sparrow. Or had I?
I got a good look at the elusive Sparrow though my binoculars, as it perched inside a bush. I snapped a few pictures. A long walk, lots of flushing, but I had my rare bird. I did wait a couple of days to officially record it, after I had photos confirmed by Melody Kehl, my Arizona Bird Guide, but it was worth the wait.
On my way to the car, I ran into a couple of birders who were doing the Florida birding thing, just as Sue and I had in February. Another couple where one of them is a birder and the other just wants to walk. I was the walker last year, now I am the chaser. We had a nice chat and shared some good birding locations, finds and stories. Good stuff.
Some photos for your viewing pleasure:
True Wild Budgerigars:
True Wild Budgerigars:
Le Conte's Sparrow