WORDS ON BIRDS
Florida Rarities Highlight Florida Trip
By Steve Grinley
couple of weeks ago, Margo and I were fortunate enough to escape for
a week to Florida. Once there, we were captured again by relatives,
and by the walls surrounding The Villages. But we were able to
escape our new captures for a few days and manage some time to go
birding. A couple of day trips to the Lake Apopka area where we saw
some southern birds that we see less often, if at all, in New
The eleven-mile long
Wildlife Drive along the dikes of the Apopka marsh reclamation area
gave us close views (within 10 to 20 yards of the car) of common
gallinules, American coots, anhinga, black-bellied whistling ducks,
and several species of egrets and herons. The gallinules were
probably the most numerous birds there, seen and heard constantly
along the drive. Pied-billed grebes were also plentiful, including
one raft of fifty to sixty grebes, maybe more than we have ever seen
together at once.
We also managed to
a two-day road trip to the Fort Lauderdale/Miami area in search of
two life birds for Margo and an ABA area bird for me. On Saturday,
we drove more than two hundred miles to Richardson Historic Park and
Nature Preserve, just north of Fort Lauderdale. That is where a
Bananaquit, a Caribbean specialty, had been hanging out for the past
few weeks. We found the park, but the parking lot was closed due to
a “special function” in the park that day –just our luck! The sign
said parking was available at the town hall, which we found and
walked back to the park.
one of the attendants at the park if we could go in to view a
reported rare bird. He pointed to a man inside the gated park and
said that the bird had been seen near where the birder was looking.
The birder was actually walking out and we asked him if he had seen
the bird. “Not for the four hours that I have been here.” he said.
But he also said that he could show us another place where the bird
had been seen on previous days before he had to leave.
We walked around the block to an apartment complex and found a fence
lined with vegetation, including firebush, a plant that the
bananaquit particularly likes. The vegetation line stretched all the
way back to the park, so the bird could be anywhere along it. This
other birder only carried a camera (no binoculars) so Margo and I
started scanning the vegetation with our binoculars. He, like us,
had traveled far from north of Orlando to see this bird. He
announced that his long vigil was over and that he had to return
home. As he turned to leave, Margo saw some movement in the leaves
of the firebush. She put her bins up and said, “Stop! The bird is
here!” Sure enough, it was the bananquit!
The warbler like bird was dark gray above, strong white eyeline,
white and yellow below with a long curved bill. A cute little bird
that kept disappearing among the leave in the thick vegetation. The
other birder finally saw the bird and got photos through his
We then had enough
time to head to Key Biscayne for our second target bird, a western
spindalas, another Caribbean vagrant.. The male spindalas is a
striking bird, which I saw many years ago in Key West. This bird on
Key Biscayne, which had been seen for several weeks, was a female -
quite drab in comparison. Still, it would be a life bird for Margo
and well worth the trip.
arrived at the Crandon Park on Key Biscayne, we recognized the area
as one we had visited about eight years ago to see our first
Muscovey Ducks and Egyptian Geese, which we saw this trip shortly
after we arrived. Reports were that the spindalas was seen early in
the day, traveling and feeding in the trees with a mixed flock of
warblers. We did encounter a few palm warblers, but after much
searching in fading sunlight, we decided to call it a day and find a
hotel to stay overnight. We were hoping that we would have better
luck in the morning.
morning, we searched the same trees in the same area where the
spindalas was seen the previous morning. We did find a flock of
warblers that included several palm warblers and a stunning
yellow-throated warbler, but didn’t see the western spindalas. There
were a few other also searching for the birds.
After about an hour, one birder alerted us that he had found the
bird. As the birds were constantly moving form tree to tree, it took
some patience for us to finally get some good looks at the female
spindalas moving about and feeding with the other birds in the
trees. It was certainly drab – a glorified female house sparrow I
thought. But its markings clearly indicated spindalas.
Our 500 mile round trip weekend paid off with two life birds for
Margo and a new ABA area bird for me!
Bird Watcher's Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
years of service to the birding community!
Like us on Facebook!
Index of Recent