Every day seems to begin at a Motel 6 and a Denny's. Today was no exception, but today I'm in south Florida. From the time I got up, everything was on schedule with an arrival at Bill Baggs State Park on Key Biscayne a few minutes before 8:00am when the gates open. The attendant drove up, raised the state and national flags, and opened the gate. I paid my entrance fee and zipped to the parking lot where I've parked several rental cars already this year. Before I hiked to where the bird was seen, I spent a few moments making sure I had my binos and camera. Commonly I race toward the bird only to discover I'm missing some key component or have nothing to eat in case it's a long wait. I even took my sweatshirt off; after all this IS Florida. As I walked down the Naure Trail my heart was thumping. Would this visit finally turn the trick? I was hearing no birds at all until a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher called. When I arrived at the White Gate, I paused and looked around at what has become a familiar location. Then it called, and again, and again. It was 8:13. I rushed headlong down the path to get into postion before it stopped calling. I was amazed at how far the call carried since I didn't come abreast of the bird until I had gone about 100 yds. I figured out where it was in a tree; I could see the shape. It jumped up a little and I got a couple of manual focus shots through the twigs. It was active, so it didn't take long before it popped out into the open where I got a better picture (photo). I followed the bird's activity for about twenty minutes. There was no one around to share the experience until Teodor, formerly from CT but now from around Miami, showed up. I told him where I had last seen the bird and he asked if I had seen a Fork-tailed Flycatcher this year. I thanked him and told him I had.
I saw my first La Sagra's Flycatcher in 1982 after it had been discoverd by Wes Biggs in 1982. I came to Florida with Paul Dumont and Doug Cook, both of whom are no longer alive. After seeing the flycatcher on an island in Key Biscayne NP, we drove to the Everglades where we hired a boat and went into Florida Bay and got some Flamingos. As we left the Flamingo area a Short-tailed Hawk flew over. One of those three birds was my 700th for ABA.
I left Bill Baggs SP and drove back to Fort Lauderdale hoping I might get an earlier flight to Norfolk and get home early. Since arriving at the airport and checking in, I don't think that's going to be possible. It's a zoo here, with 13 cruise ships having discharged their passengers. Everyone wants to get home! So I'm prepared to enjoy a big part of today in the airport. Tomorrow I fly to Newfoundland, a place I've never been, to look for some gulls and a lapwing. For those keeping score the Baikal Teal yesterday put me in sole possession of third place all-time on the ABA Big Year list. I need two more to move into second. Wish me luck.