Wait, stop the presses! I completely forgot to mention something super exciting from yesterday. I found 4 manatees loafing around in the shallows under a bridge at the Black Point Marina! Manatee was actually a life mammal for me. I know they are common throughout Florida, but as a lifelong northerner, I have not had many chances to see these peaceful beasts. Birders understand the urge to chase rare birds that wander from their normal ranges. Well, I will confess to chasing Manatee when one wandered North to the Hudson River in New York City while I lived there in 2006. It is somewhat more embarrassing to confess that I missed it. The bulbous beast had apparently floated off to another area before I arrived. His stay was documented in the New York Times, and he became a bit of a celebrity during his weeklong stay. It was really nice to finally catch-up with these magnificent beasts in their more usual Florida homes. I also saw a bobcat yesterday, but my look at it would be considering fleeting at best. After all, bobcats do move slightly faster than manatees.
OK, let's return to today where I found myself in a holding pattern due to the 20-25 MPH winds blowing from the west. These winds shut down my western travel plans, and I instead headed back out to make a third consecutive early morning attempt at Mangrove cuckoo. Although armed with additional information since yesterday, I was equally unsuccessful today as the previous two attempts. I figured that this would be the hardest Florida specialty bird to find this year, and so far this has proved completely correct. I will have at least one more crack at this bird at Ding Darling NWR on Sanibel Island. Hopefully this "last chance" will work out just like my last chance at Northern shrike! The wind really started blowing hard around 10am, so I decided to close up shop and save energy for what will be a very challenging ride tomorrow. I only road about 15 miles today.
Tomorrow I will leave very early to ride the 105 miles across the Tamiami trail to Marco Island. Temperatures will start in the mid 50's and climb into the md-70's - ideal riding weather. I am hoping that I can find a Short-tailed hawk on this ride. This would be both a year and an ABA bird for me. On Sunday I will ride north to Sanibel Island where I have actually secured 2 nights of lodging on the grounds of Ding Darling NWR. I will bird the refuge and the surrounding area Sunday afternoon, all day Monday, and Tuesday morning. This time on Sanibel should give me one last shot at the cuckoo and a great chance at Magnificent frigatebird. I should also find Snowy and Wilson's plover and a few other birds I have missed up until this point. I should also be able to produced a fresh batch of photos for you as this area is a fantastic spot for photography.
My girlfriend is flying into Tampa late on the night of Thursday the 13th. This means I will have most of Tuesday, and all of Wednesday and Thursday to ride the 180 miles from Sanibel to Clearwater where I will meet her. I am trying to figure out if I can catch a Red Sox spring training game as I pass through Fort Myers midday on Tuesday. I really want to see their "Mini Fenway" park!
JetBlue Park in Fort Myers