Saturday, March 8, 2014

Mar 8 (Day 67) - 111 miles and a few new birds!

I am totally wiped out after crossing from the East Coast to West Coast of Florida. This entry will be on the short-side as a result. The wind last night was from the north. This meant it was in the mid-50s when I started my ride at 7am. The weather was really nice all day, and the scenery changed just enough that I did not go completely crazy for the 85 miles of straight road. I was particularly impressed with the number and diversity of herons in the eastern portion of Big Cypress Preserve. The highlight of the day was a Snail kite flying right over my head mid-morning. I also finally saw what I consider to be impressive numbers of alligators. The entire 107-mile ride took almost exactly 8 hours with stops. I probably did about 7 hours 15 mins of actual cycling during that time. This translates to an average speed of 14-15 MPH for the time I spent cycling. I saw my first White-eyed vireo of the year (I heard one previously), and I did well on raptors with the Snail kite, many Swallow-tailed kites, 2 Bald eagles, one Cooper's and many Red-shouldered hawk, several Kestrels, and hundreds of both vultures. I did not find Short-tailed hawk today, but I did add Great-crested flycatcher (#237) along the road.

View #1 on Tamiami trail

View #2 on Tamiami trail

I actually had extra energy when I arrived this afternoon, so I headed out to bird Tigertail Beach on the north end of Marco Island (where I am staying). There is actually a somewhat healthy population of Burrowing owls on this island. They apparently nest in vacate lots which the community eventually fights to develop. It is, as always, an ongoing battle. I did find 2 of the owls (#238) on my ride to the beach. They were standing 15 feet from the sidewalk as people walked by with dogs. These are the tamest Burrowing owls I have ever seen. I snapped a record pic of one of the rather lethargic looking owls.

***Click for bigger images***

Sleepy Burrowing owl

Tigertail Beach is a long sand spit that attracts lots of shorebirds at this time of year. My main motivation for trekking down the beach was to find Snowy and Wilson's plover. These two species checked into the year's list at #238 and #239, respectively. I was able to manage some decent shots of these birds. I also observed Least and Western Sandpipers, Red Knots, Short-billed dowitchers, Willets, Sanderlings, Black-bellied plovers, Semipalmated plovers, Piping plovers, and Dunlin. I just missed Killdeer for the plover-slam! Caspian tern was a welcome surprise, and a Reddish egret also made an appearance for year bird #241.

The well-camoflauged Snowy plover

Wilson's plover stretch - Best shot from today!

Wilson's plover with habitat

Reddish egret

Tomorrow I will head to Sanibel Island and JN "Ding" Darling NWR. This ride will be about 63 miles. I am now going to get some much needed sleep!

1 comment:

  1. Those are awesome photos! And congratulations on a very long ride.