Today I saw a Mangrove cuckoo in the same spot, Bunche Beach, where I looked unsuccessfully for the bird yesterday. Two minutes prior to my arrival it had flown into a banding net set by the Cuckoo Research Team from "Ding" Darling NWR. I could tell something was happening as I rode down the mangrove-lined entrance road to the beach. As I pulled up, Rachel, one of the researchers, was untangling the netted cuckoo. They were going to take some measurements on the bird and fit it with a radio transmitter. This was going to take upwards of 30 minutes, so I figured I would give them some space to process the bird. I headed further down the road to see if I could scrape up my own cuckoo.
Despite several additional hours of searching, I was unable to either see or hear another cuckoo anywhere at this location. I am not going to count the netted bird since I was not part of the banding expedition/group. Instead, I decided to focus on finding my own bird, and as a result I did not even watch the release of the captured bird. I did not want to have the "Should I count it?" debate with myself had I watched the release. The Le Conte's sparrow that we caught (and I counted for 2014) during a banding session in Georgia was completely different. On that day, I was part of the banding team. I actually saw the bird flying around before it was netted, and had we not netted it, I would have reflushed it and been able to see it. Today I was just riding by after the cuckoo was caught. I have decided that this is not the way I am going to see my lifer Mangrove cuckoo. I will return to Florida at some future time (hopefully with Sonia!), and we'll find one the old fashioned way. Barring a complete fluke sometime in the next few days, this bird will not be on my 2014 list. I did photograph another Western Sandpiper at this location today. This guy is already looking very sharp in breeding plumage.
After Bunche Beach, I took a slow ride towards and around 6-mile Cypress Preserve. This area looked perfect for Short-tailed hawk, but I was unable to locate one. I did see several Bald eagles, loads of vultures, several Red-tailed and Red-shouldered hawks, 1 Cooper's hawk, and several kestrels. Judging by the number of cars in the lot, this preserve looks like a very popular spot. I could not help but take a picture of the preserve bike rack as it is by far the coolest one I have seen this year.
In the afternoon I took a break from birding to attend a Red Sox spring training game at JetBlue Stadium near Ft. Myers. I had been put in touch with some Red Sox media people, and they sorted me out with a really good seat for today's game against the Florida Marlins. The ballpark staff let me store my bike and all my junk in the park offices. This made my life really easy and let me enjoy the game without worry that someone had walked off with my stuff. I also did both a TV and Newspaper interview today, so once these are up I will try to figure out a way to link them from this blog. Those who know me well know that I am a total attention hound, so they won't be shocked when I say that I think I did a good job of hamming it up for the TV camera. Here is a panoramic pic from my front row seat in the park. It is basically a replicated Fenway field within a much smaller stadium.
After the game I rode 43 miles to Port Charlotte for the night (I covered 76 total). I am going to have a strong southwest wind behind me tomorrow, so I am going to try to make as much distance north as I can before the wind switches to blow from the north on Thursday. Sonia arrives in Tampa Thursday night so I certainly want to be around for that event! She is going to make a guest blogging appearance at some point later this week, so stayed tuned to hear what she has to say. She writes very well so I think everyone should enjoy her blogging cameo.
Staying on top of this blog is becoming more and more difficult. This is because the days are getting longer; This complicates blogging for two reasons. First, since there is more daylight, I stay out riding/birding much later than I did earlier in the year. It was pitch black in Northern Massachusetts at 4:00pm in early January. Today I did not arrive at my final destination until 7:15pm. This means I have 3 fewer hours to blog and to organize logistics than I did 2.5 months ago. Second, since I am staying out later birding/riding, I have less energy when I do finally arrive at my destination. I am noticing more typos as the year progresses. I am also having a harder time injecting humor into my writing when I am so tired. All of these challenges are going to compound as spring and summer approach and the days continue to lengthen. I am going to do my best to stay on top of the blog, but I will say that I can foresee that some off days will be required in the future. Many people have told me that they are more impressed with the blog than the riding, and I really want to keep the every-day streak alive. The blog streak is a real point of pride for me at this time, but I might need more sleep as I start laying down big miles in Texas in May. We'll see how it goes in the next few weeks. Bed time as I have to ride 80-90 miles tomorrow.
Here's a link to one of today's press snippets!