49 miles today
Today's birding activities centered around finding Short-tailed hawks at Sawgrass Lake County Park. There are almost daily eBird reports from this site (they are known to nest here). This would be my best crack at this bird before I start the run north, west, and out of this bird's normal South Florida range. I had not done any research on this park, but it turned out to be really nice. There is a fantastic boardwalk with an observation tower, a really well-done environmental education center, and a very good variety of birds (particularly waders).
I arrived just after lunch and starting biking around the park to get my bearings squared away. I immediately found 3 Swallow-tailed kites foraging over the picnic area. Several vultures then appeared overhead. I decided I should get the camera assembled as there was apparently a lot of raptor activity in this area. As I fumbled to get my rig out of my pannier and assemble it, a small, dark Buteo came cruising over the tree tops and down the far side of the pond adjacent to where I was standing. I knew instantly that this was the bird for which I was looking. I was able to get a 2 second binocular view (but no photo) of the bird as it disappeared over the trees at the end of the pond. It was a fairly terrible look, but I was certainly able to identify the dark phase bird. I originally though that this was an ABA bird for me. However, after thinking about it for a while, I realized I have seen this South Florida specialty once before - in Arizona! A pair of these birds nested in the Chiricahuas a few years back. Although today's bird was not a life bird, it was #244 for 2014! It also means that I only need to find Nanday parakeet in the next few days to close out South Florida (minus the cuckoo). I still need to find Bachman's sparrow, but I can deal with that once Sonia leaves and I head North. I did take a few pictures of waders today including my first decent one of Roseate spoonbill.
Boardwalk at Sawgrass Lake Park
White phase Little blue heron
"Normal" Little blue heron from Ding Darling
the other day for comparison. I am not sure what
determines the phase switch from white to blue.
Lastly, I put new tires my bike today. The back tire typically wears out faster than the front since more of the weight sits over it. Knowing this, I switched my front and back tires after the first 1500 miles of the trip. I have ridden an additional 1500 since the switch. I have had several flats in the past few days, so I figured the tires were finally shot. I figured I could make it to Tampa and then deal with it. I hit two bike shops looking for new tires; Neither had exactly what I wanted. I then tried Flying Fish Bikes in Palma Ceia. This place had a great selection of stuff and a friendly staff that helped me get exactly what I needed. I previously had 700x37mm tires, but this time I went with 700x32mm. These thinner tires should contact the road at fewer points and help me move the bike along with less rolling friction. I removed the spare tire from yesterday and put it back into my bag for the next emergency. I highly recommend a visit to Flying Fish Bikes if you are in the Tampa area.
Bill, Steve, and Ross at Flying Fish Bikes
Ok, that's it for right now. Once last selfie with the beard since it is likely to get cut off tomorrow!