Monday, March 17, 2014

Mar 17 (Day 76) - Severe weather, plan for the next month

The weather today was terrible. We received about 3 inches of rain in the Tampa area. Lightning and thunder were in great abundance, and there were reports of funnel clouds and water spouts along the Florida coast. My decision to ride only a very short distance today was thus validated as a very wise one. I rode only 9 miles north to Dunedin, FL where I am staying with the family of a close friend from Boston. This down day gave me the chase to catch up on a variety of administrative tasks including photo organization and route planning. Both of these tasks take a surprising amount of time.

Now that I have officially moved out of South Florida, I can turn my attention entirely to the next phase of the trip: transiting to Eastern Texas for spring migration. The map below is relatively reflective of the route I plan to take. As you can see it is just over 1,000 miles. My goal is to arrive in Sabine Pass on or around April 14 or 28 days from right now. This is an average of ~37 miles per day - well below what I have been averaging recently. I do not foresee any reason I should not be able to arrive in Texas as scheduled. I should not have bird finding difficulties as there are not many, if any, Gulf Coast specific bird species for which I will need to spend time looking. What this means is that for the first time on this trip I should have a decent amount of free time with which to play. I have never visited the Gulf Coast before, and I am very excited to experience this region. I am curious to talk to locals about this ecosystem, and how it has or has not bounced back from the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill in 2010. As always, if you live near my rough route and would be willing to house me, please contact me at

The next month

Tomorrow I am going to head north to Hernando Beach to look for Budgerigar. The numbers of this introduced parakeet have dwindled to near zero in the past few years. It is possible that the bird is now extirpated (locally extinct). If it does remain, it is surely only in single digits. Finding this bird would literally be a complete shot in the dark, but as the few sightings from the last year have all come from a very specific area of Hernando Beach, I would not be doing my diligence as a big-year-birder if I did not make at least an effort to find this bird. Who knows? I know that I won't find it if I don't look though.

The day after tomorrow I will swing inland a bit to search for Bachman's sparrow. These birds live in pine habitats very similar to those preferred by Red-cockaded woodpecker. I will search areas of the Withlacoochie State Forest both Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning before heading to Gainesville for Thursday night. I am going to try to visit Kanapaha Prairie on Friday, an area for which I am raising money to conserve. Beyond Gainesville I am not exactly certain what I will do, but that will surely become clearer in the next few days. I basically just want to make a decent amount of distance each day to keep my legs in a good rhythm. 

Once I get to Texas, I will have roughly 2 weeks during which I will be relatively stationary. I will bird Sabine Woods for 4-5 days, High Island for 4-5 days, and the Bolivar Peninsula for 3-4 days. I will also hit Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge for their spring rail walks on April 19th and 20th. These should give me a decent shot at both yellow and black rails. Here is a map of Eastern Texas with these locations noted. They are not far apart, and as a result I will likely bounce between them day by day depending upon the weather and what birds are being seen in which areas.

I will be in this very small area for around 2 weeks before I begin the long, hot, windy, uphill, and infrastructure-poor run to Southeastern Arizona. This leg is going to be the most challenging part of the trip, so it will be nice to have some down time before this herculean task is faced.

***NOTE - One bird I would love to find during this leg is Whip-poor-will. Any ideas on where I can see (or hear!) this bird along the Gulf Coast would be greatly appreciated!

In sorting out my photos today, I also unearthed this shot of a Reddish egret that I overlooked in my shots from Marco Island. 


  1. Good to see how you're progressing and glad you and Sonia had a good visit. I also plan to be at High Island, Bolivar Peninsula and Anahuac NWF in mid April. Its our 4th annual trip and can't wait.

  2. Hi.
    I'm not at all a bird knowledgeable person but I have been following your bike trip since I biked across the US myself and you are getting closer to my hometown of Tallahassee. I would highly recommend a visit to Wakulla springs. A state park with unique wildlife. Also, i would think taking highway 98 through Appalachicola, Panama city Destin etc along the coast should make for a good birding experience. It is at least very unexplored and beautiful.
    Good luck