First, thank you to folks who made donations a a result of Sonia's post yesterday or my post after my Kanapaha Prairie visit. We are steadily approaching $10,000 with everyone's help!
Today was a very welcomed rest day. After 70 miles in the rain yesterday and an average of about 65 miles a day for the last 11-12 days, it was time for a break. We had more rain overnight, but most of it cleared out by early morning. A west wind strengthened throughout the day, but for the most part it did not affect birding at all. The place where I stayed last night is very birdy during spring migration. This means I did not have to go very far to tick Worm-eating warbler (#263) and Yellow-throated vireo (#264). Although these were the only two species that I added to the list today, I had a morning filled with Parula, Hooded, Prothonotary, Orange-crowned and Black-and-white warblers. Brown thrashers, Gray catbirds, and White-eyed vireos were everywhere, and the resident Carolina wrens, titmice, and chickadees made their presence known with their constant chatter. It was a very relaxing morning, until the unthinkable went wrong.
My camera body appears to be completely dead. In speaking with members of my favorite online forum, www.fredmiranda.com, it appears as though there is 90% chance that my 7D will need major repairs before it functions again. What I think happened is that some water must have worked its way into the camera yesterday when I took it out to try to photograph the Protonotary warbler. It also could have happened this morning as water was dripping off the trees as the wind shook them. There is still a chance I can salvage the camera, but I will not know this until tomorrow morning. Should this be a major problem, I am not sure what I will do. I had a $275 repair done on this camera 1.5 years ago, and this potential repair will cost at least that much. It might make more sense to buy something else rather than sinking more money into repairs. This is going to take some serious thought. I am sorry to report that there will not be any bird pictures for at least the next few days and possibly longer. I am very upset about this as I think the photos are one of the strongest points of this blog. I hope everyone has many other reasons to keep checking in!
As I wrote above, my hosts have a fantastic birding yard. This is actually due to the fact that most of the surrounding area has been developed into houses with manicured lawns. This has left very little habitat intact for migrating birds, and much of what is left can be found on my hosts' property. They have deliberately chosen to leave the natural foliage intact as a shelter for migrating birds. They actually own other lots in the area, and they have also left these incredibly valuable patches of land undeveloped. It is clear that the habitat (and the birds it attracts) is more valuable than whatever financial windfall might result from its development.
I spent part of the afternoon birding the yard and surrounding neighborhood with one of my hosts. He has lived in Gulf Breeze, FL since 1955, and his family has owned this land since 1880. As we walked around his neighborhood, he pointed to specific spots that corresponded to distinct birding memories. He showed me the spot where he found the first Florida record of Inca dove. He showed me the dock where where he found the third Florida record of King eider. He talked about how two different subspecies of Black-whiskered vireo can wander to this area. It was incredibly touching to hear the incredible series of birding stories that have contributed to his own personal life history, and there was a palpable sense of nostalgia in both his tone and word choice as he spoke. I asked him how he feels about the development that he has witnessed over his six decades in the area. He replied that he is thankful that he has been able to enjoy it while he could. While I appreciate his ability to be thankful for the time he has enjoyed here, I cannot help but wonder if there is a more guarded, pained feeling that he might be less willing to articulate. He clearly has a connection to this land and its birds that no future area resident ever will. For now, at least, he is able to retreat into his own personal refuge where the company of the birds and his wife are enough. We should all be so lucky.