Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mar 30 (Day 89) - Goodbye Florida, Hello Alabama!

It has been long, productive, 5-week run in Florida. I arrived in Florida on February, 22 with 195 birds on my year list, and I left today with 265 after I added Chimney swift in Pensacola this afternoon. Minus Mangrove cuckoo, I saw basically everything that I had hoped to see in this state. I found many Florida endemics, several interesting and countable introduced exotics (headlined by Budgerigar), and one very high quality rarity in the form of La Sagra's flycatcher. I took lots of photos, added 8 birds to my lower 48 list (now ~665), survived getting hit by a car, and made a lot of new friends. The bottom line is that my time in Florida could not have been better. Well, maybe I could have done without getting hit by the car. When the results of this leg are coupled with the great start that I had in the Northeast in January, I am really happy with how the first 3 months of this year have unfolded. 

64 miles west to Alabama today

I am now moving into Alabama and the heart of the Gulf Coast. My afternoon arrival in Alabama represents state number 15 that I have visited on this adventure. 'Bama is also a life state for me, so that adds to the excitement. My main destination here is Dauphin Island, a potentially fantastic migrant trap on a barrier island at the eastern end of Pelican Bay. Here are a few shots of my Alabama arrival!

WOW - just as handsome in the Alabama sun!

 The bike gets its Alabama baptism

As I have said several times in this blog, I have not spent any time in the deep south. These next few days will be a good introduction. I did find one thing particularly amusing as I rode along today. There is apparently a set of elections coming up around here, and one of the positions for which people are campaigning is Sheriff. I know this since there were a number of posters along the side of the road championing one person or another for the slot. Just in case there was any doubt that I had officially arrived in the deep south, the "Hoss Mack for Sheriff" signs along the side of the road confirmed this fact. No way y'all are going to find anyone named 'Hoss' up nawth! 

There have been any number of funny signs outside of businesses and especially churches along the road during my trip. I really wish I had taken photos of more of these since they are good for a cheap laugh, but it is tough to break a good rhythm once I find myself in one. Here is another silly sign I found today. Since I was almost at my destination, I stopped for 30 seconds to grab this shot. I am hoping that these cheap laughs substitute for bird photos for the moment (more on this below).

Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week....

If you glance back up the map at the top of the post, you can see that I made a detour south off of Route 98 once I arrived in Alabama. I had been informed about a set of sod fields along this detour, and I was hoping that I would be able to find one or more "grasspiper" in this area. Grasspiper is an informal birding term applied to a group of several shorebirds that are often found in  farm fields or in the grasses around airport runways. This group normally refers to American golden plover, Buff-breasted sandpiper, and Upland sandpiper. None of these birds are particularly common, so finding any of them is always exciting. Technically, we could probably throw Killdeer and maybe Wilson's snipe into this category, but most people do not do this since these 2 species are more widespread and easier to find than the other three.  After much scanning with the binoculars, I was able to find 5-6 distant birds which struck me as Upland-ish. Scope views confirmed them as Upland sandpipers and elevated the year's list to 266.  Alabama produces right away - Woo Hoo!

Grasspiper Habitat

Lastly, my camera was confirmed dead this morning. HOWEVER, there have been some very exciting developments in the last 24 hours behind the scenes, and it looks as though I will have a new rig in my hands tomorrow. I will fill everyone in on the exact details once the deal is done, but for those that have lost sleep for lack of bird pictures, fear not; I should be able to start cranking out photos again in the very near future. 


  1. Yes, it all worked out perfectly! I've already put it through a few tests and it does great!