Birthday Big Day

(Warning not many pictures … actually only one!)

I’m a little behind in my blog and will try to catch up in the next couple of days.  Yesterday was my birthday and I decided since I had the day off to start what I hope can become an annual event.  I decided to do a big day.  For those who aren’t hardcore birders, a big day is when you try to see as many bird species as possible in a 24 hour period.  I limited my day to just Palm Beach County to stay consistent with my big year.

I was very fortunate to have a great birding partner for the entire day.  My best birding buddy Cheryl joined me for my (now our) adventure and the extra set of eyes and ears came in very handy.

I picked up Cheryl at 6:30 and we headed to Riverbend up in Jupiter.  I had already listed 5-6 birds on the way up and she picked up all of them except for one while at Riverbend … we’ll get to the one she didn’t get there a little later.

Barred Owl ... one of the primary reasons for starting at Riverbend.

We found all the birds I hoped for except for the Sandhill Cranes.  We looked all over for the family but they may have been laying down somewhere and we missed them.  We did find the Barred Owl and one of her chicks, we didn’t look too hard for the other one.

Our next stop was at the Jupiter Inlet to pick up some Shorebirds and Gulls.  The best bird here was a Forsters Tern.  Our only miss here was Black-bellied Plover.  We really didn’t have to many misses all day and did find a few unexpected birds too.

We made a quick stop at Frenchman’s Forest looking for migrant Warblers but didn’t find a thing probably because it was already approaching noon.

Our next stop was the Wellington Environmental Preserve.  Our main goal here was Snail Kite which has been present every time I’ve been here in the last year … I guess they didn’t know I was coming today as we didn’t see a one.  God was looking out though and we did have a beautiful male Peregrine Falcon and also picked up Red-tailed Hawk.  We had another nice break when a Greater and a Lesser Yellowlegs were standing right next to each other!

Green Cay Wetlands was our next stop.   Good birds here included Least Bittern, Sora, Purple Galinule, Painted Buntings a couple of Solitary Sandpipers and our only Purple Martins for the day.  Early in the morning  I had stepped out on my patio and heard Eastern Screech Owl respond to my warbling.  I’ve had some recent success at getting the Owls to respond at Green Cay but today by this time I was so dry I couldn’t muster up even a tiny warble so we played one quick burst from the phone and soon had 2-3 Owls calling back and forth which brought Cheryl up to the same number seen as me! 

The last stop of the day was Loxahatchee NWR.  We had some amazing activity here during the last 2 hours of sunlight.  In impoundment six there was a huge number of birds.  We picked up Wilson’s Snipe, Least Sandpiper and I counted  an incredible 45 Yellowlegs.  Most were Lessers but many were resting so it was hard to tell if any Greaters were mixed in.

We then biked down to a place I’ve recently had Northern Waterthrush.  We ended up with 3 of them calling back and forth!  God was really looking out for us as we headed back towards the visitor center when a female Snail Kite buzzed right over our heads.  I have not seen a Snail Kite at Loxahatchee for a long time so this was a true blessing.

As the light started to fade we made an attempt at getting a Great Horned Owl to call.  While I was listening for the Owl I was watching a Squirrel climbing a tree when it nearly stepped on a resting Common Night Hawk. I don’t know who was more surprised the bird or the Squirrel.  The Night Hawk would have been a new year bird but I didn’t get his picture … which is not a big problem as they will be around all Summer and are great posers.

I wasn’t sure how we would do today because migration hasn’t really got going yet.  We only had 5 Warbler species and no Tanagers or Orioles.  The previous big day record of 65 species was set way back in 2000 by the King of Florida listing David Simpson. 

Today Cheryl (who I can’t thank enough) and I were truly blessed and ended the day with 93 countable species.  I’m sure we could have hit the century mark with just a little better planning on my part and some migrants.  We’ve set the bar pretty high so every April 10th here forward I’ll have to work a little harder!!! 

Thanks for visiting!

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About sheriffsmith

I have worked for the Broward County Sheriff's Office the last 13 years and spend most of my free time birdwatching / naturewatching and photographing the birds and nature that I encounter. I believe God has blessed us with a world that is so absolutely fascinating and wonderful and I'm doing my best to discover and show others all that he has provided us with in nature.
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8 Responses to Birthday Big Day

  1. Lady Deidre says:

    Happy Birthday & Congratulations! Love the owl pic too!
    God Bless You!

  2. newbiebird says:

    What an awesome birding day… Congrats!!!

  3. jmgoyder says:

    What an owl! Oh and happy birthday!

  4. Love the shot of the owl. Happy birthday (belated)!

  5. mike585 says:

    What an excellent birthday image, Tome. Happy Birthday! 🙂

  6. First, Happy Birthday Tom!
    Your owl photo….Stunning! And I love your new birthday event….sighting 93….WOW! Next year you do have your work cut out for you. But isn’t it fun, the challenge of bird photography! What a glorious day you had, I enjoyed ‘tagging along’ with you & Cheryl through your post.

  7. Great owl photo Tom. Now I am looking for one. happy birthday too.
    Gerry

  8. Deb Platt says:

    Happy belated birthday!

    I heard a barred owl today, but I wasn’t able to lay my eyes on him. The above photo is great!

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