Bahamas

Bahamas Birding

Freeport, Bahamas July 6-10, 2018

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Rebecca Smith Freeport Harbor

Our trip started by driving the 3.5 hours to Ft. Lauderdale Thursday after work. We crashed at the Roadway Inn, which offers free shuttle service and parking, near Port Everglades to catch the Balearia Ferry to Freeport Friday morning for some casual birding. On way across we grabbed a bite to eat and drink and Gallus went out on the back deck as we were a few miles from the port and spotted 2 Cory’s Shearwater and an Audubon’s Shearwater.

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Cory’s Shearwater

Upon arriving and clearing customs we got our rental car and headed straight for the Bahamian “Sands” Brewery to take the tour and enjoy a few cold beers before we could check into our rental for the next 4 nights. Birds and Beer always go well together.

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Gallus Quigley, Rebecca Smith, & Christian Detzel Bahamian Brewery

Early on July 7th we headed off to the east about 30 minutes to the Pine Plantation in hopes of adding a few lifers and Caribbean specialties. We got only 12 species but did get some great photos of Bahama Warbler, lifer for Gallus, and we heard Olive-capped Warbler but no luck locating the bird unfortunately.

BAWA
Bahama Warbler

After a couple hours with no new species we headed over to the Garden of the Groves Botanical Gardens, however it was not open yet. So we instead grabbed some food and a couple of beers at Banana Bay before heading back into Freeport. After an afternoon of tourist activities, we headed over to the abandoned International Village for a photo shoot but also got some great bird and butterfly photos.

The next morning we rose early to head over to the International Airport in search of Antillean Nighthawks for Beck’s like list. After searching many trees Gallus spotted one perched on an exposed branch posed perfectly for photos.107590971

Later in the morning we headed over to the Garden of the Groves Botanic Garden to meet Beck’s friend Bridgit who was going to help us find a few new birds the next day and to photograph some birds and butterflies. We did not see anything unusual among the 17 birds and 4 butterfly species we found but did some nice photos.

We spent the afternoon doing relaxing before heading over to the Garden of the Gates Birder’s B&B to meet with Erika Gates and watch a few more birds around her amazing property.

The next morning  we met up with Bridgit for some birding and returned to the Pine Plantation in hopes of an Olive-capped Warbler sighting this time, no luck unfortunately  and only 11 bird species but some very good photos of Black-faced Grassquit and La Sagra’s Flycatcher. So we headed to Owl’s Hole, a favorite local diving and swimming spot. Driving down the dirt road was quite an adventure in the rental car but was worth it. We had 17 species and 6 species of butterfly including Mexican Fritillary and Nickerbean Blue which were both lifers for us. The butterflies were everywhere it seemed and we had amazing views of Western Spindalis and Yellow-billed Cuckoo as well.

Upon leaving Owl’s Hole we headed to a spot where Bahama Swallows had been seen. On our way there Beck spotted an Antillian Nighthawk perched on side of the road in pine tree allowing for more photos, though not as close as one at airport. Our destination proved empty so we dipped on the swallows and continued on to Barbary Beach where Bahama Yellowthroat sometimes shows up but the afternoon heat kept most of the birds quiet with only 15 species and 9 butterfly. So we headed back to Freeport and dropped off Bridgit who arranged for us to meet Erika and get snorkeling gear and head to Paradise Cove to snorkel with Green Sea-turtles, lots of cool fish, and new fledged Gray Kingbirds in the parking lot.  After returning the snorkel gear we headed over to Port Lucaya Marketplace for some food and drink. When we arrived we scored the nesting Rosy-faced Lovebird in the eves of the building with the House Sparrows! The bird was very cooperative for photographs.

Lovebird (1)
Rosy-faced Lovebird

The next morning July 10, our last day, we got up early and headed to the Garden of the Groves Botanical Gardens for some more birding. We tallied 19 species though nothing out of the ordinary it was a great way to wind down the trip before heading over to the port for the ferry back to Florida.

 

We returned rental car and caught the shuttle to the cruise port but had several hours to wait so we did what any good birders do, do more birding and butterflying. The port added a few species to our trip list including Magnificent Frigatebird, Florida Duskywing, and Dainty Sulphur.

At long last boarded the ferry after a weather delay and about an hour out Gallus spotted our last Bahama bird, another Cory’s Shearwater which we ran out onto the deck to get some photos of which all were less than perfect. Arriving in port very late, we were happy to get through US Customs, board the shuttle back to our car and make the long drive home where we arrived only an hour before Beck and I had to leave for work and a butterfly survey.

Great trip and we look forward to returning for our wedding and maybe even leading trips there in the future.

Trip Bird Total — 47

Trip Butterfly Total — 17

 

 

 

South Florida and Florida Keys

Florida Keys & South Florida Birding Trip

April 12-17 Key West and South Florida Trip

 

April 12th- Rebecca Smith and I met our birding group at the docks on Stock Island near Key West around 10:00AM. The group was excited to get to the Dry Tortugas, but sadly, that was not to be as it turns out later.

At the docks we met up with Wes Biggs and Dave Hartgrove that were just getting back from their previous trip. We heard that they did very well on their trip and even on the boat ride to and from the island. While waiting for late arrivals many of the group got their first lifers of the trip with Great White Heron standing in the mangroves and a flyover Short-tailed Hawk.

After gathering everyone and finishing introductions, we car-pooled to Sugarloaf and Saddlebunch Keys in hopes of Mangrove Cuckoo and Black-whiskered Vireo. Unfortunately Irma had laid waste to much of this area and few birds were found. So off to Fort Zachary Taylor SP after a lunch at the Date and Thyme for more birding. The birds were low in numbers and in moderate diversity with 14 species of warbler and 36 species of birds overall, plus 10 species of Butterflies including Mallow Scrub-hairstreak. It was the Prothonotary Warblers that put on a show for everyone. That was not enough to offset the forthcoming news, however. Wes got word from the boat captain that due to the weather, the trip to the Dry Tortugas would be cancelled. So we sat down with everyone and put our options on the table. The Arkansas group decided to stay with us and we all slept on the boat after an amazing meal at the Hogfish Grill.

Obscure Skipper, Sugarloaf Key & Prothonotary Warbler, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

April 13th-Beck and I rose early since she had previously made plans with a friend from Miami for the day. I left the group with directions to our first target bird, Spot-breasted Oriole, which was a lifer for Beck and the entire Arkansas group. They had to wait a little while as the pair made their 45 minute rounds through the neighborhood. Once the pair arrived, they gave quite the show!

Next we headed over to the Ocean Bank for the White-winged Parakeets that nest/roost in the palms outside. We had a long wait but Common Myna gave looks to everyone from light poles until our first parakeets arrived. They also put on quite a display hanging upside down from palm fronds and other amazingly cute positions. On way back to hotel we stopped at the 216th St exit off the Florida Turnpike for Cave Swallows of the Caribbean race that nest under the bridge there. We also saw Egyptian Goose and Muscovy Duck, which were lifers for many since they are ABA countable in the Miami area.

Spot-breasted Oriole, Virginia Gardens & White-winged Parakeet, Ocean Bank Little Havana

April 14th-Rising early again to head west, Beck stayed behind to catch up on some work, but had plans to join the group again after lunch. Our first stop was Shark Valley- Everglades National Park, in which we added Limpkin, Purple Gallinule, Snail Kite, Swallow-tailed Kite (Only I saw it though), and a rWilson’s Warbler, which is rare for Florida. We also heard King Rail but could not get one to come out to be seen by group.

We next entered Big Cypress National Preserve and birded the Loop Road. The group finally saw the Swallow-tailed Kites, we also had Roseate Spoonbills and Black-necked Stilts. A stop at the Tree Snail Hammock Trail scored us good looks at Barred Owls and of course the endangered liguus tree snails. At this point it was very late into the afternoon and we filled up our tanks and bellies at a gas station with a Subway. After some discussion Wes took part of the group onto Marco Island for shorebirds while I returned to Florida City with Bill and picked up Beck from the hotel.  We headed over to Lucky Hammock after a quick stop at Navy Wells Pineland Preserve in hopes of a Bartrum’s Scrub-hairstreak, which we failed to find. Lucky Hammock held a few birds but a couple birders we ran into said the day before was awesome. We did get a few highlights including Painted Bunting, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Nighthawk, and nice views of a female Cape May Warbler. The three of us then headed on to Marco’s Cuban Café in Homestead for some very yummy food before returning to hotel to relax and cool down.

April 15th-Early rise again to head south to finish the day at Sugarloaf Lodge. We started off at the Card Sound Bridge toll booth (which is no longer there, as it is being replaced by an e-toll system) for Golden Yellow Warbler. Just as we were about to give up Beck found us our bird and eventually we had 2 show up giving everyone nice looks. From there we continued to Power Pole 29 and the Purple-wing Trail in hopes of Florida Purple-wing, Mangrove Cuckoo, and Black-whiskered Vireo but it was very dead only 2 butterfly species and 14 bird species. However, we did add Mangrove Skipper to our trip list that we were not able to see anywhere else throughout the trip. So we packed up and headed to Caryfort Circle with many of the same targets in mind and Beck immediately picked up the Black-whiskered Vireos singing as we exited our vehicles. Playing a few calls got them in close for “life” views and photos by all. Continuing towards our final destination, we stopped at Dagny Johnson State Botanical Park and scored big! After making a fortuitous turn onto a trail I have never taken, we picked up Mangrove Cuckoo which was soon joined by a second. After watching them feed on a caterpillar and a walking stick, they proceeded in copulation! Lots of photos and congratulations went on after this. With a stop at Ballyhoo’s for lunch in which we all ate hardily our trip continued on to the Caribbean Club where Parakeets and Shiny Cowbirds often show up. Sadly we learned that the parakeets have been gone for a long time and only Brown-headed Cowbirds showed at the feeders. So onward to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park where it was extremely hot and Arkansas group decided to head to Marathon Government Buildings for Roseate Tern (no luck) and then to hotel at a reasonable hour to rest up. Beck and I then hit up Islamorada Brewing Company for a beer and Mexicana Morada for dinner, which was amazing before finally reaching Sugarloaf Lodge and getting some much needed sleep.

Black-whiskered Vireo, Carysfort Circle, Key Largo & Mangrove Cuckoo, Dangy Johnson State Botanical Park Key Largo

April 16th-We rose early to head to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park but as we passed the Key West Golf Club on Stock Island I spotted the reported Greater White-fronted Goose from the car, which is a rare bird in Florida and crazy rare in Florida Keys. A Florida bird for Beck, she jumped out and got some photos over the fence before we continued to our primary destination.

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park was rocking for us with 13 species of butterflies and 55 species of birds. 17 species of warbler including a stunning male Bay-breasted Warbler, more looks at Black-whiskered Vireo and Gray Kingbird. Beck spotted 4 Dickcissels but we could never relocate for her to get photos and a whopping 17 Tennessee Warbler added to the great day. We had lunch at The Café which serves pescatarian, vegetarian, and vegan food. Beck and I were in heaven between food and craft beers on tap. Following lunch we headed to Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Gardens where we had 6 species of butterfly and 38 bird species. Highlights included 11 species of warbler including a Wilson’s Warbler seen by a few, and a Yellow-throated Vireo in the parking lot as we left. Next stop was Boca Chica Beach for shorebirds on way back to the hotel. It did not disappoint too much with 8 shorebird species including Wilson’s Plover, as well as Red-breasted Merganser, Swainson’s Thrush, Yellow Warbler (Northern Race), and Northern Harrier rounded out some of the 40 species seen. Unfortunately there was no Whimbrel, our main target. We all headed to dinner at different places based on what we were hungry for. Beck and I returned to The Café for more vegan fair after I helped her jump the golf course fence to get better photos of the Great White-fronted Goose.

Greater White-fronted Goose, Key West Golf Club & Bay-breasted Warbler, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

Indigo Bunting, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park & Tennessee Warbler, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
April 17th-Our group got up early again, checked out of our hotel, and went to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park by way of a quick stop at the Charles “Sonny” McCoy Indigenous Park. We fed some Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus) their breakfast of plantains and observed a Spotted Sandpiper on the beach but there were no new species, so we continued on to the fort. The fort was again a great place for birding and we had 11 species of butterfly and 53 species of bird. Highlights included a Blackburnian Warbler which gave everyone fits trying to get good views, a juvenile dark morph Short-tailed Hawk put on a show eating a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 20 species of warbler graced us, Dickcissel showed off nicely near the restrooms and Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak were everywhere. We also add our first thrush of the trip. Sadly the Arkansas group had to leave to grab lunch, return rental cars, and catch their flight home. So we said our goodbyes though we forgot to get a group photo.

Beck, while birding in a separate area, ran into two birders from Virginia and gave them a business card. They asked her if we could help them find a few birds after lunch. We agreed even though this meant Beck giving up her Red-whiskered Bulbul and some beers with our friend Paul Bithorn in Miami later that evening. This also meant we would get home very late.

We picked them up and headed back to the fort where we found 48 species including the two main targets of the visiting birders, Cape May and Tennessee Warblers. We had 16 warbler species for the afternoon and Wood Thrush which unfortunately eluded Beck as a Florida bird. We returned the couple to their hotel and decided to grab dinner again at The Café before heading home. We arrived at exactly 2:00AM in the morning leaving us only a couple hours of sleep before heading off to Fort DeSoto County Park for the Oklawaha Valley Audubon Field Trip. This time I remembered my camera!

http://www.floridanaturetours.net for trips to the Dry Tortugas.

http://www.archaeopteryxbirdingandnaturetours.wordpress.com for tours in Florida and across the globe.

 

Copenhagen, Birdlife International Store Danish Ornithological Society
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Bell's Vireo (Bell's) feeding chicks
Bell’s Vireo (Bell’s) feeding chicks

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Harlequin Duck

Road Trip Birding Tour to Southern New Jersey

January 20-27, 2021

Cost: $1399 per person, minimum 2 – maximum 4 double occupancy. please add $600 for singles supplement

COVID-19 REQUIREMENTS – ALL PARTICIPANTS MUST SHOW A NEGITIVE COVID-19 TEST 73 HOURS PRIOR TO DEPARTURE


We’ve decided to try something a little different for our January
tour of 2021. We’ll be offering a road trip tour from the Orlando,
Florida area to Southern New Jersey. We’ll be renting a minivan to
give everyone plenty of space for their gear and luggage. Because of
covid-19, many people do not wish to fly and do not view it as a safe
mode of travel until the vaccine can become more readily available.
Everyone on the tour will have to show proof of a negative covid test
and we’ll have disposable masks and hand sanitizer available. We’ll
begin our journey from Orlando and spend the night in Fayetteville,
NC (about an 8-hour drive straight through, but longer since we’ll be
making stops occasionally). We’ll do some local birding in the
morning and continue on the rest of the drive up to New Jersey.
Southern New Jersey has a unique variety of habitats and therefore a
diverse number of bird species that spend the winter in this area.
We’ll be targeting Evening Grosbeak, Black, Surf, and White-winged
Scoters, Harlequin Duck, Purple Sandpiper, Red-throated Loon,
Canvasback, Brant, American Black Duck, Long-tailed Duck, and
perhaps even a Snowy Owl or a Snow Bunting if we’re lucky.
Between Cape May Point State Park, Forsythe National Wildlife
Refuge, and Barnegat Lighthouse in the north, we won’t run out of
things to do, or birds to see. Here is a breakdown of the itinerary:
1/20- Depart Orlando, Florida in the morning and begin our drive
north. We’ll be making stops for food, gas, or restrooms along the
way. We’ll be spending the night in Fayetteville, NC
1/21- A visit to Smith Lake Recreation Area in Fort Bragg, NC. We’ll
bird until around 10am and target species such as Dark-eyed Junco,
Red and White-breasted Nuthatch, Field and Fox Sparrow, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Northern Flicker, Bufflehead, and American
Woodcock. We’ll get to Atlantic county, New Jersey late at night and
check into our accommodations
1/22- We’ll start birding a little later in the day to make sure everyone
is well-rested after the long drive. At 10am, we’ll start the tour at
Edwin B. Forsythe NWR wildlife drive to look for Brant, American
Black Duck, Canvasback, Peregrine Falcon, Clapper Rail, and
wintering shorebirds. Possibility for rarities such as Short-eared Owl,
Snowy Owl, and Rough-legged Hawk. We’ll take a break for a late
lunch at Mott’s Creek where we’ll have additional opportunities to
locate Short-eared Owl, Rough-legged Hawk, and Snow Bunting
1/23- Barnegat Lighthouse State Park for Purple Sandpiper,
Harlequin Duck, Long-tailed
Duck, American Pipit, and
Common Eider. Rarities
include Razorbill and King
Eider as well as assorted
gulls and terns.
1/24- A trip to Cape May
county. We’ll begin the
morning at South Cape May
Meadows for American
Woodcock, Tundra Swan,
Bufflehead, and other
wintering waterfowl. Then
head to Cape Island/Sunset
Beach for Surf Scoter,
Black Scoter, Northern Gannet
and Red-throated Loon. Also, Cape May Point State Park for Evening
Grosbeak, Fox Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Golden-crowned Kinglet and
Winter Wren. Possibility for Purple Finch, Brown Creeper, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Nashville Warbler. On our drive back up north
to Atlantic county, we’ll make a quick stop at the 8th Street Jetty in
Avalon to check for any additional species we may have missed the
previous day.
1/25- Pole Farm at Mercer Meadows County Park for Short-eared
Owl, Great Horned Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Northern Harrier,
American Tree Sparrow, and Ring-necked Pheasant
1/26- Get on the road early for our drive south. We’ll be making a
short stop at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware for
American Avocet, Tundra Swan, shorebirds, and waterfowl that can
Harlequin Duck
be seen along the wildlife drive. We’ll then continue driving south and
spend the night in Florence, South Carolina
1/27- Continue our drive back to Orlando. Stop at Savannah National
Wildlife Refuge in Georgia for a little birding from the wildlife drive. We
should be able to see Sora, shorebirds, Ruddy Duck, Redhead, and
Vesper Sparrow. We’ll arrive back home in Orlando that evening.
Cost per person will be $1399 (+$600 singles supplement). The price
includes professional guide, lodging, transportation, park entry fees,
and light snacks/water. A checklist of all birds seen will be provided
to each participant upon completion of the tour. Please contact us at
archaeopteryxtours@gmail.com or call/text 609-553-0757 if you’re
interested in more information or to book a space on this tour.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Bird & Butterfly Tour of Rio Grande Valley, Texas

March 24-29, 2021

Cost: $1729.00 per person double occupancy. Minimum 2 – Maximum 4

Join Archaeopteryx Birding and Nature Tours this March for a 6—day tour of the Rio Grande Valley, TX! Starting March 24th through 29th, 2021, we’ll visit such iconic places as the Santa Anna National Wildlife Refuge, the National Butterfly Center, and the Estero Llano Grande State Park. Also included in the cost is a boat tour on the Rio Grande river- the perfect location for viewing and photographing waders, Long-billed Curlew, and Green and Ringed Kingfishers! We’ll also be targeting such local specialties as Great Kiskadee, Plain Chachalaca, Altamira Oriole, Green Jay, Olive Sparrow, and Pyrrhuloxia. Not only is this area unique for birding and butterflying, but it’s also a known source for delicious Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants! Afternoon/evening activities will alternate between the National Butterfly Center and the parrot roost, depending on what we’d like to see. Here’s a breakdown of our daily morning activities:March 24th: Arrival by 3pm at the McAllen airport. Eat dinner and check into hotel. Parrot roost for Red-crowned Parrots and Green Parakeets. Possibility for Yellow-headed and Red-lored Parrots as well.March 25th: Santa Ana NWR for Olive Sparrow. Possibility for Franklin’s Gull, White-faced Ibis, Broad-winged Hawk, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Plain Chachalaca, Inca Dove, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Black-crested Titmouse, and Stilt Sandpiper, as well as wintering ducks and shorebirds.March 26th: Estero Llano Grande State Park for Lesser Nighthawk, Common Pauraque, and more wintering ducks and shorebirds.March 27th: Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park for Couch’s Kingbird, Swainson’s Hawk, Verdin, Least Grebe, White-tipped Dove, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Neotropic Cormorant, Curve-billed and Long-billed Thrashers, Lesser Goldfinch, Olive Sparrow, Long-billed Curlew and possibility for Green Kingfisher.March 28th: Rio Grande Riverboat tour for additional waterbird species and possible Ringed Kingfisher!March 29th: Morning birding and butterflying at the National Butterfly Center for Pyrrhuloxia, Green Jay, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Clay-colored Thrush, Hooded Oriole, and Altamira Oriole
Flights home in afternoon or evening.We’ll also attempt to locate any rare birds that are reported in our tour area, or visit the Brownsville area depending on remaining time. Cost per person will be $1729. The price includes professional guide, lodging, transportation, park entry fees, and light snacks/water. Rooms will be double-occupancy. A checklist of all birds and butterflies seen will be provided to each participant upon completion of the tour. Please contact us at archaeopteryxtours@gmail.com or call/text 609-553-0757 if you’re interested in more information or to book a space on this tour. Minimum 2 participants to run this tour.

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