I got up at 3:30 this morning to learn that it was 36 degrees outside. Great. I hopped in the infamous Red Van by 4:15 and picked up two of my birding buddies. By 4:45 we were on I-75 heading south toward Anna Maria Island. We had one stop along the way (sausage biscuits at McDonalds) and reached Bradenton with no problems. As we drove along Manatee Avenue West, we passed Wendy's and something caught our eyes. Were they Nanday Parakeets? We did a quick u-turn, did another one, and pulled into Wendy's. Yep, they were my first Nandays since the ABA made honest birds out of them. Without any further interruptions we reached the City Pier at about 8:15 and hopped out of the car.
I hopped right back in. Dang! It was cold and the wind was howling! The heat in the car on the ride down had led me to shed the hat, the gloves, the scarf and the jacket. Now, back on went the hat, the gloves, the scarf and the jacket and I added a headband that wrapped around my ears. I was still cold ... but that wouldn't stop us!
For my non-birding friends, I need to explain something. Our target bird for the day was the Razorbill. Simply put, this bird has no business being in the Gulf of Mexico. Heck, it has no business being in the Atlantic off the Florida coast. They belong in the NORTH North Atlantic. Yet, here they are. None of us had ever seen one, so there we were with temperature in the thirties and the the wind screaming at us, all for a few minutes' look at a bird.
Within seconds I yelled, "Is that it?" and pointed directly at ... a Common Loon. Dang. We went out to the end of the pier and camped out. We waited and waited (and froze) to no avail. We saw one bird at a distance that might have been a Razorbill, but we couldn't be sure.
"There! Another one! And it landed." We scrambled to the end of the pier and got the scopes on it. Soon a second one joined it, this one even closer. It swam around no more than thirty feet off the pier affording us great looks for many minutes ... long enough that the cold became noticeable again.
We jumped back in the car, looked at our photos, decided that we had what we needed, and started back home. Well, sort of ... Such a great bird deserved some celebration, but it was Sunday morning. The traditional life-bird celebration wasn't in order, so we stopped for brunch at Peach's in Bradenton. It was terrific.
We got back on the road, put our heads down and charged. I was back home watching football by 3:00. Seven hours on the road, freezing temperatures, howling winds, and two lifers. What a fantastic day!
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