This is so typical of birding: Three days of birding, two of them frustrating and the third … LIFER! That’s why I’m always late coming back from a birding trip. I know that the bird of the day is just around the next corner, so I round that corner. Nothing. But there’s another corner. The bird of the day might be there. So I keep going. And going. Sometimes there is nothing to be found, but once in a while …
|Boardwalk at Chastain Seay, Worthington Springs|
I didn’t have a lot of time to bird on Thursday morning, so the Big Red Van headed to Chastain-Seay in Worthington Springs (Union County). This is a small park that can be a real gem under the right conditions. We arrived to find that portions of the park were flooded. The Santa Fe River is still very high. The fishing pier was inaccessible and the picnic area is under water. Its only occupants were a Wood Stork and a Belted Kingfisher, both of whom flew away before we could get the camera out. The rest of the morning was spent searching for warblers that, aside from a few Redstarts and a Tennessee, just weren’t there. Dip.
|Red-headed Woodpecker, one of God's gems|
Friday morning we decided to explore San Felasco State Park near Progress Park in Alachua. Early on we had some success including a probable Swainson’s Thrush, but the bird refused to be photographed. The next half hour or so produced only a Pied-billed Grebe on the lake and little else. Then we started seeing White-eyed Vireos and Red-headed Woodpeckers (left).
Then we saw another birder walking toward us with the report of a Black-billed Cuckoo up the trail a bit. We hustled out there as quickly as we could and found a groups of our friends searching the area. The bird had been found a bit earlier by Debra Segal and identified by Mike Manetz. We searched for hours to relocate it to no avail. Dip.
|Camps Canal near Paynes Prairie|
On Saturday morning I decided to make the walk out Cone’s Dike on Paynes Prairie. Earlier in the week, Mike Manetz had found two Alder Flycatchers that seemed to be hanging around. I headed out very early in a heavy fog. Fortunately I ran into Mike on the trail, and he showed me the spot where the birds have been seen. I camped out in that spot for well over two hours. Mike stayed with me for about 45 minutes and then headed farther up the trail. I saw Common Yellowthroats, Northern Waterthrushes, and a Gray Catbird, but little else. Then I saw my first Eastern Phoebe of the season, and while looking at it I noticed a smaller flycatcher. It flew to another tree where I got a good look; definitely an Empid with a narrow eye ring and a whitish belly and breast. Then it disappeared. I waited and waited and then Mike came back down the trail. We decided to play a tape of an Alder song. Immediately one flew to us and perched in the open above the trail. Then a second one flew in and the two played tag for a while, giving us great looks at both. Mike said they were the two he had seen and heard earlier in the week. LIFER.
The moral? Keep rounding that next corner, keep waiting the extra five minutes, keep chasing that hard-to-find bird. Persistence pays off.
|Our best bird photo from Chastain Seay. What's your guess?|