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Little time for Big Days Part 1

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  • David Simpson
    Hi Folks, How long can I last without a Big Day? Apparently 3 1/2 months. Spurred on by Capt. Ron s recent efforts to retake his previous Big Day crowns and a
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2005
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      Hi Folks,

      How long can I last without a Big Day? Apparently 3 1/2 months.
      Spurred on by Capt. Ron's recent efforts to retake his previous Big Day
      crowns and a three day span with no commitments, I decided to get back
      on the Big Day horse and ride to another record. Last year, I managed
      to find 163 species in late March on a Tallahassee to Brevard route. I
      had virtually no time to scout the route since I had been down and out
      from the accident for the previous month. I scouted the route on a
      Brevard to Tallahassee Big Day the previous day. Clearly, March has
      more potential. This time, I decided to spend some time (1 1/2 days)
      scouting things out before running one Big Day from Tallahassee to
      Brevard. A Tallahassee to Sarasota route would likely work better, but
      I opted for familiarity. Knowing the nooks and crannies of an area
      gives one an advantage when it comes to the end and you want to fill
      specific holes. So, off I went to scout and run another March Big Day.

      Scouting began on Tuesday the 29th. I got off work at 1300 and headed
      home to pack for the trip. I had checked out Viera the evening before
      and didn't find much that compelled me to include it in the route. I
      still had it in the plan at this point, but that could change. The
      main target for this day was Jetty Park. I hadn't been there for
      awhile and I wanted to see what was still around. I purchased a new
      annual pass and set out to the beach. There were considerable numbers
      of people and few gulls to be seen. There were a few G. black-backed
      gulls around, mostly immatures. Way offshore, there were about six
      Northern gannets flying north. There are usually a few around until 01
      Apr, but they are not a sure thing in spring. The question I wanted to
      resolve was whether Jetty Park or Playalinda Beach (or neither) would
      be my beach spot. Jetty is more reliable for Great black-backed gull
      (always there) and Lesser black-backed gull (mostly from Oct-Dec.)
      Sandwich and Common terns are most often found here as well as
      frigatebirds. Cutting Jetty Park out of the picture would save a good
      deal of time and alleviate several traffic issues. This is a Big
      Weekday which means a whole new set of traffic patterns. That kind of
      thinking is for night time. In daylight, I must scout. I heard a few
      warblers in the parking lot and decided to tour the nature trail before
      birding the rest of the port. There were two Cape May warblers and a
      Prairie at the start, but nothing on the trail. The rest of the port
      produced very little: a few more G. black-backs and a Yellow-crowned

      Next up was the refuge (MINWR.) My main concern was Playalinda Beach.
      I was basically familiar with the Gator Creek loops, Pumphouse, and
      Blackpoint areas. Ideally I would scout these areas as well, but I was
      very limited on time. I headed out to the beach, checking the vistas
      along the way. I neither heard nor saw Gray kingbird at the usual spot
      (Vista IV). It is a bit early for this species. I found a few wigeon
      between IV and V on the right. These could be significant on the Big
      Day. I found only one gannet at my usual Pelandgic birding spot (Eddy
      Creek.) There was the usual variety of shorebirds on the beach with
      the addition of Red knots. I don't seem to see these on the beach too
      often. Mostly they are in the impoundments or on the causeway. I did
      find a G. black-backed gull, the one staple species of Jetty Park. So,
      wigeon, gannet, and G. Black-backed gull were the key species. Gannet
      has about the same probability in either spot (maybe slightly higher at
      Jetty), black-backed gull is a definite at Jetty Park, and wigeon
      should be found at Wakulla Springs SP. I would probably go to Wakulla
      Springs SP for Wood duck if I don't get them at St. Mark's NWR. These
      are a few of the variables running through my head as I ran through
      possible routes.

      As the route evolved, I came across the idea of including Orlando
      Wetlands Park. If I left out Viera, the favored plan of the moment, I
      could pick up a few species there. Purple gallinule and Wood duck
      could be found in the north. Limpkin could be found on Lake Drive en
      route to Providence Rd. or maybe at Providence Rd. Ring-necked duck
      can be found on the E-W Expressway on the way to Brevard. After
      further review, it was probably not worthwhile to include OWP in the
      scouting. Sometimes, without The Punk to bounce ideas off of and with
      limited time to review, I make some pretty dumb decisions. At any
      rate, I checked the area and didn't find much out of the ordinary.
      I'll have to wait for a time when I am not running a Big Day to visit
      one of my favorite places again.

      After checking the wetlands park, I headed on toward Tallahassee. I
      made it as far as Gainesville before hitting the hay. I checked with
      Andy Wraithall (where I'd be staying on Big Day Eve) to see if anything
      was new and exciting in Tallahassee and laid down to six hours' sleep
      before heading on to SMNWR the next morning.

      David Simpson

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