Sunday, January 06, 2008

Guerilla Birding

As part of my resolution to do more bird blogging, I feel it is necessary to let everyone know what "guerilla birding" is.

First you need a cool tshirt with some marxist hero on it. Just kidding. Ironic though, that the man's likeness makes millions of dollars for capitalists...

Back to the subject at hand, guerilla birding is the art of birding where there are not supposed to be birders. Well, birders should be where the birds are, but that doesn't necessarily jive with the current concept of what a birder is to the nonbirding public.

Ya get me?

So I did me a little retention-pond-in-the-Sam's-club-parking-lot guerilla birding Sunday...

Great stuff too, almost beat Lake Hollingsworth, a Great Florida Birding Trail hot spot. I started my quick spin to the local Sam's Club with a post from the BirdBrains Mailing list about a Greater Scaup siting fresh in my mind. The guy who reported the siting had seen four birds New Year's Day, and three on Wednesday. I didn't know how long of a time four days is for scaup, but Saturday's observations of lesser scaup at Hollingsworth definately left me pleased but not satisfied. I wondered at the time if I should have sped down to Sam's Saturday for the Aythya Trifecta: Lesser Scaup, Ring Neck Duck, and then the grande finale of Greater Scaup...
Ah, if that could only be my worst regret...

So, Saturday the birds had been slow when I first set out, and I missed several "gimmee" locals, Cardinals, and Mockingbirds being some of them. Sunday started looking the same, but I did get palm warbler and northern Mockingbird right off the bat. Then male Boat tailed grackles started scolding me and I started to pedal hard. It was late afternoon (5pm local), and I didn't have much daylight remaining. I did pause for a minute to confirm a Ring billed gull and to have a looksee at an excellent flock of Killdeer and some more palm warblers located in a cowpasture on the east side of the road. When I got back underway, a floridified version of a Red Shouldered hawk flew overhead and perched atop a light pole. I also noticed that there are several shallow ponds just out of view of the cars on the road in this particular cowpasture. If I had a spotting scope I could have had a better look at what was going on, but I still managed to add Great Egret and Great blue Heron to the list. I also noted some Turkey vultures looking like they were headed toward the landfill. I immediately added European Starlings, Common Grackles, Sandhill Cranes, and mourning Doves to my list When I got to the Sam's Club retention pond. A quick glance through my binoculars sent my heart into a skitter, without a doubt there were diving ducks present, and something else.!?!

I had a choice to make, high side, or low side, sunny side or shadow side. If I took the high side, I would be looking into the sun, but would be closer, most of the birds were in the shadow of the pond anyway, but still. Low side, with the sun at my back would mean more work for the view, but would also mean more stealth, more stealth means more time to look at the birds.

Ok, my inner hunter won, low stealthy side chosen over high closer side. It was stunning, there were over a dozen HOODED MERGANSERS!!! Now this pond ain't that old, so it's wonderful to think that they have found it already... Other birds occured singly, the blue heron, the glossy ibis, the snowy egret, the tricolored heron. Two Double crested cormorants lazily flapped toward the sun, ugly and showy all at the same time. And then there were the three scaup. I had to stare for a little while, trying my best to make them into Lessers, but every mark they had was just enough on the Greater side to give me hope. The head was just the right shape, the wings had just enough white extending to the primaries, the top to bottom contrast was just enough, the bills were just wide enough, and the bill nail was just big enough. Even the green sheeny heads were just enough and never changed, so I remained convinced that I had seen Greater Scaup for the first time in Imperial Polk County. Yeah!

And then as if to add a little butter to my grits, what should saunter my way but a Spotted Sandpiper, another Polk County first. That brings my total county list to 114 species so far! Hehe, not bad for a part timer, course, I have been juggling the idea of a jersey or something to wear while I bike-n-bird guerilla style. Of course I would need sponsors, team mates, and fans! Maybe we should start with bumperstickers first.

Signing out!

PS, Here is the Map
the Sam's Club pond is on Lakeland Highlands Rd at the Polk Parkway.
if you can't click the link above, the actual address for the Sam's Club is:
3530 Lakeland Highlands R
Lakeland, FL 33803

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A New Year

So there's been a lot going on in the Hoyt house since September when I last updated this thing. Most importantly ( and life changingly) KT is now a big sister! My wife delivered a 10lb 5oz baby girl in October, and it's taken some time to adjust, especially now that my wife is back at work. Nothing it seems gets done on time, except the bills! KT and I haven't had much of an oppurtunity to bird since then, I did intended to get her down to an Audubon society field trip to Saddle Creek Park, but alas, it never happened like that. I did go on one field trip, but without KT, just seemed like the weather was never right, it was always too hot. My schedule had me off today so I decided to do a little birding on my own. There was a report of Greater Scaup on a retention pond near my house, so I figured they might have wandered their way down to Lake Hollingsworth or Lake Morton.

It was a good day for biking. The sky cleared up nicely, and the temperature was warm enough to ride in shorts without feeling too cold, especially once the sun came out. The action around the house was slow, with some little brown jobs staying too high up in trees to come out and play. One Mourning dove perched on a telephone line, and I started to ride hard. I knew I had to get to the lake to see anything decent. As soon as I arrivedat the lake, the activity level increased. The TREE SWALLOWS flew all around, right at Collins Ave and Lake Hollingsworth Dr. I remember seeing these sky gems about this time last year, and they are the very breath of fresh air in winter. Never did see any greater scaup but I did spot three LESSER SCAUP around Hollingsworth toward the boat dock. Two males and one female, they did not look happy to be there. They gave me a bit of ID trouble at first, and I admit my heart was racing with the thought that they would be the greater scaup, but I let judgement take precedent over emotion. Lake Morton had RING NECK DUCKS and RUDDY DUCKS galore. The ringers gathered in two rafts, one of which seemed to be taking cue off of a swan. I found it funny to watch all these small diving ducks follow a huge swan. It was like they were a bunch of snowbird yankees (and they are) with a tour guide at Disneyworld. That's the typical Florida for you. The ruddy's kept to themselves, and further out in the lake as if they were ashamed of their drab plumage.

I thought to myself, just wait till spring you drab birds, and you will be the envy of the lake.

GB signing out...
I promise to be better this year about updating...'s one of my resolutions...