Exactly one month ago today, I got up at 4:30 a.m., gulped down a cup of coffee and a day-old piece of Vietnamese cassava cake, and headed to LAX and two miserable flights that would lead me from my home and family in Southern California to my new job in Florida.
And today found me headed west out of Gainesville with a group of friendly and talented local birders to Cedar Key, a charming fishing village and renown local birding spot. We were on our way to a boat tour of the surrounding waters to look for shorebirds.
I was hoping that Hurricane Ike would bring in some interesting pelagics, just as tropical storm Fay did a few weeks back. Instead, Ike just raised the water levels so high that shore-dwelling peeps resorted to perching in the few bushes that remained above water level.
The funny thing about going on a shorebird trip with a bunch of inland birders is watching how excited they get by birds that I took for granted back in California, such as Marbled Godwits and Willets. In the meantime, I was getting quite excited by birds they all found quite ordinary, such as Tricolored Herons and American Oystercatchers (a lifer for me). But everyone WAS understandably surprised to see over 100 American Oystercatchers hanging out on a sandbar with a flock of Willets and various plovers:
Here's a closer shot of some of the Oystercatchers:
My favorite part of the boat tour was a stop by an island where a large flock of Magnificent Frigatebirds was roosting. These are great birds to watch. There is something vaguely sinister about the way they look (and the fact that they are kleptoparasitic feeders only adds to their aura of evil)--but that's part of the fun of watching them.
And here are some more of them.
After the boat trip, the group I had carpooled out with decided to try birding other parts of the Key, such as the cemetery—supposedly a good spot for migrating warblers. We didn't get any warblers, but we did get both Grey and Eastern Kingbirds, a Great Crested Flycatcher, and two Great Horned Owls, sitting practically back to back to each other. This photo shows only one of them, but the other wasn't far behind him:
On the way home, we were treated to the sight of several strikingly brilliant rainbows--so striking that several drivers besides us pulled off the side of the road to either gawk or take pictures. This shot only captures a fraction of the whole scene: from where we were, we could see the entire arc of one rainbow, with a second echoed faintly nearby:
I knew this could only be an omen of good fortune, But I returned home to an aggressively squirting leak under my bathroom sink, which had caused the entire bathroom to flood. The maintenance guy was out within half an hour. I'll be without hot water in the bathroom for the night, but at least the damage was contained. Maybe that's all the good luck I need.