I haven't been posting in the last month or so because until recently, there hasn't been much to report. The combined forces of oppressive Florida heat, summer rainstorms (which are unpredictable, but always seem to hit when I'm outdoors and miles from my car), and plain old summer birding doldrums have left me with precious little to brag about.
This doesn't mean that I stopped birding. No matter how awful the weather is and how few birds are out, I simply can't stop. There have been a few nice summer treats -- Orchard Orioles, Blue Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, and Purple Gallinules -- but not much else.
When the birding is boring, I try to turn it into a skill-building challenge. Sometimes, I know all that's out there are the year-round residents, such as Tufted Titmice and Carolina Wrens--and I make a point of trying to find them in the treetops. IDing them by voice is easy, but actually getting one in view in the thick summer foliage is not. I try to train myself to locate them by the direction of their voices, and focus on discerning bird-like motion in high clusters of leaves.
Sometimes this makes me feel like a complete idiot: I can hear a nearby male Carolina Wren practically screaming into my ear, but I can't get a visual on him anywhere. Lately, big groups of juvenile Northern Cardinals and their parents have been calling each other in just about every bushy habitat in town, but sometimes I can hear at least three individuals but not see a single one. How do they pull this off?
I've been treating these as my practice birds, to keep my reflexes sharp for fall migration. Already, warblers have started trickling back into the area. In the last few weeks, I've gotten my first of season Black-and-whites, Ovenbirds, American Redstarts, and Prothonotaries. The weather is still hot and humid, but the birds tell a bigger story: fall is on the way.
I hope my summer birding practice will pay off.