Florida Birding Festival & Nature Expo October 2-3, 1999
                                        Clearwater, Florida

This birding festival is one of the bigger birding festivals and one of the best run in the country.  It has a lot of sponsorship which gives them the opportunity to have many guests speakers and many field trips.  It's a nice time of year in October and the timing for this festival is near the peak of fall migration.  I attended this festival with my good friend Brian Rapoza.  We went on two field trips, one a pelagic trip into the Gulf of Mexico and the other to Shell Key.  We were hoping for some life birds or ones for our state list on both of these field trips.  We did the Shell Key trip on our first day and the pelagic trip on the next day.  On Shell Key we got to see a Long-billed Curlew which was a new bird for my Florida list.  We saw many other shorebirds and gulls.  On the pelagic trip we did not see many birds at all.  Last years trip had many more than this one, that's the way birding is,  each season and day are different.  What made up for the lack of pelagic birds seen, was coming back in and talking to people on shore who had gone on other field trips.  Someone told us that an Elegant Tern had been seen at Honeymoon Island State Recreation Area.  We thought that we had heard this wrong or that they were kidding us.  As soon as we found out were the bird had been seen, we followed other birders to the area.  When we got there we saw other birders who had already been looking but who had not seen it yet.  After we started looking I spotted the ELEGANT TERN feeding along the shoreline.  This was a very exiting sighting because this bird has never been reported from the state.  This was not only a lifer for me but an excellent bird for the Florida list that I keep.  I can't remember if this was a life bird for Brian, I know that this was a new one for his Florida list.  I ended up with TWO life birds on this trip, ELEGANT TERN and BUDGERIGAR and I did not expect to see any!  Brian knew where he had seen some Budgerigars in some trees in the parking lot of a Perkin's Restaurant.  This is located in the town of Hudson Florida which is about 20 miles north of Tampa on highway 19.  The birds roost with about 500 House Sparrows on the north side of the Perkin's Restaurant parking lot.  Look for the Sycamore Trees, these have brown colored leaves which look kind of like Maple Tree leaves.  We arrived in the area in the late afternoon and searched the area without finding any.  We stayed around until near dusk and went back to the Perkin's Restaurant and saw 4 Budgerigars with many House Sparrows mixed in.

Here is a list of birds that we had seen in the two days that we attended this festival.
Brown Pelican Laughing Gull
Double-crested Cormorant Caspian Tern
Great Blue Heron Sandwich Tern
Great Egret Common Tern
Snowy Egret Forster's Tern
Little Blue Heron Black Tern
Tricolored Heron Black Skimmer
Reddish Egret ELEGANT TERN
Cattle Egret Rock Dove
Green Heron Eurasian Collared-Dove
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Mourning Dove
White Ibis Common Ground-Dove
Roseate Spoonbill BUDGERIGAR
Turkey Vulture Common Nighthawk
Mottled Duck Chimney Swift
Blue-winged Teal Belted Kingfisher
Osprey Red-bellied Woodpecker
Bald Eagle Pileated Woodpecker
Red-tailed Hawk White-eyed Vireo
American Kestrel Blue Jay
Peregrine Falcon Fish Crow
Black-bellied Plover Northern Rough-winged Swallow
SNOWY PLOVER Carolina Chickadee
Wilson's Plover Tufted Titmouse
Semipalmated Plover Carolina Wren
Piping Plover Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
American Oystercatcher Northern Mockingbird
Greater Yellowlegs Brown Thrasher
Lesser Yellowlegs European Starling
Willet Yellow Warbler
Marbled Godwit Eastern Towhee
Ruddy Turnstone Northern Cardinal
Red Knot Red-winged Blackbird
Sanderling Common Grackle
Semipalmated Sandpiper Boat-tailed Grackle
Western Sandpiper House Sparrow
Short-billed Dowitcher

We saw 81 species in the two days that we attended this festival.  The three day total for all the field trips was much higher.  This is a very nice Birding Festival which is well worth attending.

                                      Trip report from Puerto Rico
                                    October 8-12, 1999

Day one October 8, 1999

I birded again with Dennis Buss from Dallas Texas.  Dennis and I have both birded Puerto Rico before.  On this trip we wanted to see what we did not see on previous trips.  I birded 5 days while Dennis birded for 3 days.

I arrived first on the morning of October 8 and was in a rental car by 11 a.m.  One of the birds that I really wanted to see was Plain Pigeon.  I used Herbert A. Raffaele's book: A guide to the Birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  I also used the new book A Guide to the Birds of the West Indies by Herbert Raffaele, James Wiley, Orlando Garrido, Allan Keith, and Janis Raffaele.  I also found many trip reports by various people who have visited in the last couple of years plus my own trip report from my last visit in May of 1993.

On some of the trip reports, birders were reporting Plain Pigeons from the area near Comerio.  Comerio is located in the Mountains South and West of San Juan.  I headed for Comerio on Highway 52 out of San Juan and exited on 172 and headed west towards Cidra.  I looked for Highway 156 that Greg Lasley had recommended from a trip that he had done.  This would have saved me time, but I did not see the exit for it.  I think that you have to look for the signs for Caguas and then look for 156?  It can be difficult to find the correct exits, not all of them are marked real well.  Anyway, I made it through Cidra and drove to Comerio on 172.  At KM 6 something caught my eye, I stopped on the road and perched in a tree at eye level was a beautiful PLAIN PIGEON not more then 75 yards away.  This was really a treat, I never thought that this bird would be so beautiful.  I really don't understand how it got it's name, this is one of the most beautiful Pigeons that I have ever seen.  I had it perched with lots of trees in the back ground and in excellent light.  I suppose if the bird was on a phone wire and back lit, I may not have been able to see the detail that I did.  After getting the killer looks of this bird I continued towards Comerio to see if there might be some more Plan Pigeons.  Dennis will want to see this bird so I decided to check the whole area.  I took 172 to 156 until I came to the junction of 167.  I drove to the Junction of 167 and 156 and found an area to park.  I parked at a dead end road with concrete barriers across it.  This area has a nice open view of the surrounding area.  I was able to locate 2 more Plain Pigeons perched on some near by phone wires and got to see another 3 or 4 flying through the valley.  I birded up a path near were I parked and saw Smooth-billed Ani, Puerto Rican Vireo, Stripe-headed Tanager, Puerto Rican Tody and many other birds more common.

Happy with my findings for the day I headed to the Airport in San Juan to pick up Dennis who had an 8 p.m. arrival time.  It took me about 2 hours or more to get to San Juan, I picked up Dennis and we then drove to Maricao where we stayed for 2 nights.  Maricao is located in the Mountains near the West end of the Island. We stayed at La Hacienda Jaunita which is a wonderful Country Inn located in Maricao.  Phone: 1-800-443-0266 in the U.S. or 1-809-838-2550 in Puerto Rico or e-mail: JUANITA@CARIBE.NET   I would definitely stay here again.  A standard room for two, 3 meals a day plus tax came out to $246.10 for 2 days.  I thought that this was a very reasonable rate.  The employees were friendly and the food was very good.  I told them that we would be arriving late so they left the key in the room for us.  It took us about 3 hours to get there from San Juan.  We were both tired from the day of traveling, but we had enough energy to look for the resident Puerto Rican Screech Owl on the property.  We walked to where the dumpster was located to try and hear the Owl calling but no luck.  The area around the dumpster was the recommended area from trip reports that I read.  I decided to use a tape to try and get a response, we had one answer back not far away. The bird was calling over the driveway where it exits onto the main road.  We heard it in a large Mango tree and with a powerful flashlight finally got to see it after much searching.  This was a lifer for both of us, a nice bird.  We hit the sack after this and heard the Owl calling for quite some time after.

We ended the day with 33 species, here is a list in the order that we saw them.

    Magnificent Fritgatebird            Scaly-naped Pigeon
    Great Egret                            * PLAIN PIGEON
    Rock Dove                               Green Heron
    Common Moorhen                    Black-faced Grassquit
Orange Bishop                        Belted Kingfisher
    Zeniada Dove                           Antillean Mango
   Common Ground-Dove        PUERTO RICAN TODY
   White-winged Dove              PUERTO RICAN VIREO
   Antillean Grackle                       Smooth-billed Ani
   Red-tailed Hawk                       Mangrove Cuckoo
   Brown Pelican                           Stripe-headed Tanager
   Gray Kingbird                       PUERTO RICAN BULLFINCH
   Cave Swallow                           Cattle Egret
   Spotted Sandpiper                     Pearly-eyed Thrasher
   Loggerhead Kingbird           * # PUERTO RICAN SCREECH OWL

Day two October 9, 1999

Today was dedicated to finding the Elfin Woods Warbler.  This bird was only discovered in 1971, this was a must bird for the both of us.  Thanks to the trip reports from various people, we had a good idea of where to look.  We drove from the Hacienda Juanita to KM 16.2 which was mentioned in some of the trip reports.  Here we parked in the parking lot of what I believe was the Maricao Forest Visitor Center.  This area has a covered  picnic table and a building for the Visitor Center?   It was not open when we arrived or when we left.  We walked a path uphill towards the main road looking for the Elfin Woods Warbler but had no luck.  We came out to the road and birded along it to the area with the Communications Towers, still no luck.  We came to KM 15.5 and found several Female or Immature ELFIN WOODS WARBLERS this was a lifer for both Dennis and I and a great bird.  I was able to make some excellent recordings of their calls and song.  We walked up the road to Km 15.7 and had a few more, and then at 16.2 we had several Male ELFIN WOODS WARBLERS in and around a Bamboo thicket.  We spent the rest of the day near Maricao birding along the road at various spots.  We had these birds below.

      Black-cowled Oriole                                 * # PUERTO RICAN TANAGER
* # ELFIN WOODS WARBLER                      Ovenbird
      Blackpoll Warbler                                                American Kestrel
      Black-thoated Blue Warbler                                 Turkey Vulture
      American Redstart                                     * # LESSER ANTILLEAN PEWEE
      Black-and-white Warbler                                   Northern Mockingbird
* # GREEN MANGO                                         Red-legged Thrush

Day three October 10, 1999

Today we birded our way down to the Copamarina Beach Resort in Guanica, phone: 1-800-468-4553.  This is a nice motel close to Guanica State Forest, which is were we would be birding that night and the next day.  We also birded the area around Laguna Cartagena.  We looked for Yellow-breasted Crake here around noon which is a real bad time.  Dennis waded around the marsh edges in hopes of flushing one but with no luck. We also birded a sewage treatment pond by the coast on the west side of La Parguera.  My main target bird in Guanica would be the Puerto Rican Nightjar.  Dennis had already seen them, I missed them on my last visit.  Dennnis wanted to see the Puerto Rican Lizard Cuckoo and Yellow-shouldered Blackbird in near by Parguera.  We were rewarded with many YELLOW SHOULDERED BLACKBIRDS in the late afternoon along the waters edge in Parguera.  After we arrived and checked in (the mosquitos are plentiful in this area) we drove east 333.  It was dark now and a good time to try and listen for the Nightjar.  We drove all the way to the end of 333 to check out the area.  Near the end there were many people having beach parties, this made it difficult to bird.  We decided to go back west on 333 and look for one of the trails leading into the Dry Forest.  We stopped along the way to listen for Nightjars and heard one far off in the brush.  This one was to far to chase.  We continued until we found one of the trails and parked and walked into the Forest.  About a mile up the trail we had a PUERTO RICAN NIGHTJAR calling close to the trail.  We decided to play a tape to lure it over us, this worked and we had one in the flashlight fly over.  Not the best of looks but better than none.  We also got to see and hear two or three Puerto Rican Screech Owls here.  After this we went back to the Copamarina to have an excellent dinner and to celebrate my life bird.  Below is a list of what we saw this day.

* # PUERTO RICAN LIZARD CUCKOO (heard only, seen later.)
      Nutmeg Manakin
      White-winged Parakeet
      Blackburnian Warbler
      Yellow-faced Grassquit
* # Orange-cheeked Waxbill
      Tricolored Heron
      Antillean Mango
      Pied-billed Grebe
      Common Snipe
      Adelaide's Warbler
      Great Blue Heron
      Lesser Yellowlegs
      Greater Yellowlegs
      Semi-palmated Plover
      Least Sandpiper
      Wilson's Plover
       Pectorial Sandpiper
       Northern Waterthrush
       Ringed Turtle-Dove (these birds sure look exactly like Eurasian Collared-Doves, the call is a      little different, they seem the same size.)
       House Sparrow

Day four October 11, 1999

Today we drove to the Guanica Dry Forest to search for Puerto Rican Lizard Cuckoo.  We also wanted to see if we could find the Antillean Euphonia.  I have seen this bird in the Dominican Republic but not in Puerto Rico.  The ones in Puerto Rico are a different subspecies and could be split into it's own species.  We unfortunately did not see any on our trip.  We did get to see a Puerto Rican Lizard Cuckoo near the visitor center, it was calling and making some odd gurgling noises.  I made some nice recordings of the call and the gurgling noises.  It repeated these noises for quite some time, I recorded and watched it for more the 15 minutes.  The PUERTO RICAN LIZARD CUCKOO was new for Dennis, now he has heard and seen it.  This would be my last day birding with Dennis, this also would be the only chance for Dennis to see a Plain Pigeon.  After birding the early morning hours in Guanica, we drove towards the area where I had seen Plain Pigeons.  As we where exiting from 52 (heading east towards San Juan) on exit, salida 39 I happened to be looking in the trees along the exit ramp and I see what look like Plain Pigeons.  We stop along the road shoulder and see 4 PLAIN PIGEONS perched in the tops of the trees.  This was in the large median along the exit ramp near the town of Cayey.  We put the scope on them and enjoyed great looks.  We saw these birds around 1 p.m. After the great looks we had of the Plain Pigeons we birded along the road and then headed to the San Jaun Airport.  I dropped Dennis off and then drove to the east end of the Island to the town of Fajardo.  I was hoping to get the 2 hummingbirds found here, Green-Throated Carib and the Antillean Crested Hummingbird.  After arriving in Fajardo I drove around looking for flowering trees and shrubs. After driving around for some time I found a male GREEN-THROATED CARIB feeding in a flowering tree. I looked until dark for Antillean Crested Hummingbird but found none.  What I also saw here in Fajardo was a large flock of Shiny Cowbirds, about 100 birds, not a good thing for the native birds.  I searched for the motels listed in a tour guide for this area, but found none that were in the guide.  I did find a new Hotel which was very nice and has a good restaurant.  This was the Fajardo Inn phone: 787-860-6000 or fax: 787-860-5063, I would recommend this to anyone looking for a place to stay in Fajardo.  Below are the new birds seen today.

     Prothonotary Warbler
     Key West Quail-Dove
     Clapper Rail
     Shiny Cowbird

Day three October 12, 1999

Today I searched everywhere that I had time for but struck out finding Antillean Crested Hummingbird.  I had a noon flight back to Ft. Lauderdale, so this pretty much ended the trip. Below is a list of new birds seen on my last day.

     Ring-billed Gull
     Ruddy Turnstone
     Monk Parakeet
*   Pintail Wydah

Dennis ended up with 12 lifers, I ended up with 14 lifers.  Of the 12 that Dennis saw, 11 are endemic or found only in the Caribbean and the other one, Orange-cheeked Waxbill is an established introduced species.  Of the 14 lifers that I saw, 11 are endemic or found only in the Caribbean and the other 3, Orange-checked Waxbill, Pintail Wydah and Orange Bishop are all most likely established exotics.

# Represents life birds for Dennis.
* Represents life birds for Larry.

We ended the trip with 85 species seen, I stayed an extra two days compared to Dennis who stayed for three days.  Look for upcoming trips to Puerto Rico in 2001.