Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sweaty Sanderlings Hit Southern Florida –- Jan. 25 to Feb. 8

Photos by various members of the Such family.

The Real McCoy - a non-sweaty Sanderling

Slash Pine Flatwoods
Date: January 26
Location: Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Martin County

An easy 4.5 miles on sandy backcountry forest trails, this run was our first introduction to the hot and humid world of running in Florida. We logged an incredible 18 species (well, incredible based on past standards), sixteen (!) of which were new SWSA birds. Highlights were a calling Red-shouldered Hawk, great looks at a Pileated Woodpecker, and Masai’s much-belated lifer Palm Warbler. We also got Florida’s only endemic bird, Florida Scrub-Jay, though not as a SWSA bird.

Florida Scrub-Jay

Atlantic Coast Beach
Date: January 27
Location: Juno Beach Area, Palm Beach County

This morning we had another new experience…running barefoot on the beach. Welch and I had originally intended to only run three or four miles, but we ended up running nearly seven miles. Maybe it was the ocean breeze. Again logging 18 species, but this time of the completely different beach suite, we bagged 13 new Sweaty Sanderling species. Highlights were four species of shorebirds and five species of gull (six if you count terns). All of the Floridians that managed to brave the 55°F “cold snap” were all bundled up in multiple down jackets, and completely shocked to see two teenagers racing down the beach, frolicking in the shallows, both clad in nothing more than a pair of split shorts. One couple went so far as to inquire whether or not we belonged to the Polar Bear Club. We continued running, shaking our heads in confusion.

Ruddy Turnstone

Northern Everglades and Cypress Swamp
Date: January 29
Location: Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Palm Beach County

After a morning of devoted birding, Welch and I managed to find time for a quick four-mile run on the Marsh Trail. Slogging through the incredible heat and humidity was tough, but well worth it. We managed to produce an incredible 30 species, seventeen of which were new for our SWSA lists. Highlights were Glossy Ibis (a lifer earlier that day), Sora, Purple Gallinule, Caspian Tern, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Before our run, we also found a couple of Limpkins and Snail Kites (both lifers).

Snail Kite

Red-shouldered Hawk

Slash Pine Flatwoods and Freshwater Wetland
Date: January 31
Location: Pinelands and Anhinga Trails--Everglades National Park, Miami-Dade County

A couple of quick runs on trails in Everglades National Park produced 16 species, four of which were new SWSA species (Pine Warbler, Wood Stork, Green Heron, and Black-crowned Night-Heron).


Ocean Channel in Florida Keys
Date: February 3
Location: Long Key Channel, Monroe County

This is actually a view from a kayak off of Grassy Key, but you get the picture . . . water and sky!

On this four-mile slog from Conch Key to Long Key through the most oppressive humidity and heat imaginable, we only managed to produce six species, with one new Sweaty Sanderling species . . . the truly magnificent Magnificent Frigatebird. Oh yeah, and we weren’t running on water, nor risking our necks on the highway, but were on the old railroad bed converted into a pedestrian trail.

Magnificent Frigatebird

Freshwater Canal and Everglades
Date: February 4
Location: Shark Valley--Everglades National Park, Miami-Dade County

We spent the evening of February 3rd and the morning of February 4th at the Shark Valley area of Everglades National Park. It was the perfect place for a nice run along a canal loaded with birds and alligators! We saw 21 species of birds on our run, with four being new SWSA birds – Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Great Horned Owl, Limpkin, and White-eyed Vireo.


Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Green Heron

Salt Water Estuary along Gulf of Mexico
Date: February 6
Location: J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Lee County

Our four mile run on the Wildlife Drive at the legendary J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island just off of Fort Myers produced 30+ species, of which 9 where new SWSA species. I say “30+,” because I forgot to record the second half of the checklist, due to my own infinite forethought and wisdom (or would that be stupidity?). Highlights from the run were large numbers of Roseate Spoonbills, an assortment of Semipalmated and Piping Plovers, a few Dunlin, a couple of Pileated Woodpeckers, and a racoon family in the parking lot.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron

Defecating Osprey

Gulf of Mexico Beach
Date: February 7
Location: Alison Hagerup Beach Park, Captiva Island, Lee County

The day before our departure from Florida, we ran on the beach at the end of Captiva Island (one island farther out than Sanibel). When we birded the area earlier that morning, we recorded 19 species, including Masai’s lifer Parasitic Jaeger (that Welch didn’t see because he was distracted by seashells). On our run, however, we only managed to find twelve of the aforementioned species, of which three were new SWSA species – Black Skimmer, Royal Tern, and Sandwich Tern.

Royal Tern

So, we’re back home now and new SWSA birds are harder to come by. The night we arrived home had me dashing down the front steps in -15°F temperatures and slogging through a foot of snow in flip-flops. The heat and humidity are now just a hazy memory.
2011 SWSA Totals
Miles Run=145

Monday, February 21, 2011

GBBC birding

I did a pathetic amount of birding for this year's GBBC, but I did get seven new SWSA species, including fish crow and brown creeper. I ran Friday and Saturday and was refraining from posting because of the hope that I might run again today. Alas, that was not to be. The freezing rain scoffed at me and I dejectedly ran on the treadmill instead. That was a far cry from Friday, when the local area hit a record breaking 60 degrees! I was not the only one hitting the streets to run that day in shorts and a t-shirt. I saw 28 birds, which is my single run high for this year. However, Saturday brought the 40 mph winds and only 5 species of birds, none of which were new.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fat Cats Had a Heart Attack

A cat ran across the road.

Ah, the beauty of language. What are you picturing? A svelte tabby trotting lightly across a deserted avenue?

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Words don't have meaning in and of themselves; rather, we attach meanings to them. It was no lithe feline that crossed my path. Rather, it was a burly beast that waddled across the road, corpulent rolls of blubber jiggling in rhythm to its short, speedy strides. I could easily picture it writhing in a fresh snowfall outside the door, all aortas and arteries blocked by residue from excessive servings of Little Friskies. 

I couldn't help but feel a little bit like that fat cat this morning. I hadn't run in ages. Why should I? A whole arsenal of excuses lay at my disposal. My ankle hurt. It was cold. All the roads were covered in snow and ice. Swimming is better, anyway.

Well, excuses are like armpits. Everyone has them, and they all stink. I couldn't fool myself any longer, so I donned my fivefingers and set out into the frosty morning. Not only was it a glorious run, but there were birds. Two hundred and twenty of them, to be exact, of nineteen species. And one of them was a new SWSA bird--Brown Creeper. At first, I wasn't sure whether the feeble cry was that of a creeper or of my inner fat kid Marcus. I strained my ears as I ran, and it called again--but this time, I could easily tell that the vocalization was far too faint and dainty to be from Marcus.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Spring has Sprung, or flown, as the case may be

I was startled from my homework today by the glorious cachinations of a Sandhill Crane.
Time to go for a run.
I oozled along the muddy dirt roads by my house, hoping for another crane, or perhaps another early spring migrant. All at once the air was alive with calling cranes. I turned my head to the sky and watched as the archaic animals croaked across the sky. I heard a loud squelch, looked down and noticed that my fomerly white shoe was now a nice shade of crane.

My run ended with a fly-by flock of Common Grackles and a lone Cooper's Hawk.

SWSA: 44
Miles run: 370

Monday, February 7, 2011

One Century

Minor ankle problems and a general distaste for running have resulted in no running for over a week; my growing addictions to swimming and rock climbing have also catalyzed the virtual demise of my running career. This afternoon, however, I simply couldn't stand the sight of my fivefingers sitting betrayed and abandoned in a corner, so, slipping into my tights, I hit the road.

Almost instantly my ankle started grumbling. I ignored it and put in about three and a half miles.

And you will be jealous of this.

I saw some CANADA GEESE!!! And AMERICAN BLACK DUCKS!! Embarassingly, both were new SWSA birds, and the latter made a very lame triple-digit milestone. Ah well, I'm not complaining. Well, actually, I am, but the point remains.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


I've purposely avoided this blog for the last couple weeks because reading it makes me jealous.

I haven't run since, uhh...mid-January. I'm combating something pretty major in my hip; (major enough that I'm hoping to get a referral for an MRI tomorrow.) my physical terrorist dad thinks that a labral tear or avascular necrosis are the two most likely offenders, although I'm really hoping I just messed up a ligament or something.

So, I haven't voluntarily abandoned the Sweaty Sanderlings -- but my dysfunctional body has forced a (hopefully short) breach in my loyalties.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Raptor Night

Six miles of excessively icy roads wasn't actually all that bad. The fact that I still have almost no intact skin on my heels and 5 of my toes was bad. However, I did complete the run and got two new SWSA species. At the beginning of the run I got the local red tailed hawk which had been evading me all year, and at the end I heard a great horned owl. After making four laps around the block to try to see the owl, it got too dark to see the patches of black ice and I carefully shuffled my way home.