The number of times I raised binoculars to my eyes while in Orlando this week totals less than five. Most of those were from our condo's balcony, checking out the cormorants and mallards in the pond. Still though, Florida generally provides more opportunities to see certain birds than any other place in the country, and I was not going to let a little thing like a family vacation get in the way of bumping the total on my Big Year list.
Far and away, the most common birds in and around Orlando are grackles and House Sparrows. The Boat-tailed Grackle is a very distinctive bird with an obnoxious voice and an unmistakable appearance. They dwarf the Common Grackles that are just as prevalent in the area, and their voice is considerably different. That was the first new bird I identified on the trip, actually encountering them in a gas station parking lot a few hours before we arrived.
I saw most of the water birds I expected to add, including the Wood Stork and Little Blue Heron. The Glossy Ibis continues to elude me, as I still have never laid eyes on one. I also did not see Cattle Egrets, Sandhill Cranes, or Tricolored Herons. I did not count birds seen in captivity for the list, but the outdoor ponds at the parks were fair game, which is where I saw the Wood Duck and the White-cheeked Pintail.
Tuesday, as we were coming home from the park I saw what could only have been a Swallow-tailed Kite, a relatively uncommon raptor, being chased by a crow. We were in the car in the condo parking lot when I saw it, and while I was certain of my sighting, I was hesitant to add it to the list without verification. Well Wednesday morning as we were leaving the park we spotted it again, with even Mandi being sure of the ID this time. That's a lifer that I'd be surprised to ever see again outside of captivity.
The rest of the list from the trip includes the Eurasian Collared Dove, Double-crested Cormorant, Brown Pelican, White Ibis, Fish Crow, Great Egret, Purple Martin, and Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Overall I'd call it a good trip, with a few of the additions just preempting my eventual sightings here at home, but a few of them are undoubtedly only to be seen in Florida. So the list now numbers 91 species, and I hope to spend some time this week searching out the latest migrants to our area.