Yesterday (Saturday) some good news buffered the disappointing miss of the Bahama Mockingbird. Larry and Philip Manfredi teamed up to try for the Mockingbird at Boca Chita Key in Biscayne NP.
Things started off pretty good. Waiting for the boat to leave, in less than ten minutes, we found 2 Vermillion Flycatchers, a Western Kingbird, 2 Scissortail Flycatchers and an Ash-throated Flycatcher near the entrance of Everglades NP! There was even a Swainson’s Hawk soaring overhead. For a moment I thought I was back in Texas rather than Florida! Philip was even yelling that he was a good luck charm! But the boat trip to Boca Chita revealed several problems. I was optimistic that the Bahama Mockingbird would hold. Actually though, Boca Chita Key is only a ½ mile from Sand Key which was only an 1/8 of a mile from the larger Elliot Key. So the mockingbird could island hop rather easily. Also the length of the trip was already on the short side and a slow start out of the docks didn’t allow as much time as we’d like, but we did scare up a mockingbird in the general area where the Bahama Mockingbird was reported. Unfortunately, it was a skulking Northern Mockingbird. This raised two discouraging possibilities. Either the mockingbird had been originally misidentified or that the more aggressive N. Mockingbird had chased off the Bahama Mockingbird. Larry, who has lead bird tours to the Bahamas for eight years, has seen multiple examples of this behavior in the past.
However, the good news came moments after we landed on Boca Chita Key, Susan Billetdeaux from NARBA called to brief me that two birds of interest had just been reported. First of all, THE Graylag Goose was relocated yesterday by Sylvain Mathieu, less than 20 kilometers from the original site. In fact Bland Liz and I had worked this section of the river with Leah den Besten, while the rest of the gang held down the fort at the Chambly Basin. A gut feeling had convinced me that the Graylag would show up somewhere this winter, though I wasn’t sure it would be in December. In addition, two Brown Jays were seen up river at Salineno! These first Brown Jay sightings there in five years and the first sighting in Texas since the Rio Grande flooded in July of 2010.
It was decision time. The obvious choice on the jays was to wait. Let them settle into a routine. The volunteer at Salineno will keep them well fed (apparently they like fried chicken) then after Adak visit South Texas again, combining the jays with one or two mega rarities that seem destined to show up this winter in the Valley!
So the decision was really between birding Boca Chita and Elliot Key harder on Sunday or leaving for the goose. But the doubts about the correct identification of the mockingbird and a $119.00 Southwest ticket to Boston helped simplify the decision process. I arrived in Beantown at 2:15 PM. Sunday afternoon. I had called Doug Koch during my layover in Philadelphia. Amazingly, he was in Rhode Island and decided to join me. We’re traveling “fast and furious”! Drove to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu tonight and begin our search at dawn tomorrow. Stay tuned, I’ve been given a second chance with this wild goose chase. I won’t let it slip through my hands this time.