"Tampabaylandsat" by Robert Simmons - http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/NewImages/images.php3?img_id=16637. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tampabaylandsat.jpg#/media/File:Tampabaylandsat.jpg
Crested caracara, Black-hooded parakeet, Red-cockaded woodpecker: Those are the new species of birds that I found during my week of birding with Elder Brother in the Tampa Bay Area of Florida. When I returned home, and caught up on my volunteer work enough to think about it, I went over the birds that I had seen - just shy of 100 species. Not really great for Florida at this time of year, but the weather was a big factor against us. Elder Brother (EB) saw/identified more species - and kept a contemporaneous listing (he uses a digital recorder to input each bird seen!) - but I don't know how many. EB is the real birder of the family. He's been birding since about 1949, and I've been by his side at it off-and-on ever since. I enjoy birds, but I'm not rabid. Just as I took up potting to have something to do with Elegant Friend, and just as I took up knitting to have something to do with friends at the senior center, I bird mostly to have something to do with EB.
Aside: EB had marked 2015 as a "big bird year" during which he hoped to see at least 400 species. He made several trips to various places last year (Florida, California, Washington State, New Mexico, Kansas) in that cause. He came close. He made it to 396; but, his time out for his cardiac arrest in September cut into his chances.
As EB was driving along, I spotted a couple of these birds at their carrion feast by the side of the road. EB, later, pointed out a couple more caracaras flying.
By J. Patrick Fischer (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I spotted about five of these birds, on power lines outside of the motel - my first morning, there. Later, we found both Black-hooded and Monk Parakeets in various places, including a power substation just outside a cemetery.
IBy Lance Cpl. Matthew K. Hacker, United States Marine Corps Original photograph taken by: James Hanula, USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station, May 1992 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
EB knew just where to look for these little woodpeckers. We saw several.
I had a good time with EB in Florida, and the cost was reasonable (for me) because Hunky Husband paid my air fare and EB insisted upon picking up the tab for the rental car (he did all of the driving, after all - which I allowed in self-defense since he is so anal! Besides, he had been there frequently enough that we didn't need no stinkin' maps or GPSs!) My "big" expense was my motel room. Lesser expenses included one tank of gasoline, some snacks, and our dinners. EB took care of most snacks, our lunches, and the other tanks of gasoline. (You have to understand that when EB travels with a friend, he picks up ALL of the expenses - and - he had thought he would do the same on this trip!)
Day 1 (20th): Our first day there, the morning temperature was about 37ᵒ Fahrenheit - rising to the mid-40s during the day with a little wind. The birding started well. As I told the desk clerk, "I know I'm not in Kansas anymore when the first bird I see of a morning is an Osprey [in a palm tree] followed by Black-hooded Parakeets [on a power line] and an immature White Ibis [flying over]."
Day 2 (21st): Temperatures were in the 40s with wind that, for a short while, topped 50 miles/hour. It was cloudy and rainy. The park at which EB had planned we bird refused our money for entry. Just as we had pulled up to the toll booth, they received word that the park was "closing". They let us into the park, but there were very few other cars there. While EB went to check out the non-existent beach (it was high tide), I wandered around the sand and vegetation nearer the parking lots. My "find" was a great-horned owl with a nest at the top of the trunk of a de-capitated palm tree.
Day 3 (22nd): Temperatures were in the 40s to 50s with wind. We went looking for the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. They are small (slightly larger than a downy - not as large as a hairy), secretive, and not numerous. In the park in which we birded, the trees in which they were found were banded with white to alert the forestry people to take a care for them.
Day 4 (23rd): Temperatures in the 50s. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge was, again, closed - just as we arrived - because the wind was topping 50 miles/hour. I'm not sure whether the bridge has a resonance issue or whether vehicles get blown around, into one another with the high winds. Went back to the park that had been closed. The palm tree in which the owl had been nesting had been chain-sawed down! Lots of clean-up work required by the high winds.
By Mrehere at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Day 5 (24th): Temperatures in the high 50s, low 60s. Winds moderating.
Day 6 (25th): Temperatures in the mid-high 60s. Winds 10 miles/hour or less.
Day 7 (26th): Temperatures in the mid 70s. Winds 10 miles/hour or less. However, we had to be at the airport by 2:30pm for my flight home. EB waved me down the gangway before walking to the other end of the concourse to catch his flight back to Denver CO. He arrived at his home in Loveland at the same time I arrived at our home in Derby. Of course, it was 9:30pm, his time, but 10:30pm, my time. It's always, always good to get home!
Leaving home from Wichita's Dwight D Eisenhower National Airport: My left arm was patted down - because of the electronic watch that I wear.
Leaving Florida from Tampa International Airport: I received expedited transit through security - being subjected only to a metal detector rather than through the body scanner. I guess the TSA agent thought she could trust a little old lady?