The Razorbill Invasion – My Personal Experience

Razorbill, Photo courtesy of  Ardnamurchan Charters Ltd

Razorbill, Photo courtesy of Ardnamurchan Charters Ltd

There were a number of Razorbill sightings in Pinellas County in late 2012 and early 2013, and I, of course wanted to see one of these beautiful birds.  Razorbills, birds which resemble penguins but fly, began arriving in Florida in early December, 2012.  Soon, it was apparent the state was experiencing a Razorbill Invasion.  These birds are large auks of the northern Atlantic Ocean. “Normally,” they can be found offshore in winter as far south as New Jersey, and occasionally Virginia or S. Carolina.  Here in Florida, now as I write this toward the end of February, 2013, reports of Razorbills appear to be few and far between.  Once the phenomenon was labeled, the descriptive phrase caught on. The Razorbill Invasion of 2012-2013 is an occurrence that birdwatchers and others from not only Florida but around the world noticed.  It would have happened if the numbers had been significantly less since Razorbill sightings in Florida are quite the anomaly. There have been perhaps a dozen documented sightings in Florida prior to 2012.

In the process of researching for this article, I discovered, unsurprisingly, report after report about the Razorbill Invasion on the Internet.  Many were from Florida’s newspapers.  Many others were written by bloggers.  It’s safe to say the Razorbill Invasion was one of the most interesting invasions of the decade.  For more detailed information, I would recommend eBird and plugging Razorbill Invasion into a search engine.  Being a birder, loving Penguins and their appearance, living on the west coast of Central Florida, and suspecting seeing a Razorbill could very well be a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, I wanted to see a Razorbill or two. Correction – I somewhat desperately wanted to see even one Razorbill.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do not work for nor am affiliated with or related to anyone at he following internet sites.  I follow Pinellas.com, a second to none website about birds in Pinellas County, Florida.  It shares up to date information about sightings. I also read Brdbrain, a ListServ comprised of incomparable, up to date, often to the hour, sightings. I found some places where the Razorbills had been sighted on more than one occasion and where specific instructions on how to get there were given. I checked off my original one of a kind prior to leaving on my birding treks. Camera. Batteries. Water. Cell phone. Wallet and a minimum of cash, and I was pretty much ready to go.  Whenever possible, ie, when such factors such as light, distance and the bird itself cooperate, I prefer to have take my own photos out in the field. Sans my documentation, here is an excellent photo from realbirder.com I was unable to find out the photographer’s name.

Razorbill, photo from realbirder.com

Razorbill, photo from realbirder.com

Have I sighted a Razorbill? No. Am I disappointed? Yes. Since I started birdwatching here in Florida in the late spring of 2010, the date of which coincides with where I began birdwatching anywhere, I have seen, observed and learned about a number of wonderful, beautiful birds. It has been and will continue to be a very fulfilling hobby on many levels. Tonight, I want to leave you with these thoughts about my very satisfying hobby, “Have I sighted a Razorbill? No. Am I disappointed? Yes.”   -SLB

What is this bird?

There are occasions where I am focusing on photographing a certain kind of bird, but then when I process the photos I discover another species in the photos.  This bird was found when I viewed the photos I had taken.  It was taken near to a pond in St. Petersburg at the end of January, 2013. What is it?

A bird that needs to be identified

I was thinking that the posture in the photo I posted of the “unknown bird” was similar to a Thrush or maybe even an Ovenbird, but nothing in my guides seemed to show a close enough match.  Females and immature birds seem to be among the most challenging.  It turns out that this is one of those situations.  The bird is one that is common in my area, central Florida on the Gulf Coast.  It is a Yellow-rumped Warbler, either a female or young male in basic winter plumage.

The search

I went looking for the bird in the first photo.   If I know anything about birders, I know we often go to great lengths to find Lifers and/or specific birds.  This is that kind of story.  I spent hours traveling to the place I expected to find the bird,  walked about a quarter of a mile on uneven terrain, then stood in the driveway of Mosquito Control, not far from the Pinellas County Dump.  I peered through a six foot chain link fence at a large retention pond.  It was late afternoon, and I was standing when and where I had heard was the best spot to find these birds which do not ordinarily breed in Florida.  Three have made this spot their home for a few years and have bred there.  They are often interspersed among Yellowlegs, I was told.  I was very anxious to see the birds I was searching for.  The results of my birding expedition are shown in the second photo.

The bird I was hoping to find

The bird I was hoping to find

What I found at the pond next to Mosquito Control

What I found at the pond next to Mosquito Control

Aside

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!!!

So, it has been a busy couple weeks here with company coming, going, and still adjusting to the job schedule while trying to balance life and birding.  I’m guessing we have all been busy with the holidays in full swing (hence the unusually quiet boards).

So, I’m looking back about two weeks…

Thanks for the compliments on the flycatcher photos, first off.  I went out of my way last Tuesday to track down another rare-ish visitor in the MINWR area:

Image

I was just crossing my fingers that it would be an easy bird to locate based on the Brdbrain reports because it was a long drive and I had very little time to play with that day.  But the Snow Bunting was on the top of my “must see” list and because of its northern range, I never thought I would get to see one!

But wait!  Who might this little one’s friend be?  (Seriously, I need your opinions on this one.) 🙂

Image

Image

I think I may have figured out the sparrow’s ID, but I’m super unsure because of the beach-side location.  So what do you all think?

SLB… I am going to post the Caspian Tern (or what I suspect is a Caspian, anyway)… just as soon as I figure out what I did with the photo. 😕  I thought I uploaded it already, but I didn’t see it when I looked just now.  I also have some other tern IDs I am currently working so that I can get my life list up-to-date before 2012 is out.

Jo, Monday it is, then!

When I went looking for the Scissor-tailed, I remembered your Fork-tailed Flycatcher sighting, specifically.  That’s when I first put the Scissor-tailed on my “most wanted” list (because I hadn’t known of either until that time). 😀

I hope your first test went well and that tomorrow’s goes well also.

DaLo, how goes the run for 200 in 2012; have you made it yet?  We’re all cheering you on, you know. 🙂

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Will return next week.  -SLB

Sometimes life throws you a curve…

Totally unexpected, I might add.  It may take a while for me to get back to the straight and narrow path, but I am determined to do so.  I have two more tests to take…Nov. 20 and Nov. 29.  Shortly after the last test and barring any complications, of course, we will leave here and be on our way eventually to FL, getting there sometime during the first week of Dec.  But, this is a place to discuss birds, not health concerns……

I haven’t been following the posts lately, but did so today and, as usual, enjoyed everything….it was so nice to see the humorous posts…..well done, SLB and DaLo…..especially enjoyed the “tagged” Red Knot that wound up on someone’s plate.  Glad to see that the Whoopers are getting closer to their goal.  Jenn, your pictures of the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher are great!  I’m envious, but I know what you mean about devoting so much time and effort to one bird….I did the same thing this past winter with the Fork-tailed Flycatcher…hundreds of pictures of him.

Not much going on around our yard, although we did have a few Pine Siskins show up at the feeders today….they’re not a new bird for me, as they’ve been here before, but we seldom see them from one year to the next.  One lone male Goldfinch fed right next to them.  The Black Ducks are still around, as many as 15 waddle up the hill to get the corn.  The Jays have been reduced from 18 to 6 or 8, which is normal.  Chickadees and RB Nuthatches continue to eat as though there was no tomorrow.  Perhaps they know it’s going to be a harsh winter, which is all the more reason for me to want to head for FL soon….it was 28 this morning.

By the way, Jenn….just remember this….once we’re back in FL, meeting with you on a Monday would be fine…..looking forward to that.

I am in complete agreement that it’s great to be a FL birdwatcher, even if it’s only done part time.

Photos of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers

Jenn, I thought the Flycatcher Photos are very good until I enlarged them, then I thought they are really, really very good.  This is the first time I have seen the salmon pink flanks and under tail captured, and the first photo shows all the colors and body pattern so well.  Great work.

Please post the Maybe Caspian Gull.  I have always seen it in flocks of other Gulls or Gulls and Terns.  Sometimes, other shorebirds surround them.  I have always seen only one Caspian in the flocks.  I think that is interesting.

I saw a Hawk today.  It was very high, overcast, and I will post it later.  -SLB