April 30 – May 3: I was privileged to host two good out-of state friends with whom I have enjoyed a number of previous outings – Bob Mustell from Missouri, and Matt Van Wallene from Arizona. The four days featured countless belly laughs and even a few birds. Unfortunately an uninterrupted spell of fair weather was greatly limiting the number of migrating passerines stopping over in south Florida, but a number of the resident species including Least Bittern, Gray-headed Swamphen, Eastern Screech Owl, Egyptian Goose, and several Psittacids including Nanday Parakeet usually provide ample life bird opportunities for visitors. Unfortunately neither the Smooth-billed Anis at Loxahatchee nor the Spot-breasted Orioles at Markham Park made appearances on the days we were there.
Our most unusual experience was in a sugar cane area south of Belle Glade, which we visited in the late afternoon hoping to see and photograph some Barn Owls as they became active. It was a few “peent” calls that first drew our attention to the many Common Nighthawks, which we soon realized were everywhere here, both in the air and perched at intervals on the two parallel sets of railroad tracks, allowing very close approach and great photo-ops in the glow of the evening sunlight. We were so fascinated watching several males doing their steep courtship dives punctuated by the loud whirr-like “boom” as they pulled up at the bottom of the dive, that we almost forgot about the Barn Owls that had drawn us here in the first place.
As it turned out, we were not disappointed and in the end got to see several flying Barn Owls including two that briefly passed by close enough for some rewarding photos.