Sorry I am posting this late in the day but I had Cub Scout duty with the boys after work.
On Monday, 7/10, while searching for the Black-faced Grassquit, Michael Vasi and Rangel Diaz found two Black-backed Western Spindalis (male and female) in the Long Pine Key campground of Everglades National Park. According to Rangel’s account, the two birds remained in close proximity to each other and were silent most, if not all, of the time.
Western Spindalis has been recorded a handful of times in the park; the most famous was in August-September of 2009 when a pair successfully fledged three offspring in the same general area where the two are being seen now. In September 2010, a male Spindalis was seen in the same area (Long Pine Key) but there was no indication of nesting.
I spoke with Rangel and a couple other birders and asked to delay any posting of this sighting (TAS, eBird, Facebook) until I could search the area a bit and look for any signs of nesting. I have looked twice and have not found a nest, have not even seen the birds – however, I have been pressed for time when doing the searches. It is my understanding that other birders have seen and photographed one or two of the Spindalis and have not found a nest either. They have omitted the sighting from their eBird records and I am asking them now to please go back and edit their data to include this observation.
It may turn out the birds do not nest but this is a valuable record for the park regardless. Also, I encourage others to go look for the birds and look for any signs of nesting. The more eyes on the field the better. Keep in mind the 2009 pair nested in August, so there is still hope. I will be in the area tomorrow morning (8:30am or so) looking for the birds – Spindalis, Grassquit, whatever other Caribbean vagrant shows up.
For those who don’t know me, I am a biologist for the park. If a nest is found, please contact me at either my work number: 305-242-7827, or my cell: 305-606-6790 (after 5pm). This would be greatly appreciated. It would be great if Western Spindalis becomes a regular breeder in Everglades NP. That said, please remember to keep a respectable distance from any nest, be it Spindalis or any other bird; we really don’t need to get that close. Also, for those not familiar with the park, the use of audio devices (we use to call them tapes) to play bird calls is strictly forbidden.
Cheers and good luck,
P.S. The male Black-faced Grassquit that Carmen Ferreiro found on 7/9 continues and apparently has built a nest. Let’s hope a mate shows up.