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Fall migration in 2011 will be remembered by south Florida birders not only for the impressive variety of rarities found during the season, but for the spectacular fallout that occurred in mid-October. A stalled weather system in the Keys brought southbound migration to a standstill; for the next few days, grounded songbirds were everywhere, especially at migrant traps like Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne. Birders willing to tolerate the rain showers were treated to an amazing assemblage of migrant cuckoos, flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, warblers, tanagers, buntings and grosbeaks. Bay-breasted Warblers, not often seen in great numbers in Florida, were especially abundant, as were Yellow-billed Cuckoos. Later in the week, a Bananaquit was found near Cape Florida's lighthouse. Capping the memorable week was the discovery of a Kirtland's Warbler at Richardson Park in Broward County and a Masked Duck at the Key West Botanical Garden in Monroe County. The following week, a Cuban Bullfinch was spotted in a South Miami backyard and continued for several weeks; the provenance of this bird remains unknown.
Ten species of vireos are listed on Florida's bird checklist; all ten were found in south Florida this fall. The most unexpected was a Yellow-green Vireo that was discovered during early October at Matheson Hammock Park. A Thick-billed Vireo was seen at the park in early August; another was photographed at Greynolds Park in late October. A Warbling Vireo was at Arch Creek Park in early September, while Bell's and Philadelphia Vireos were spotted at a number of locations. Several rare flycatchers were tallied during the season, including a Fork-tailed Flycatcher that was discovered by a fifth grade teacher and her class while visiting Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Palm Beach County. A Cassin's Kingbird returned for the fourth consecutive year to Stormwater Treatment Area 5 in Hendry County. The agricultural area just outside the main entrance to Everglades National Park was especially productive for vagrant flycatchers. A Tropical/Couch's Kingbird was seen in this area in mid-October but never vocalized, preventing identification to species. Two Vermilion Flycatchers were found along the C111 Canal in early November and an Ash-throated Flycatcher was spotted nearby at the end of the month. Also by late November, Brown-crested Flycatchers were appearing around the Royal Palm area within the national park, where they are annual during winter. Western Tanagers appeared at several locations this fall, including at A.D. Barnes Park and at Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West.
During August and into September, impressive numbers of Wilson's Phalaropes descended upon a flooded field on CR 880 in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee; two Red-necked Phalaropes were found among them. Several Buff-breasted Sandpipers were among Upland Sandpipers at a nearby sod farm. In mid-August, American Oystercatchers, unusual in southeast Florida, were spotted on Miami Beach. A Marbled Godwit was unexpected along the Rickenbacker Causeway in late November. American Golden Plover and Long-billed Curlew were among the many shorebirds seen during the season at Bunche Beach in Lee County. An American Flamingo was found there in October; up to twenty were counted in Florida Bay during November. Unusual waterfowl this fall included a Greater White-fronted Goose in Homestead and a teal at Green Cay Wetlands in Palm Beach County that was likely a Cinnamon x Blue-winged hybrid.
Farther afield, a pasture in the Lake Apopka area near Orlando hosted a Say's Phoebe this fall for the fifth consecutive year. Among the many ducks at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Brevard County were up to four Eurasian Wigeon, plus both Surf and White-winged Scoter. An impressive list of western vagrants were found in Florida's panhandle during the season, including Golden Eagle, White-faced Ibis, Hudsonian Godwit, Broad-billed, Broad-tailed and Calliope Hummingbirds, Sage Thrasher, Varied Thrush, Bullock's Oriole and the state's first Inca Dove!
TAS Field Trip Coordinator