Pulling into the Scrub Ridge Trail at 10:50 AM, my only goal was to finally find the Florida scrub-jay. I had played recordings of their rough, scratchy calls the night before and brought them back into mind as I parked. Then I grabbed my camera and headed to the south loop trail to search for the jays.
After just shy of half a mile, I heard a call I recognized. Slowly working my way through the mangrove knees, trying to keep silent and not slip in the slick muck, I found my way into an opening where I could clearly see the calling bird. Clinging to the top of a scraggly bush on the other side of a shallow, brackish lagoon, an eastern meadowlark (Sturnella magna) sang his heart out.
A few years ago, when I was just starting to get serious about birding, I devised a plan for the Monday after my 24th birthday. The weather in central Florida was forecasted to be partly cloudy, with a high of 80 Fahrenheit and a low of 70, so I knew I wanted to be outside. I pulled out my laptop and logged onto eBird.org.