TAVARES — After a yearlong challenge that took Gallus Quigley from as far north as the Lake George boat ramp in Astor to as far south at the Hilochee Wildlife Management Area, the Parks & Trails Coordinator can now undisputedly claim his title as Lake County’s top birder.
In 2015, Quigley met his “big year” goal, counting 220 birds countywide by September, but he didn’t stop there. He finished out the year with 243 species, entering 1,000 bird checklists into his eBird app and winning a friendly competition with an avid birder in Osceola County.
“I went to hundreds of different locations across the county and many places I’ve never been before,” said Quigley, who last year was featured as a Wings & Wildflowers Festival keynote speaker. “Lake Apopka is one of the best locations and Ferndale Preserve turned up its usual great birds. However, one of the most surprising was Flat Island Preserve. Every time I went the place was full of birds.”
Quigley discovered two notable surprises during his Big Year: the Brown Booby, a pelagic bird that normally spends its life on the ocean, and the Lesser Nighthawk, which is almost never documented anywhere in Florida besides The Everglades.
While Quigley is personally passionate about birding, he also notes the benefit his endeavor provided to Lake County tourism as a whole.
“It shows we are an ecotourism destination and we have a great diversity of bird life here,” said Quigley. “The possibility of rarities showing up in Lake County that people would only expect to see at better known birding locations helps Lake County to build a reputation as a quality place to spend time bird watching.”
This year, Quigley is hosting nearly 30 free birding events for Lake County Parks & Trails. To learn more, call 352-253-4950, email email@example.com or visit www.lakecountyfl.gov/parks.
For more details about Quigley’s birding in Lake County, visit lakecountybigyear.wordpress.com