Tuesday, May 30, 2017

South Florida, 5/14-22/17

Hoping to find some of the recently reported rarities, Honey and I made a last second trip to South Florida during her two week vacation.  On our second night on the road, I saw on the ABA Facebook page that a possible  Bahama Woodstar had been reported at a little refuge south of Melbourne on the Atlantic side. The photo sure looked like a woodstar.  As we drove south from Jacksonville, I read the bird had been seen during the morning so we thought we would make a try for it.  We had a little trouble finding the Maritime Hammock Sanctuary on A1A but we finally arrived only to find out the bird had just been seen a half hour earlier.  The somewhat unfriendly group of Florida birders were busy telling their boring birding tales and not paying much attention to the big strangler fig where the bird had been seen several times.  I was the first to refind the bird but no one else saw it and I think they doubted this Texas birder knew what he was talking about.  So after a few minutes I refound it again and this time they believed.  My long time butterfly friends, Mark and Holly Salvato arrived a few minutes after I got there and I was happy to show the Bahama Woodstar to them also.  A few days later they repaid me with some excellent butterflies on Key Largo.  It had been more than 35 years since the last Florida sighting of Bahama Woodstar.  It was my 20th ABA area hummer.

After overnighting in Fort Pierce, we headed west into the center of the state to look for Florida Scrub Jay.  I had done a little research and found people were seeing them at the Archbold Biological Station.  the friendly fellow in the interpretive center pointed us in the right direction and withing a few minutes I ws looking at my first ever Florida Scrub Jays.  This species is dependent on scrubby dry vegetation that is managed with periodic prescribed burns.

From there we drove south with Limpkin and Snail Kites as out targets.  It took a while driving through the abnormally dry marshy vegetation but eventually I saw a distant pair of Limpkins and a little later I got a close up.

We checked several sites where Snail Kites had been reported on Alligator Alley to no avail.  But I was happy to see my first Peacock Bass.  This large cichlid from South America was intentionally released for the Florida sport fishing industry.  Now they've infested all of the south to the detriment of native fishes.

We spent the next couple of nights in the Art Deco district of South Beach with the beautiful people and freaks.  A run down to Key Biscayne netted me my first Gray Kingbirds.  Unfortunately I missed out on the Bahama rarities that had been reported several weeks earlier.  A half second view of a striped head was most likely a Western Spindalis but not a tickable view. 

I enjoyed the spiny-tailed iguanas at Bill Baggs State Park.

We bid farewell to Miami and headed for the Everglades.  I was a bit disappointed.  It was not the "sea of grass" I had envisioned.  Drought and too many people using water have made it a shell of its former self.  But on the road to Mahogany Hammock I managed to see three Snail Kites.

Later at Flamingo Point I found a flock of cowbirds and remembered this was a traditional site for Shiny Cowbird.  A little perusing of the 40 or so Brown-headed Cowbirds sure enough turned up a pair of Shiny Cowbirds.

And I also got poor looks at my first White-crowned Pigeons.

Now with Homestead as our base, I was scheduled to meet Mark and Holly Salvato and Linda Cooper for a day of butterfly censusing at the Key Largo State Botanical site.  A Mangrove Cuckoo seemed unconcerned with our presence.  I was happy to knock this one off so easily.

"Ver-ee-ee  ver-ee-oh"  calling nearby alerted me to a Black-whiskered Vireo.  I had seen one years ago on South Padre Island but was happy to see one on its native turf.

The star of the day was this endangered Schau's Swallowtail.

The next day we decided to make out run out to Key West.  Mark gave me excellent directions to the nesting Roseate Terns in Marathon.

Forty or more White-crowned Pigeons flew overhead as I watched the Roseate Terns.

After a nice big bowl of jambalaya at the Margaritaville Cafe in Key West we decided it was time to head for home.  It took a day to drive up the Florida Turnpike to Pensacola.  One more target in Florida.  A lost Red-billed Tropicbird had been frequenting Shoreline Park near Gulf Breeze for the past few weeks.  I have seen a few through the years but I could not pass this one by.

I got nine ABA lifers and four real lifers so it was a pretty good trip.