Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Keys

Wednesday May 11th

Monday, I made my yearly stop in the Town of Marathon in the Florida Keys looking for the nesting Roseate Terns and the seasonal Antillean Nighthawks. Both of these species arrive in the Keys in the Spring. The Roseate Terns are a primarily pelagic species, but members from the Caribbean population will come ashore for nesting.

Roseate Tern

In Marathon the small number will join with Least Terns to nest atop the Marathon Government Center building. I arrived about 5:30 pm and sited at least six of the Roseate Terns as well as the Least Terns, White-crowned Pigeons and Double-crested Cormorants. Next was a long wait at the nearby Marathon Airport of sundown to await the appearance of a pair of Antillean Nighthawks.
They began calling right at sundown and took flight shortly after. Other species seen during my wait included Gray Kingbirds, more White-crowned Pigeons, a Common Myna and Chimney Swifts.

Prior to reaching Marathon, I made a stop at the tollbooth area on Card Sound Road to look for any Yellow Warblers or Black-whiskered Vireo. But all was quite. Next stop was Carysfort Key Largo. Here were seen a flock of Bobolinks, White-crowned Pigeons and calling Black-whiskered and White-eyed Vireos
Gray Kingbird

Down the road was Dagny Johnson Hammock Biological State Park were I had planned to connect with Mangrove Cuckoos. But OOPS!!. The park is closed for renovations. Seems they're stripping the property of man made structures built prior to acquiring the hammock. 

This gave me more time to stop at Long Key State Park. Earlier in the year the Golden Orb Trail here was active with birders looking for the Zenaida Dove and Key West Quail-Dove. Both extreme rarities. Bob Pelkey and I made a try back in January on the dove but dipped. Neither bird have been reported for some time, but I was very pleasantly surprised to sight a pair of Connecticut Warblers on the trail.  Lifers!!. Florida birders have a very small window as they migrate north and even then counts are low as they are hard to locate.  This year seems folks are have better success. Also seen here were an unidentified thrush, Magnolia Warbler, Prairie Warblers, American Redstarts and lots of Ovenbirds. This would be my best stop of the trip.
Pigeon Plum is a common tree at Long Key State Park.

Tuesday was spent exploring in Dade County. Made stops at Kendall Baptist Hospital area and found a couple of Monk and Yellow-chevroned Parakeets, but no bulbuls, spot-breasted orioles or mitred parakeets. Additional stops at Matheson Hammock Park in Coral Gables and A D Barnes Park  were a total wash-out. Very quite. Last stop was was at the Snapper Creek Canal Cave Swallow site, were several Cave Swallows were observed, but were much too fast for my photography.

Yellow-chevroned Parakeet

South Florida is not just a place to look for wild exotic birds, but also a place to find exotic lizards.
Green Iguanas are found everywhere
At Mathesson Hammock I spotted several exotic lizards sunning themselves. Including Green Iguana, West African Rainbow Agamas, Brown Basilisks and a Puerto Rican Crested Anole. Mexican Spiny-tailed Iguanas were seen at Snapper Creek Canal.

Northern Brown Basilisk
West African Redheaded Agama

West African Redheaded Agama

Puerto Rican Crested Anole


  1. Congrats on the CT Warbler! They have eluded me in migration here in Michigan. Great photography as well, Tom!

    1. Thanks Hemet. Seems I'm getting luckier in my photography. Pelkey has been very helpful. It also helps when the subject will pose for you.

  2. I sure missed making this trip with you, Tom. I think Hemant would have made the tour if he were able.