Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Florida Everglades 2014 - Day 8 - Our Last Day

We spent today on the Keys.  We packed up the car and headed down to the Southernmost point in mainland US.  Here's Jan and Bob.

In the tree next to where we parked our car was this way cool iguana!
If you are like us, and you are not into the partying scene of Key West, then get away and head to the Fort Zachary Taylor State Park at the southwest end of the island.
This is a great park with trails through the hardwood hammock

as well as a nice beach.

As I was snapping this photo of Dave, a dolphin photo bombed him!

Not much was happening at the park, so we headed over to the Key West Botanical Gardens. This place is awesome!  Lots of beautiful flora and unusual fauna! Like this red flower.  What is it?
This way cool bee hive in a broken tree trunk.

And, this tree.  I think it is called a Tourist Tree - because it is red and peeling.

On our way back up the Keys, we stopped on Long Pine Key and found little Key Deer walking along the road.

Next stop was Bahia Honda State Park for lunch and then Pennekamp again.  But, we didn't pick up any new birds. Our trip to Florida is over.  We saw a total of 134 bird species.  Not bad for 8 days!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Florida Everglades 2014 - Day 7

I love my husband.  The birder.  He is intelligent, funny, handsome, but sometimes, he dresses funny...
Know what I mean?!  LMAO

We left Bob and Jan's campground in the early dawn light and headed down the Keys today.  First stop was Pennekamp State Park.

First thing we saw when we got to the beach was this immature Frigatebird!  Way cool.
But, the weather was not great, and there were no other new birds at the park.  Since we were in the area, we called our friend, Susan, and dropped in at her office to say hi.  We hadn't seen her in about 3 years, so it was good to catch up. She is doing great!  She also gave us info on where to find rarities on the Keys!
Not 1 mile down the road from Susan's office we spotted this White-crowned Pigeon sitting on a wire.  Score!
If you are a key lime pie lover, then you should know that key limes only grow in the Florida Keys.  Well, you probably already know that.  So, we stopped in at Mangrove Mama's for some authentic key lime pie and some key lime margaritas.  The waitress informed Dave that he lost his man-card when he ordered a pina colada.

We decided to just head straight down to Key West so that we could find a parking place before the place filled up.  We arrived at our B&B at about 3pm

It's a nice place with a fabulous pool and patio area out back.

We walked to downtown Key West, and birded our way along the boardwalk.  Here's Bob checking out this guy preaching his own form of spirituality next to a flame thrower on a unicycle.  You see all kinds in Key West! We wanted to see sunset, but there is an island just West of Key West, so sunset gets hidden behind it.  Sort of a disappointment for me.

So, after sunset were then quite happy to make our way back to our hotel and away from the crowds.  Picked up 2 new birds today.

Florida Everglades 2014 - Day 6

I believe there are about 15 parrot species in the Miami area that we have the opportunity to find.  So, today, we went back to Miami Springs to try and get more parrots.  The weather was not cooperating this morning, and we began our parrot search in light rain.

We whiffed on parrots.  Not a sound to be heard.  So, we decided to head over to Key Biscayne and see if we could find any shorebirds.  First stop was Crandon Park, where we walked out onto the beach.

We picked up some good shorebirds, including: Sanderlings, Piping Plovers

and Wilson's Plover.

It was pretty chilly on the beach, so we took a stroll through the gardens in the park.  Egyptian Geese are everywhere.

We were really surprised to see this Sandhill Crane!

The Crandon Gardens are in an area that used to be a zoo.  But, the zoo was demolished when a hurricane came through and many of the animals were released.  Now the area is just ponds,

and trails.  There are several peacocks on the grounds

and we saw a Wild Turkey!  How weird is that?!

We did pick up this little Florida Prairie Warbler.

I did almost wet myself when I came around a bend in the path and almost walked up on these two guys!  Freaked me out!

It wasn't until Bobert joined me and looked at them that I learned that they were fake!  OMG!

After lunch at a nice Italian place in town, we headed down to Bill Baggs State Park at the south end of the Key.

You can tell from this photo just how cloudy/rainy/windy it was!

This park includes 7 houses that you can rent that are located offshore on stilts!  Now that would be cool!

It started raining pretty hard, so we decided to use our time wisely and drive down to Homestead to the Biscayne National Park and pick up a stamp for my National Parks Passport.

The weather was awful.  Pouring rain, gale force winds, and obviously, no birds.  One of the Rangers in the visitor's center told us that if we walked 3/4 of a mile down the canal by the driveway that we had a pretty good chance of seeing some manatees.  So, off we went.  Half way down, I was soaked and chilled to the core and told Dave that I'd had enough.  I should know better.  Because, every time I do that, he says, "Ok, stay put, and I'll just go check over here."  Wouldn't you know, not 2 minutes later, he was waving his arms to get us to come to where he was.  There in the water, were 4 manatees! Unbelievable!

So, even though the weather was really crappy, and the traffic in Miami is unbearable, we did manage to add some new birds to our list.  We are now at 127 birds for the trip.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Florida Everglades 2014 - Day 5

This morning’s goal was to get as many parrots as we could.  We picked Bob and Jan up at 7am so that we could get to the parrot roost trees before they took off for the day. So far, we’ve seen Scarlet-fronted, Red-masked, Crimson-fronted, Mitred, Yellow-chevroned, White-winged, Nanday, Green and Monk Parakeets.


The local Audubon group had posted that some Red-whiskered Bulbuls had been spotted around the corner from the tree where we’d seen the parrots.  So, we split up and set off searching every power line in the neighborhood.  Now, those of you who know me, also know that I am blind as a bat, and that my bird ID skills are mediocre at best.  Well, I saw a silhouette on a line that looked like a Blue Jay, but smaller, and put my binocs up and it was the Bulbul!  So, I immediately grabbed my camera and took this photo.
Then, I grabbed my phone practically hysterical; because I was afraid the bird would leave before anyone else could see it and confirm my ID.  So, I texted Jan, “O gpt it,!!!”  Yep, that’s what I typed – and then I dropped my phone – thank God I had just put it in an Otter Box.  As Katlyn would say, I was freaking out!  Dave’s nemesis bird was here and no one else was here to see it!  I grabbed the fallen phone and quickly called Dave and said, “I found it!  Get over here quick!” and I tried to tell him where I was, but it was probably manic garbledy gook.  By the time they arrived, the bird was gone, of course.  But, Dave heard them a block away, and we raced over and he snapped this photo. What a score!!! No more nemesis bird!

Our next destination was the Shark Valley at the northern edge of the Evergladees for Snail Kite.  On the way, Dave heard parrots and we zipped into a parking lot, and as we jumped out of the car he also heard a myna.  We looked around and there was a Common Myna walking toward us in the parking lot!

I don’t think I’ve mentioned that it has been cold here in Florida this week.  Not as cold as at home where the pipes in our house froze when the temperatures in southern Indiana dropped below 0F.  But, it’s still cold for Florida.  It has also been raining off and on and today, I had to wear my leggings under my pants and 4 shirts.  About a mile past the entrance to Shark Valley,

Dave yelled, “Jump out and look to your right!”  We fell out of the car and there flying over our heads was a male Snail Kite – unbelievable!  What a day!  First the bulbul and now the kite!  We’re kicking butt and taking names!

Since we were on the north side of Miami, we decided to try our hand at getting Purple Swamphens.  Outside the library at Pembroke Pines we found this Mottled Duck

and another Limpkin.

We then headed up the street to the Chapel Trail Nature Preserve

to look for Purple Swamphens.  The wind had picked up and it was unbelievably cold.  With rain falling, we started down the boardwalk.  This is a great nature preserve and a really nice boardwalk.  I would love to come back on a nicer day.  Dave found this Swamphen on the left side of the boardwalk, and then we found 3 others.

It was really fun to watch the Swamphens flatten down the plants they were walking on and then feed on young shoots they pulled up.  

This was a stellar day of birding.  We are now at 120 bird species for our trip!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Florida Everglades 2014 - Day 4

Today was our big day in the Florida Everglades!

We got to the park just as the sun was peaking up over the horizon.  Dawn in the Everglades arrives with a serene glow of light over fog covered fields.  It was a beautifully peaceful moment.
On our way to our first stop at Long Pine Key, we heard this Eastern Meadowlark singing and when I previewed the photo I took, I saw these way cool spider webs with morning dew sparkling all around them.  What a beautiful shot.

In Alaska we see many signs advising drivers to watch out for bison or moose, and even caribou on the road.  But, I have never seen this before!

Florida panthers are really mountain lions.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see any panthers/mountain lions today.  Although, I was looking!  At Anhinga Trail we came across this nest of young Anhinga’s.  Aren’t they adorable!  All fuzzy and cute – maybe a few weeks old.

The Anhinga trail boardwalk was teaming with life. 

We saw several Anhingas, Green Herons

and Double-crested Cormorants. 

Check out the eye… Dave says that if he could design his own dragon, he’d make the eye just like a cormorant. What a Hobbit nerd!

We got really good looks at a Purple Gallinule

and Tri-colored Herons.

We even saw another nest of even younger Anhinga’s begging for food.

We saw at least three alligators either sunning themselves or swimming in the water.

We left Anhinga Trail and went down to Flamingo and ate lunch outside the campground.
Then birded the beach area and saw this immature Yellow-crowned Night-heron.

I also caught a glimpse of this beautiful White Peacock butterfly.

After lunch we hit a couple of the birding spots Dave took the kids to about 15 years ago, like Eco Pond.  But, there was nothing there.  We spent some time at Flamingo and I got my National Parks Passport stamp.    We saw this Osprey nest, which is the closest I've ever been to one of these birds.

But, by far the best thing about being at Flamingo was seeing these two American Crocodiles.

We stopped along the Everglades road to pish for Seaside Sparrows, but didn’t get anything.
It was pretty hot at Flamingo, and we eagerly sought out some shade so we could scan the sand bar just off shore.  The bench was perfectly placed for watching the birds and Dave was in heaven.  Unfortunately, the bench was just a little too high for Jan and Bob’s feet to touch the ground.

We stopped by the infamous Snake Bight Trail where Dave took the kids and I don’t think any of the kids have fond memories of that visit – but Dave does.  The mosquitoes ate them up!
On the way out, we stopped by the visitors center and were told that a White-tailed Kite had been seen down the road.  So, we jumped in the car and headed that way.  After scanning the treetops for a while we saw the bird perched way off in the distance.  See?  Doesn’t this look like the bird?  LOL!    It’s fuzzy, but it was the bird.

By the time we got back to town we were all starving.  So, we stopoped for a great steak dinner and crashed.  110 species so far.