After a pleasant drive down from Miami, we stopped for an
afternoon stroll through the beautiful Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical
Gardens. I have been there twice before and I remember it being quite an active
birding spot with Black-whiskered Vireos, Swainson’s Warblers and more
passerine species. The weather was slightly warm and muggy with patchy clouds.
Initially it was very quiet with nothing much moving or calling. I decided to
explore the furthest reaches of the back trails which were overgrown with
exposed roots, grass and other vegetation wearing shorts and sandals.
I ventured off the trail several times in pursuit of birds
that were chipping out-of-sight.Gradually the bird activity picked up and I was
able to see and/or photograph 23 different species. The first birds were at the
big pond at the entrance with an Anhinga, some Common Gallinules and a pair of
Green Herons. One of which flew across the pond and literally crashed-landed on
the other side.
Pretty soon I was able to see a Gray Catbird, Black-and-white Warblers, Northern Parulas, a Magnolia Warbler, multiple Palm Warblers, a Prairie Warbler and two Black-throated Green Warblers.
On the way out we got good looks at the Anhinga again, as well as a Great Egret and some Common Ground-Doves.
As the park was about to close, I looked up and saw a bird I have never seen before (referred to as a “Lifer”). Soaring slowly across the sky was a SHORT-TAILED HAWK. I snapped as many photos as I could and quickly texted Maria to look up. I caught up to her and made her look at it with my binocs!
Now, the title of this post includes a reference to Chiggers. Apparently as I was traipsing through the vegetation, I was also collecting some microscopic Chigger larvae which all decided my legs and feet would make a great home. It made the next couple of days much more memorable, to say the least.
1/09/19 So, we were in Orlando, as a family, with plans to take our son to play the new Kingdom Hearts III Demo at Disney Springs and had a little time to kill before they opened. So of course I took the opportunity to try and see if I could espy one of my target trip life birds; Snail Kite. According to eBird, there was a county park (Brinson Park) at the northeast corner of Lake Tohopekaliga that seemed to show regular sightings of it. So I plugged the coordinates into my Apple Play and off we ran. As we reached the park, it became obvious that this was not going to work today as it was closed due to construction. I was a bit angry as this was my only chance to look for one on this trip. But since I still had time to kill, I decided to see if there was some spot to pull over and scan the lake. I noticed a sign for Brownie Wise Park and decided to give it a shot. I did not see it listed on ebird so I was skeptical that it would be any good.
WOW, WAS I EVER WRONG! As we were entering the park area we
saw an adult Bald Eagle off to the side.
I parked in the parking lot and walked a short distance to a
platform and after 30 seconds of scanned, spotted a SNAIL KITE about 300 yards
out, sitting in some vegetation.
It was too far away to get the kind of photo I wanted, but
since it was a LIFER I was pretty excited. I waiting 20 minutes hoping it might
fly in closer, but it never did. I could see two other quite distant Snail
Kites across the lake. We left and headed in to Disney Springs where my son had
a blast playing his video game demo
After lunch we decided to head back down to Brownie Wise
Park to see if we could get better looks at the kite. It wasn’t there at first,
but shortly flew in and then lander. This time much closer!
I spent the next hour wandering around the wetlands and
inlets taking photos of Sandhill Cranes, Palm Warblers, Fish Crows and the Bald
Eagle we had seen earlier in the day.
Today (January 10th, 2019) we were heading back down to Pembroke Pines and it would be our last opportunity for birding. One of my promises to Maria during our Texas vacation last year, was that we would see Roseate Spoonbills. When she and I had first visited Texas back in the late 90s, seeing Roseate Spoonbills was one of the most awesome encounters of the entire trip. Unfortunately, we struck out in TX. I was very hopeful that they would be present along the Black Point Wildlife Drive at Merritt Island NWR as they had been reported pretty much every day the past week.
As we turned on to the road, off to the side was a nice
Tricolored Heron working its way slowly along the side of the road.
As luck would have it, barely a couple of minutes along the
road was a single Roseate Spoonbill. I yelled out to Maria, “PINK BIRD
ALERT, PINK BIRD!” We all jumped out of the car (me forgetting to put the
car in park…) and got decent looks at one that wasn’t too far away, but it
was directly into the sun.
I am always looking for yet better images of birds that I
already have an image of, but I am especailly looking for “Life
Photograph” birds. Those birds that I have seen, but never photographed.
The next target was a bird that I had fair photos of, but nothing I would feel
comfortable sharing with anyone other than my mother. REDDISH EGRET. This bird
was in perfect morning light, with the sun at my back this time, not in my
The next bird on the road was actually one of those
“Lifer photo” birds, a WOOD STORK. We watched it walk along the
channel and then fly across the small pond.
Then we hit the jackpot. I knew something was happening
ahead because there were a dozen cars stopped and some folks with really big
lenses pointing to some birds right along the side of the road. The next
several images can say more than my words ever could.