Southern Florida
6-13 October 2008
 by Henry Detwiler

A great week of birding around Naples, the Everglades, Miami, and the Keys.  Awesome insects & reptiles, too!

124 species seen   Click here for bird checklist.
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos. border  

I was most fortunate to spend a week in southern Florida just as the fall migration was starting to wind down. A gorgeous sunset off the Naples beach, highlighted by Royal Terns, Laughing Gull, and Brown Pelicans.

cuban tree frog
Cuban Tree Frog

naples sunset
Brown Pelicans at Naples

The humidity brought out the insects and other critters of the night. On my motel balcony that night there were numerous Cuban tree frogs.

yellow-throated warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler

yellow-throated warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler

The first bird on Tuesday morning was this stunning Yellow-throated Warbler fighting its reflection in my rear-view mirror. Soon after, I had the boardwalk at the Audubon Corkscrew Sanctuary almost to myself, but a male Painted Bunting, waterthrushes, a Pileated Woodpecker, a Racoon, and an alligator provided me with good company.

pileated woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker

The drive over to southern Miami through the Everglades turned up Wood Stork and many other waders. Mid-afternoon found me at Castellow Hammock Park, where Brian Rapoza showed me a Cape May Warbler. Other warblers that we picked up there were Black-throated Blue warbler, Northern Parula, American Redstart, Ovenbird, and Tennessee Warbler.

banana spider
Banana Spider

northern parula
Northern Parula

Early Wednesday I made my way to the Kendall neighborhood, across from the Baptist Hospital, and soon had five Red-whiskered Bulbuls under my belt--my first of two lifers for the trip. A short trip over to Indian Hammock added this beautiful Golden-winged Warbler, shown to me by a lady birder named Veronica. Then it was down to Lucky Hammock, where I saw lots of mosquitoes and cool spiders, but few birds aside from Palm Warblers.

La Sagra's Flycatcher
La Sagra's Flycatcher

So I headed south to the Keys. At Key Largo I hiked to the end of the road in the Pennekamp Botanical Gardens. Despite the noon hour, the birds were active and vocal, providing excellent looks at Yellow-throated Vireo, American Redstart, Swainson's Thrush, and Yellow-throated Warbler. The afternoon was hot and humid, and stops in several other parks yielded no new birds until I reached No Name Key. Pishing at the end of the road here lured in a number of Prairie Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and a La Sagra's Flycatcher! I thought at first it was an Ash-throated Flycatcher, but it seemed far too pale. So I sent photos to Brian, who in turn had Larry Miller review the photos and verify it.

While my main focus was birds, there was a profusion of tropical plants, butterflies, dragonflies, and other non-avian critters to look at. Some of the other highlights were Black Racer, Green Anole, Key's Deer, and Green Iguana.

black racer
Florida Race

green anole
Green Anole

On Thursday I toured the key West Botanical Gardens, which had a great variety of warblers and other passerines--the best of which was an Acadian Flycatcher. Many beautiful butterflies and dragonflies complemented the birds well.

The afternoon was largely devoted to tourist activities, but along one of the beaches were some nice shorebirds: Semipalmated Sandpiper, Willet, Ruddy Turnstone, and Wilson's Plover.

black-throated blue warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler

ruddy turnstone
Ruddy Turnstone

On Friday morning I got a Yellow-crowned Night Heron along one of the mangrove beaches. Fort Zachary State Park was nice for snorkeling, and on the way back to Miami I visited some beautiful beaches, but no new birds.

Saturday morning I headed deep into the Everglades. At Royal Hammock the Black Vultures welcomed all comers with outstretched arms (wings). The Gumbo Limbo trail was eerily quiet, and the Anhinga Trail was warm, humid, and alive with mosquitoes. At Mahogany Hammock was a small warbler flock.

black vulture
Black Vulture

Laughing Gull

That afternoon I made it to San Marcos Island. As the sun set, I saw my first Roseate Spoonbill for the trip.

At Flamingo I found my first crocodile for the U.S.--it turned out to be an old toothless female named "Gummy". This odd looking owl was watching the many Laughing Gulls sharing the pier--no doubt another vagrant from Cuba or Bahamas. About the only passerines around were Palm and Prairie Warblers.

prairie warbler
Prairie Warbler

Banded Argiop

The final morning was spent in the piney woods. At Hickey's Creek Mitigation Park I enjoyed my first Pine Warblers and Florida Scrub Jays for the trip. A fly-by Red-headed Woodpecker was the sole member of this species for the trip. I struck out on the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers at Babcock Wildlife Management Area this time, but a small flock of Sandhill Cranes was a nice consolation prize. The spider on the left was another resident of the pine woods.

The afternoon was spent on Sannibel Island, with a productive drive through Ding Darling NWR. On a sandbar was a flock of Reddish, Great, and Snowy Egrets and Great & Little Blue Herons, Roseate Spoonbills, and Wood Storks. By week's end I'd tallied 124 species, 18 of which were warblers. A great trip with lots of birds, butterflies, gators, and beautiful sunsets!

sannibel waders
Roseate Spoonbills & other waders

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