Saturday, May 16, 2009

Florida Birding Trip Day 7: Key West in the search for a pigeon. (Lifers are bolded)

For the first time since we were on vacation it rained. Luckily it was during the over night hours and we woke up again with nice warm air. During the whole trip we have been getting up around the 6:00 am hour, because by 2:00pm, it gets quite hot outside, and we have used that part of the day to drive to our next destination.

Today though, we were only going down to Key West and then back to the Sandpiper Motel, so we figured we would stay out for the majority of the day. I forgot to wear sunscreen that morning...more on this later.

Our first stop was a reliable place for Mangrove Cuckoo. Armed with my tape recorder I went in but to no avail. We did see some interesting species though including a male Summer Tanager, and KEY DEER, a subspecies of our White-tailed Deer that is only the size of a Great Dane.

Arriving at Key West, we fueled up and I saw them...The chickens...For some reason, many chickens have made Key West their home. It was just so weird to see a mother hen and her 9 chicks right behind her, wandering around a gas station. Apparently, these chickens have been established in Key West for quite sometime, so why aren't THEY ABA countable, while domestic Muscovy are? I'll let you ponder that one.

Key West, even at 9:30 am was flooded with people. One of the first spots we stopped at was a cemetery where my friend, Bob Cermak, said was reliable for White-crowned Pigeon. This was a species I really wanted to see. Wandering around the cemetery I did pick up a few Grey Kingbirds, a Western Kingbird, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and I saw another Frigatebird fly over. No sign of any pigeons.

Fort Zachary State Park, was our next stop, and we got out and wandered around the old fort in search of White-crowned Pigeon, and maybe even a mega rarity that was spotted only two days before, the Loggerhead Kingbird. Though no Loggerhead, I did managed to pick up a surprising lifer, 2 SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER. Some Scissor-tails over winter in Florida, and I was surprised to see a pair here in mid April. We also had a great view of a male Blue Grosbeak, my first ever male.

While walking into the surf to cool off our feet, as it was becoming quite hot now, I felt my shoulder burning up. Looking at it I noticed I was getting a sunburn bad!! By this time is was into the afternoon so we decided to eat our lunch, and search for more White-crowned Pigeon, while slowly making our way back to the Sandpiper Motel.

As you can imagine, looking for a White-crowned Pigeon, among the Eurasian Collared Doves, and Rock Pigeons, can almost drive you nuts! We searched everywhere for the White-crowns, and even accidentally stumbled across an area that had a sign with a picture of a White-crowned Pigeon, stating that we were in their breeding grounds. I didn't see no Pigeon!

Going back towards the Motel, I did pick up a nice resident of the Florida Keys, the GREAT WHITE HERON. This white version of the Great Blue isn't ABA countable, but there are some respectful ornithologists who think that some day it will. I might just get another free bee lifer like with Cackling Goose!

When we finally got back to the motel I rubbed aloe on my pretty much second degree burn on my shoulders, and sat on the deck with the laptop. Looking out across the road watching the Eurasian Collared Doves on the wire I noticed a starling perched further back that flew...with white wing patches?!?! Grabbing the binoculars I got a look at a COMMON MYNA, and then two more. Still with the laptop I went on ABAs website, which stated that as of last November, the Common Myna is ABA countable. Neat!!

In the evening we did one last bit of birding. We checked out the government building rooftop for nesting terns, including Roseate Tern. There were no terns. Maybe we were there too early in the year? We then checked out the Marathon airport for Antillean Nighthawk. For this species, we figured we were definitely too early, but we did see a new speices of lizard for the trip, a MEDITERRANEAN GECKO. This species, like the Brown Anole, is introduced to Florida.

Tomorrow, we were going to have a change of pace, kayaking off the waters in Islamorada, which is a 40 minute drive north of Marathon. Not necessarily White-crowned Pigeon territory, but Aaron wanted to do some paddling, and quite frankly, so did I.

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