Lower Keys

On the 4 May we headed down the keys for a night in Key West. Our first stop was a brief roadside stop to scan the mudflats recommended in Pranty for waders opposite the camp ground on Ohio Key. Here there were several plover species including a single American Golden Plover, several Wilsons Plovers and a couple of Piping Plovers amongst other waders such as Yellowlegs and Semipalmated Sandpipers.

Prairie Warbler After this brief stop we headed on to Big Pine Key and the Key Deer National Refuge. We had a short walk on Big Pine Key, the first area in Pranty and saw only a very tame Key Deer. However, as we neared the car on the way back an unexpected find was a Long-billed Curlew which flew past us.

After muffins and cola (healthy diet eh!) we headed for Paradise Road on No Name Key to look for Mangrove Cuckoo. We walked the track down to the beach in the roasting heat and saw nothing but Prairie warblers and a brief flyover from a Peregrine Falcon. On our return we found a note on the car windscreen from a Law Enforcement Officer stating that we had committed a secondary misdemeanor as the path was clearly marked as being No Unauthorised Access. We weren't fined and we were only following the instructions in Pranty's Guide and I did think the sign on the gate was a bit misleading.
I presume it was because it was the Deer breeding season. The track may be open at other times of the year. However, I would advise caution if you are planning to visit the area.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak The next stop was Blue Hole, a small pond on Big Pine Key. It was a pretty location but was lacking in bird life during the heat of the day with the exception of the ever present vultures. The final stop of the day was Saddlebunch Key before we hit the motel in Key West. This was an area well known for Mangrove Cuckoo. More like a spot well known for Mossies.
Yes you guessed it not a Mangrove Cuckoo in sight. There were lots of Prairie Warblers, a Golden Warbler (Carribean race of Yellow Warbler), Tennessee Warbler, Indigo Bunting and a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak. That evening we tried for Antillean Nighthawk at the Junior College just outside Key West. No luck here though. I did meet another birder from California called Jim who I arranged to meet on the Dry Tortugas the following day.
Black-whiskered Vireo On May 8 after visiting the Dry Tortugas I got up early before breakfast leaving Sarah to have a lie in and headed for Saddlebunch Key and the Mangrove Cuckoo site. A few migrants were evident such as Grey-cheeked Thrush along with the resident Black-whiskered Vireos and trilling Prairie Warblers and last but certainly not least Mangrove Cuckoo. Only a flight view as one bird crossed the road but a view at least. The cuckoo was actually the other side of the humped back bridge suggested in Prantys guide.
After breakfast we decided to have a look around Key West before heading north back to Florida City. Firstly we visited Fort Zachary Taylor. There were actually a few migrants here including Swainson's Thrush, Cape May Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Black and White Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush and Common Yellowthroat. Most of these were in a large fruiting tree just outside the toilet block.
Common Yellowthroat We drove back along the south coast of Key West stopping off at the old pier near West Martello Tower and saw several species of tern including Sandwich and Gull-billed. We completely missed Thomas Riggs Wildlife Refuge as no signs were evident and the road from the A1A to Little Hamaka Park appears to have taken over by the airport, although the park can be reached from Flagler Avenue.

The only stops we made on the way back up the keys were at the wader site on Ohio Key and we has a couple of walks on Big Pine Key and at the Key Largo State Botanical Site. There were no exciting finds at any of these sites which were quieter than on previous visits.

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