Friday, 19 February 2016

Everglades outing

I got up pretty early this morning and headed back up north for an hour or so to The Everglades National Park (accessed west at Homestead). Loads has been written and documented about this 'wilderness area', so I was quite keen to give it a go. Just after dawn, I spent an hour or so seeking out Cape Sable Seaside Sparrows - I knew I was early and with a lack of Ebird reports, it wasn't surprising that my quest failed. Pileated Woodpecker and a few Savannah Sparrows were of some consolation. Continuing to bird the area around Mahogany Hammock, by the road junction I lucked out on a rather dull looking Magnolia Warbler alongside White-eyed Vireo and Pine Warbler. Mahogany Hammock itself was pretty pants, bar a Great Crested Flycatcher, though the car park had a really showy Prairie Warbler and a Black-and-white Warbler (along with the usual Palm and Myrtle Warblers).

Prairie Warbler Everglades NP, Florida 18th Feb 2016
This 'wilderness area' of The Everglades is great if you like Great White Egrets, Turkey and Black Vultures. Or so that is what I decided. Pretty underwhelming in the main part if I'm honest, and this view was reinforced by a visit to the Anhinga Trail and Gumbo Limbo Trail; offensively loud tourists and guides meant that most the wildlife had scarpered pretty quickly. I scanned for a while looking for Short-tailed Hawk among the vultures, but this didn't come. On the ground, it was Palm Warblers galore supplemented by a Black-and-white Warbler and an Alligator (plus loads of aforementioned loud yanks).
Palm Warbler Everglades NP, Florida 18th Feb 2016
So I sought peace and tranquility by leaving (!) the national park, heading back towards Homestead and visiting Frog Pond/Lucky Hammock. This area of of arable fields and fencelines next to the water treatment works was decent in the midday heat - a fair number of Cave Swallows zipping by among the more common Tree Swallows, while a Western Kingbird showed well and so did a handful of quality Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and an American Kestrel.
Western Kingbird Homestead, Florida 18th Feb 2016
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Homestead, Florida 18th Feb 2016
Just east of here, I stopped the car as there were tons of raptors kettling above the road and careful scanning through produced what I'd been after, a nice dark morph Short-tailed Hawk. There were also a couple of Broad-winged Hawks in the mix too; all set against a cloudless sky. Birding in the afternoon back on Tavernier and Key Largo was poor. In the grounds of our cabin was a Little Blue Heron and a nice Osprey nest. John Pennekamp State Park was very slow - Laughing Gulls, White Ibises and that sort of thing. And that was it for another day.

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