South Florida & The Keys Apr 19—25, 2018
Posted by Rafael Galvez
We had barely stepped out of the van during our first stop birding together, and the trees in the parking lot at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West had dozens of warblers of several species darting in and out. Right away we saw many Cape Mays, Tennessees, and Black-and-whites in a single tree. That same Seagrape (Coccoloba uvifera—a native coastal hardwood that is typically in bloom in April) had American Redstarts, Northern Parulas, Indigo Buntings, and a fleeting Yellow-billed Cuckoo.
The stand of native hardwoods just a few yards across the lot was made up primarily of Gumbo Limbos (Bursera simaruba), Jamaica Dogwoods (Piscidia piscipula), and Strangler Figs (Ficus aurea), and it was abuzz with activity. We were delighted to find a Prothonotary Warbler up in the canopy, but soon three more were evident nearby! You did not have to move your feet to find Yellow Warblers nearby, and it was such a treat to encounter a Chestnut-sided also.
However, we were most fortunate to find there as well one of our primary targets for the tour, a Black-whiskered Vireo. This Caribbean bird is at the northernmost of its range in south Florida and returns during mid-April to start settling in breeding territories. Sometimes they can be challenging this early in the season. We were admiring this wonderful specialty, when a flock of half a dozen White-crowned Pigeons flew in and briefly perched atop the hammock. This stunning wood pigeon is a fruit-eater that spends much time hidden within the canopy. It is heavily hunted in its wintering territories of Cuba and the Bahamas, therefore typically quite a wary bird. We would not have to spend hours chasing these species; instead, they came to greet our group during our first hour afield.
Read Rafael’s full report in his Field Report.