On 3 May we visited the upper keys from our base in Florida City. This included Key Largo State Botanical Site, Key Largo Wild Bird Centre and John Pennekamp State Park.|
The inital stop was an early visit to the State Botanical Site. This can be found on the road which joins Card Sound Road to US1 close to the US1 junction and is marked by a large concrete archway. In the park there are only a few tracks which can be walked without a back country permit. We didn't have a permit so we contented ourselves with tracks we could walk. Amongst the many White-eyed Vireos were several Black-whiskered Vireos which could be picked out by there calls. Other birds seen here were our fist Ovenbird and lots of Cape May Warblers. Two Mangrove Cuckoos could be heard but were not seen. The site is actually renowned for the rare tree snails that live their of which, unfortunately I know nothing about.
On the road to John Pennekamp Park the occasional Magnificent Frigatebird floated over the road whilst less magnificent flocks of White-crowned Pigeons raced around.
At John Pennekamp Park I dropped sarah off at the beach and headed to the ranger station to obtain a back country permit fot the Botanical Site. This involved a lot of form filling and showing of passports and driving licences but eventually after 20 minutes or so forms were completed and permits obtained. On using the permit you must first phone the rangers to let then know you are entering the area and then you must phone again when leaving the area. I walked through the Hammock at John Pennekamp Park and saw no birds at all but near the campsite close to a small pond were a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds and a single Veery.
Whilst Sarah soaked up the sun I headed back past the State Botanical Site to Ocean Road where another birder had earlier seen a Shiny Cowbird on some feeders in a garden. Sure enough on finding the house a Shiny Cowbird flew up from the garden into a tree close to me allowing a good video opportunity which I gratefully took. I returned to pick up Sarah and we headed to the Wild Bird Centre.
The place itself was quite run down and it absolutely stinks of fish. There were quite a few injured caged birds including a Brown Booby and plenty of Pelicans and Hawks. The wild birds waiting around for a free meal included Great White Heron, Great Egret and many Brown Pelicans. It was only worth a stop as a photo opportunity for close views of Pelicans, Egrets and Herons.
Next we used our back country permit and walked to the old Fort Borgainville missile battery in the hope of catching up with Mangrove Cuckoo. None were heard or seen in the evening although we did have good views of a Northern Waterthrush at the site. We left as it threatened with rain and on the return journey we saw a Great Horned Owl on top of a tree along Card Sound Road.
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