Monday, May 9, 2016

Everglades National Park - 03 May 2016

Today’s trip was going to take me south of Miami to Homestead and Florida City to the entrance to Everglades National Park. I took off before light and drove south along the toll roads to SR-9336 and the entrance to the park. It was cloudy, humid, and breezy with expected storms today. But skies were beginning to clear, so I was thrilled when a pair of Gray Kingbirds appeared on the wires just outside the park. There was enough light to get some pics.

I stopped at the Visitor Center, but it was only 7:30 am. The place was closed, so I walked around a bit and looked for birds. Only a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers could be heard in the canopy overhead. 

I drove into the park and headed for Royal Palm and the Anhinga Trail. 

I found a Red-shouldered Hawk next to the road and was able to digiscope it in the morning light.

American Crows were widespread, and I took a few photos of them next to the road. Their ‘caw’-ing help differentiate from the Fish Crows seen back in Miami.

Anhinga Trail (boardwalk) was very quiet. I digiscoped a Gray Kingbird in a snag overhead. Otherwise, there was nothing going on along the boardwalk. Only a pair of Anhingas far out in the marsh. I would try to walk the Gumbo Limbo Trail, but mosquitos chased me back to the car. I would find the Gray Kingbird in slightly better light before continuing on.

I made a stop at the Pa-hay-okee Lookout Tower and got some nice looks at the “grassy waters” that denote the Seminole reference. The Dwarf Cypress dominate the area. I managed a photo of a Great-crested Flycatcher in parking lot as I arrived.

I drove past the exit to Mahogany Hammock, and now regret doing so as it might have gotten me some Cape Sable Sparrows. But I headed on to Paurotis Pond and the further Nine Mile Pond. I would see roosting Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Wood Storks, Roseate Spoonbills, and Cattle Egrets - all too far away for photographing. One Cattle Egret was on the side of the road and allowed a few portrait shots before flying off.

As I drove between the two locations, however, I spotted a dark bird in a snag on the side of the road. I first thought juvenile gallinule, as it was a smoky black bird with a slender profile, but when I stopped the car and looked back it was a White-crowned Pigeon! I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough before it flew across the road, but I was able to see the white forehead on the pigeon before it took off. Great bird!

I decided to drive as far as Flamingo before turning around. There was little bird activity next to the road on the way to Flamingo, but as I pulled into the park I was greeted with a pair of Swallow-tailed Kites soaring next to the road. I took hundreds of photos as they circled just above the car and even just a few feet overhead. Worth the drive!!!

I drove over to the Visitor Center and saw a Shiny Cowbird among the dozen Brown-headed Cowbirds and European Starlings.

An Osprey was roosting in the tree just above my parked car. I carefully got in w/o spooking it. I needed to get some ice, so I drove over to the Marina Store where I found a nesting pair of Osprey feeding a hatchling.

As I returned to the car another Gray Kingbird allowed a portrait, as did a Great-crested Flycatcher.

Prairie Warblers and White-eyed Vireos were singing in the trees as I drove out and headed back to Miami.

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