15-05-2001

We woke up in the bush of Sugarloaf Key (salt-water midgets!) and were almost immediately hit by an Antillean Nighthawk (the only one we saw). After that we drove to a site for Mangrove Cuckoo, which only showed itself flying over. At Big Pine Key (along Long Beach Road) we saw a late pair of Blue-winged Teals (female was crippled and the male very dedicated to her) and a lateAmerican PipitWhite-eyed Vireo was also easily found here. On the way back we saw another Mangrove Cuckoo flying over the road. Other sites on Big Pine Key did not produce anything special.
Our first attempt for Burrowing Owl on the beach along Sombrero Beach Road in Marathon did not produce this species but was good for Henslow’s Sparrow. This is a species that winters more northerly in Florida and is as far as I know never before recorded on the Keys. We also saw quite a flock of White-crowned Pigeons. The second attempt for Burrowing Owl was a success: two birds were simply standing on the very busy Golf Course in Marathon.
In the afternoon we left the Keys for Everglades NP. The ABA guide had already warned us that the Everglades might look differently from what most people expect but it was nevertheless a surprise. Instead of continuous marshes with Water Hyacinth, you drive the first 30 kilometers through a grassy landscape with solitary pine trees, which can be almost called boring were it not for the Bald Eagle. An exception is the area around Anhinga Trail. Here we saw our first Swallow-tailed Kites and a late Broad-winged Hawk came as a surprise. Besides a Limpkin and a Gray Catbird there was not much to be seen on the trails.
The ponds along the way to Flamingo were lively: besides large amounts of herons at Paurotis pond we also saw large numbers of Wood Stork and Roseate Spoonbill. The rest of the ponds, including Eco Pond – the spot where many a rarity had been discovered – looked very much the same with only one difference, namely huge numbers of horseflies, mosquitoes and midgets that make birding impossible. Caution all birders who visit this place between May and August! Take many precautions, take with you any kind of insect repellant (even additional mosquito nets although birding with those can be difficult as well) because from May on some places in Florida will be swarmed by mosquitoes. This also goes for the camping site at Flamingo, which was infested with them.
Before I forget, one of the biggest ticks this vacation was the sighting of a Florida Panther sitting at the side of the road and trotting away at its ease into the woods when we slowly approached it.