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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Florida Trip - Day 2

      We began our second day of birding at Chapel Trail Nature Preserve in Pembroke Pines. I had read Alex Lamoreaux’s blog about Purple Swamphens and he suggested that this was a great place to find this newly countable species.   

Sharon Strolling along boardwalk
         We arrived early, anticipating a long search through thick marshes. When we arrived and walked to the edge of the marsh there were five Purple Swamphens walking on top of the bulrushes no more than 100 feet away. This was definitely one of my easiest life birds to find. They are introduced birds but quickly became established and have flourished throughout southern Florida. The ABA has recently added them to the accepted species list along with Nanday Parakeets after the Florida Records committee added both species to their state list. 
Purple Swamphen - One of five present

         Moving on, we drove a short distance to Brian Piccolo Park. This park is mainly ball fields and soccer fields. But interspersed among the fields are little plots of land about 20’ by 20’ which are cordoned off by yellow tape. Each one of these taped off areas houses a burrow in the ground which in turn is occupied by Burrowing Owls. We drove around the park looking at some holes until we found a burrow that contained two owls standing on the rim, just looking around, checking out the passerbys. Pretty cool.
Pair of Burrowing Owls

       According to eBird, there was a Western Spindalis (formerly known as Stripe-headed Tanager) on Virginia Key on Key Biscayne Island outside of Miami. Although there hadn't been any recent sightings I still wanted to give it a shot at finding the bird. So that was our next destination.

       At the entrance station we were all set to pay the day use fee but the lady at the booth looked at the binoculars around Sharon's neck and asked if we were birdwatchers. We replied in the affirmative, and she told us that we didn't have to pay. Awesome. Once we were in the park, the entrance to the birding area was located on a mountain bike trail between some porta-potties and a huge sewage treatment plant. I had to admit that this wasn’t very appealing.

A crazy setup made by the mountain bikers

Lighthouse at Bill Baggs
       Sharon and I walked around for about twenty minutes and saw very few birds so we decided to leave and drive down to Bill Baggs State Park. This is a park that I always wanted to visit because I keep reading about all the rare birds that occur in this park. Although no rarities were reported or found by us I at least got a feel for the layout of the park and when the next rare bird shows up, I can than picture the area that it is being found. We were able to add Royal Terns, Parula Warblers and a few others. The rest of the day was spent at Key Biscayne National Park.  

Sharon's attempt at Noodling with a Tarpon

       Within sight of downtown Miami, yet worlds away, Biscayne protects a rare combination of aquamarine waters, emerald islands, and fish-bejeweled coral reefs. Ninety-five percent of the park is underwater, and the shore of the bay is the location of an extensive mangrove forest. The park covers 172,971 acres. The little portion of the park that is on land is where we birded and added Caspian Terns, Great Black-backed and Laughing Gulls and Prairie Warbler.
Prairie Warbler

       We finished up the day at Key Biscayne and on our way to find a hotel for the evening we found a pair of Muscovy Ducks. Some of these in Florida are considered wild, but the ones we saw along a canal behind a row of townhouses are very suspicious. Tomorrow, the plan is to head to the Everglades and then cross over to Sanibel Island on the Gulf Coast.

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