Dec. 16: An interesting drive out to the keys, connected by many bridges. Arrived at Cudjoe Key to an extremely large (over 650 spaces) gated RV/rental/homeowner facility. There are a small number of RV spots, lots of homes that are owned & some home rentals. Our spot is close to the water & we’ve already seen pelicans & Magnificent Frigatebirds flying over. It was 30C when we arrived – just too hot. We hate to think we’ll spend most of our time in the trailer, but hoping there are some good birding places we can drive to.
Dec. 16: A day of reconnaissance. Checked out some parks we can visit on Key West, then found out we can’t get onto the ferry which goes for 2 and a half hours out to the Dry Tortugas National Park (& Fort Jefferson which was built in the mid-1800’s). The weather is just so terrible for us – the heat. No respite in sight for the 2 weeks we’re here. It may go down to 23 Saturday, but I don’t believe the weather until I see it! Every day they say the high will be 27 & it’s 30! Yuck! We had a very serious conversation about whether we could get home faster & get out of here. However it would take so much re-configuring that we finally gave up. Looking at the Tampa 14-day forecast, it shows a dip in the temp (below 10C) at the end of that period. So we’re hopeful that when we get to the “other side”, it will be cooler (fingers crossed).
Dec. 17: Already 27C when we got up. It usually only varies about 2 to 5 degrees at night, so we have the AC on ALL THE TIME! Luckily we have 2 zones, so the kitties can have a warm area at the front end of the trailer, (where they also have heated beds) & we can have a cool bedroom for sleeping.
Here they are in their sunny window – that’s a heated bed on the left (& there’s 1 on the right).
There are a lot of feral chickens here, so thought it only fair to include this handsome fellow. The first bird we saw & heard (yep, crowing!) when we parked the truck. Very rakish with his side-swept comb!
This visit is to an indigenous facility where people bring injured birds (of the area0 & they try to rehabilitate & free them. Some can’t be set free if they’re too badly injured, so are kept there.
This Broad-winged Hawk was perched on a wire overlooking a hard with lots of Eurasian Collared Doves. Hopefully he took one of them! They have spread all the way to Alberta!
They may be quite pretty, but they are taking over!
We aren’t sure if this juvenile White-crowned Pigeon was injured, but he mixed with the crowd of Eur.-collared. So this is our Lifer a little closer, but not an adult with the white crown. Still hoping!
As we left this park, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker landed on a palm tree. Further investiagation showed it visits regularly as there are rows of tiny holes up & down the trunk. Who knew palms had such delicious sap? Palm syrup on your pancakes?
On to the botanical gardens. This is especially for those who love exotic tropical plants but we were hoping some birds would be here.
On our first turn I spied this little brown anole lizard on a post, inflating his throat pouch! Too bad we weren’t on the other side, since that pouch was bright red!
First pond we stopped at, we heard a huge “splash”! Then out of the water came this green iguana! Head facing the other way, but you can see its back feet & striped tail.
There were a number of butterflies, but this beautiful giant swallowtail was magnificent! About 4″ across (maybe a little more) – caught in flight by Bill.
A lovely orange barred sulphur butterfly was smaller, but such a rich, soft color.
We’ve seen a few little Pied-billed Grebes (which lose their pied bills in the winter!). This one was glowing in the sun.
There are lots of beautiful leaf patterns & colors.
Not much in the way of other birds here, but as we entered the parking lot quite a few Magnificent Frigatebirds flew over. This is a juvenile with a white head & throat. Males are completely black (but have a huge, red, inflatable pouch, which puts the little lizard to shame!). Females have a white throat & breast. It takes 3 years for a juvenile to acquire its adult plumage, but both m & f look the same the 1st 2 years.
That was enough for us – hot, sweaty, no wind to cool us – home!
Dec. 19: It was 21C when we got up – so we opened up the trailer – YAY! What a lovely day! We will likely only get a couple of these cooler days, then back up to 30 for the rest of the time. Took a short walk on a nature trail we hadn’t visited earlier.
Saw a Great-crested Flycatcher. Poor light but a record shot. Too bad because he has such a lovely bright yellow belly. We also found another juvenile White-crowned Pigeon, but no point putting another photo in or it! We’re waiting for an adult!
Bougainvillea abound everywhere.
These interesting trees (sea grape) are also common – their leaves have many different colors & vary in size from 3″ across to almost 10″!
As we drove through Key West, we inadvertantly drove past the signpost which reads “Southernmost point of continental USA“. Everyone & their dog (literally!) were taking selfies beside this post.
Dec. 19: Another glorious day of cooler weather (but very windy). We have every window open & the screen door. Such a huge relief! Just to have that much fresh air coming through is wonderful. It begins to feel stuffy, even when cooled with AC. Did a bit of laundry & Bill worked. I have been having a great time reading mystery novels! What a luxury!
Dec. 20: Today we drove back toward the mainland to Pine Key. There is a park here which protects its Key deer. They are a subspecies of white-tailed deer, but are the smallest deer in NA.
The females (like this one) are only about 2′ high at the shoulder; males almost 2 1/2′. I saw a photo on the internet of someone holding a fawn in their 2 hands, like is was a little puppy or kitten. This little one was grazing alongside the road – which makes them so endangered. They love to come into peoples’ yards to eat grass & flowers, especially foraging at night. There are warning signs along all the roads to watch for deer. They are able to swim between Keys & only live in the Keys.
It wasn’t a great birding day. Every place with a beach is JAMMED with tourists. Of course it’s a holiday time & they are everywhere. Nonetheless, Bill took some shots of this Royal Term hunting along the shore.
Plant life is amazing. How neat is this shrub with the leaves which look like green berries? No idea what it is.
On a windy, hot day, this is a good sport to choose!
Dec. 21, 22, 23: Stayed in – Too hot to go out. 30C every day & feels like 33 with 90+% humidity. Werious talk now about going home early. Bill has, as a matter fact, plotted a course earlier than we’d planned, but we have to keep to the schedule until we reach Tampa, where we can get a couple of things fixed on the trailer.
Sorry Desiree, I don’t have a better photo of you, but this is taken out of a group shot at R&A’s wedding party. At least you are giving us your beautiful smile. It was Des’ 32nd birthday on the 23rd (I hope that’s right – given my horrible messup re Steve & Fran’s BD’s!). She is my niece (well, my cousin Kim’s daughter, but feels like a niece) & an amazing woman. She took the extremely rigorous sports massage course in BC (the hardest in the country) which she found quite difficult & took her a few times to pass everything. But she persevered & finally did it this fall – how amazing! She is also getting married to a lovely man – Carm – next August. So a banner year for this young woman. Way to go Des! We love you!
I think I will post this blog, since I will include some Xmas stuff in the next one. No more new birds to report for now.
Merry Christmas everyone & Happy Holidays!