West Indian Hardwood Hammock Birding in the Florida Keys

The Golden Orb Trail where the Zenaida Dove has been being seen for over two months.

The Golden Orb Trail where the Zenaida Dove has been being seen for over two months.

I’m not sure how to tell this story. Just over two months ago, a Zenaida Dove was found on Long Key in Florida. I have followed the daily stories of this extremely rare bird ever since. As of yesterday, it was still being seen. This morning I set out to see it. I was up at 3am and on the road by 3:30. I arrived in the Florida Keys a bit early to give me more time. I had to stop in Islamorada because I was seeing to many birds to continue. It had just become light and birds were everywhere. The highlights of this stop were four GRAY KINGBIRDS and about a dozen WHITE-CROWNED PIGEONS! I pulled myself away and arrived at Long Key State Park minutes after they opened at 8 am. I parked and got out of my car and knew immediately this was going to be a good day. Only feet from me was a beautiful CAPE MAY WARBLER! It took only seconds to realize that there were actually three Cape May Warblers fighting over a flowering Sea Grape. After snapping a few shots, I headed out the Golden Orb Trail. I quickly found the dove location and met three other gentleman looking for the bird as well. What took place next was what birders can only hope for. One warbler species after another came into view! It was amazing! Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Black and White, Northern Parula, Northern Waterthrush, Yellow, Worm-eating, Blackpoll, Black-throated Blue, Prairie, Palm and Ovenbird were all seen! We worked our way around the trails mesmerized by what we were seeing. As the morning progressed, more birders joined the group until there were a couple of dozen. At one point an Ornithologist with a class of a dozen students came through and declared this a fallout! It was certainly the most warbler activity I have ever seen in Florida. As we searched for the dove, we found more and more birds. Eventually, I found a beautiful SWAINSON’S WARBLER! (not really that beautiful) The bird was very cooperative and everyone got to see it. It was a lifer for a few people. Moving on, I found a second Swainson’s! For a bird that is notoriously difficult, these birds cooperated completely and will be candidates for the most photogenic Swainson’s on record! At some point, dehydrated and beat, I headed back to my car for water and a break. I immediately heard a BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO singing! I found a pair feeding on figs right on the parking lot. I alerted others to their presence and almost everyone got to see them. Other birds seen included Willet, Reddish Egret (white morph) Greater Yellowlegs, Great-crested Cormorant, Gray Catbird and many more! What you have to have noted by now is that after sixty some days of being continuously seen, the Zenaida Dove was a no show today. After seven and a half hours in the sun, and with a four hour ride ahead of me, I had to give up. Perhaps there is a Zenaida Dove somewhere in my ABA future.

One of about a dozen White-crowned Pigeons seen today.

One of about a dozen White-crowned Pigeons seen today.

One of many Gray Kingbirds I saw today.

One of many Gray Kingbirds I saw today.

Black-whiskered Vireo

Black-whiskered Vireo

A very cooperative Swainson's Warbler, one of two seen today.

A very cooperative Swainson’s Warbler, one of two seen today.

One of four Cape May Warblers seen today.

One of four Cape May Warblers seen today.

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