Fort Zachary Taylor State Park – Key West Florida – CUBAN VIREO!

Cuban Vireo on Key West

Cuban Vireo on Key West

On Tuesday, I received a call from Lance Verderame informing me that a CUBAN VIREO had just been found and identified in Fort Zachary Taylor State Park on Key West. I had just spent a long day in the Keys and wasn’t sure what to think of this find. I already had plans for the following day and decided to wait and see if the bird developed a pattern of behavior. It did. When I read the reports and saw that not only was the Vireo present, but a Mangrove Cuckoo was also being seen several days in a row. I was up early and on the road at 2 AM! I took the five hour drive to Key West. Upon arriving, I found out the park doesn’t open until 8 am. I waited and I was the second one in the gate. Another birder and I could hear the bird singing as we pulled into the parking area. We went over and immediately got good looks at the bird. That would be it for a while. The bird sang at regular intervals, but was difficult to get a look at. Eventually the bird would come into view giving good looks, but the fact that the sun was behind it made photos tough. Thanks Lance for letting me know about the bird! As far as other birds are concerned, there was once again an abundance of warblers present. At least 8 Cape May, 6 Blackpoll, 2 Yellow, 3 Redstart, 3 Prairie, 3 Ovenbird, 1 Yellow-rump, 2 Parula, and 4 Black and White. I have been birding Florida for 25 years and have never had warblers like I have had this year! As we were watching the vireo, I looked up the street and saw ten birders looking at a bird. I asked “what are those birders looking at?” One of the original finders of the vireo causally responded ” Oh their just looking at the Mangrove Cuckoo again”. EEEEEESH! I ran right up to the spot and asked if they had the Mangrove. They said yes, it just ducked into the Sea Grapes. I searched off and on over the next several hours, and no Mangrove. About an hour before I left, I was looking for the bird in the hammock. When I came out, a man asked if I had just seen the Mangrove Cuckoo fly over to another wooded area (off limits)? I said I hadn’t seen the bird. About an hour later, a second cuckoo flew out of the hammock, but it was a Yellow-billed. As if the first record of Cuban Vireo in the US wasn’t enough, I had another highlight to the day. I was talking with a gentleman as we were searching for the vireo. We kind of hit it off and were talking as we went. He had on a hat that said “Attu Alaska”. He was quite a salty chap, flirting with the lady birders and making jokes. Something struck me, but I was sure what. After a couple hours had passed, I asked him his name. He said “SANDY KOMITO” I was awe struck! We talked a while longer and exchanged contact info. What a nice guy! In case any of you Don’t realize who he is, he is Sandy Komito of “The Big Year” fame! Played on screen by Owen Wilson. I’m sure you’ve all seen the movie and read the book!  Sandy held the long running ABA record for a Big Year with 748 species seen! How does birding get any better than this! Thanks Sandy for a special morning! Other birds seen today included Yellow-throated Vireo, Gray Kingbird and Least Terns. Birding is GREAT!

Cuban Vireo 4/21/16

Cuban Vireo 4/21/16

Cuban Vireo - probably my best shot.

Cuban Vireo – probably my best shot.

I felt privileged to be birding this morning with the one and only SANDY KOMITO!

I felt privileged to be birding this morning with the one and only SANDY KOMITO!

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4 Responses to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park – Key West Florida – CUBAN VIREO!

  1. Bill says:

    People are just as impressed when they meet YOU!

  2. That’s really nice of you, but I don’t think so.

  3. Mary, you are so sweet! I’m the lucky one to have so many great birding friends! John

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