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Christmas in Florida

Part 7:  Key Biscayne and Loxahatchee

The next day I explored Key Biscayne a bit; since Bill Baggs didn't open till eight, I tried to look into some of the other areas the ABA Guide talked about.  Had a brief "Instant Message Chat" with Robin Diaz the night before, and one of the things she told me to look out for were the fugitive Great Black Hawks, but alas, I didn't see them, or much else there, really: it was a kinda dreary, drizzly day, and even though the nice man at the Virginia Key pay booth let me in for free (it was barely past sunrise, I think), it was pretty quiet, and I didn't feel comfortable parking where the Guide tells you to park past the sewage treatment plant: it almost looked as though they had "squatters" back there!  Circled hopelessly around the plant itself in search of a bona fide sewer pond, but couldn't find anything there either (the guy at the gate there was looking at me rather befuddledly as well).  A quick stop at the marina added ibis and vultures lounging on the grass, as well as a terrific rainbow!

   

Turkey Vulture pushes off from a Key Biscayne park against the backdrop of a rainbow

  Poked into Crandon Park (where I also got in for free cuz there was no one there to take my $$$, and nowhere to put it even on your own), and got enough of a view of the beach to add a young Great Black-backed Gull, and another gull that "felt" more like a Lesser BB to me (going into its third year perhaps, as its back was awfully dark), as it was very slender with a trimmer bill, but I couldn't discern a pale eye on it, which other LBBs of like age I've seen did have.  But I wasn't sure, so I let it be... (the way they were showing up last year I'm sure I'll pick one up later).  On the way out I got my first shrike of the Florida portion of the trip.

  By that time the state park was open, so I wheeled in and over to the parking area near No-Name Harbor, where there were a couple of nature trails.  The first one I took went along the east side of the harbor for a bit, then broke off to the right; outside of Catbirds and gnatcatchers, the place was really pretty dead.  Headed to the end of the road after that, where I found another nature trail which was a little more productive: it had a big flock of mad Catbirds and uncooperative Butterbutts!  But I also kicked up a Northern Waterthrush at close range; I got a great head-on view of the face, and although I didn't see any spotting on the throat, the supercilium didn't seem all that bold and the bill didn't seem all that big, and seeing as the Northern is the only one that's supposed to be here this time of year, I'm assuming that unless told otherwise.

           

Views of the nature trails at Bill Baggs State Park with Zebra Heliconian

From there checked out several beach accesses; the one closest to the lighthouse had three Ruddy Turnstones in the kelp, as well as the usual Ring-billed and Laughing Gulls, Brown Pelicans, and Royal Terns.  One poor pelican had evidently scooped up something man-made in a dive, as his pouch was full but the corner of whatever it was looked like it was painfully jutting into the side of his pouch (like it was something square and flat)!  His companions couldn't tell the difference: to them he had a big prize, and they mercilessly chased him around, not allowing him to settle even for a second to try and rearrange the thing! Also picked up a young Herring Gull at the first boardwalk in the A Section, as well as a little Ground Dove in the dunes.  Several of the boardwalks had great habitat going over the dunes, so I can see where this would be a great migrant trap!

          

Lighthouse at the end of the island and boardwalk to the beach 

         

Downtown Miami getting clobbered by rain...

                               

Ruddy Turnstone and White-tipped Black Moth 

From there went back to the Harbor parking area, and checked out the other nature trail, which started just as you enter the lot on the left.  This seemed to go through some nice habitat, then crossed a nicer trail which I took to the right.  This shortly dumped me out on Biscayne Bay, which was pretty birdless but also pretty ominous as several isolated storms made their way across the bay and up the coast!  There were several fishing piers along this stretch, and a Great Egret was keeping a fisherman company at the one next to me!  Ended up walking all the way to the entrance to the harbor (I should have walked the bike path back, as the trail I was on crossed it), so I ended up taking quite a hike!

      

Yet another nature trail and fishing piers along the bike path

   

The storm moves out into Biscayne Bay

   

Raccoon on the way out 

Got done with that around noon, so I decided to stop by Loxahatchee NWR on my way to Palm Beach.  Going north instead of south on US 441 cost me a hike on the Cypress Boardwalk Trail L, but I managed to squeeze in a hike around the marsh along with a bunch of other tourists, plus a little jaunt down the dike.  Dipped on the anis (first time, although with all the people I'm not surprised), but the place was stuffed with Glossy Ibis and Moorhens, plus a handful of Mottled Ducks and a couple of pairs of Blue-winged Teal.  Lots of Rough-winged Swallows swooped around, and kicked up a single Palm Warbler in the dickey department.  There were oodles of herons, of course, and a platoon of Cattle Egrets accompanied me down the third "side" of the square loop trail.  The real prize, though, I would have walked right by if a couple of ladies hadn't stopped to say, "What is that?"  Turned out to be a Limpkin hiding in the stuff!  One of the ladies said, "Boy, he's a lot bigger than the Limpkins in my back yard!"  What a bird to have come to your feeder…

  Fought the traffic up to North Palm Beach for the night. 

   

Marsh Trail at Loxahatchee NWR with Common Moorhen

      

Birders aren’t the only users of the trail! (Cattle Egrets)

       

Glossy Ibis

         

Limpkin and Blue Jay along the trail

              

"Brown" Palm Warblers along the Dike Trail

 Continue to the Palm Beach Area

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