A Travellerspoint blog

Last twitch on the last day

Naples, FL

semi-overcast 85 °F


Before flying back to New York City today, two of dad’s friends (both Dans!), dad, and I headed south to Everglades City for a morning of kayaking and birding. My target bird in mind was the White-crowned Pigeon, an uncommon mangrove specialist that is much easier to find down in Everglades NP and in the Keys.

Anyway, our hope was to rent a kayak in Everglades City (the NW edge of the everglades) and hopefully stumble upon one or two of these birds. Upon arriving at Everglades City, there were definitely some Columbids (doves & pigeons) around, but none with a white crown. EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE:


Then, when we tried to rent kayaks, the owner warned us that it would not be worth paddling around for ninety minutes and we would have a much better chance at the Pigeons by focusing on birding by car or foot at a few nearby locations. So, we headed to a number of nearby nature centers and boardwalks in hopes of spotting one of the Pigeons either roosting or flying over.

At our first stop, we were alerted to the presence of several American Alligators in the water:


Our most uncommon find at this stop was a nice early migrant LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH — note the thick white supercilium and bubble gum colored legs to differentiate this from its Northern cousin:

This NORTHERN PARULA male posed nicely:

WHITE-EYED VIREO was also cool to see:

And of course we were put into our usual awe of SWALLOW-TAILED KITES. What magnificent raptors:


At one point while cruising along, I spotted an abandoned TV alongside the road that looked like it would have a snake under it. Sure enough, when I flipped it, there was my lifer Florida Ring-necked Snake! A beautiful, harmless species with a bright orange belly. Photo credit Dan A.

WILD TURKEY running down the road:


Another herping stop yielded a Southern Black Racer which unfortunately lived up to its name and evaded capture by disappearing into a rock pile. I was so close!!! I have seen this (harmless) snake species before in southern Illinois.

Then, as we were driving down Highway 41, I yelled for dad to pull over as I spotted another SHORT-TAILED HAWK, a dark morph this time! As I had missed getting this life bird’s photo two days prior, I really really wanted a photo of this bird. There wasn’t a good pull-off for a little bit but soon enough dad was able to pull over, I jumped out, and immediately started scanning the sky behind us.

There was one extremely distant speck so I zoomed in and voila! I had my second-ever Short-tailed Hawk’s photo! This was extremely relieving and exciting — now I had photos of my three life birds so far! Note the dark overall color, faint banding on the tail, and slightly lighter coloration on the trailing edges and tips of the underside of the wings. Another beautiful tropical raptor, only found in Florida in the US!

It was also very loosely associating with a SNAIL KITE, another south Floridian specialty. Note the conspicuously white tail:

And a BLACK VULTURE, a much-more-common raptor around here:

My dad was particularly excited to spot these ROSEATE SPOONBILLS mixing in with GREAT & SNOWY EGRETS:

More amazing Swallow-tailed Kite acrobatics:

Unfortunately, we were soon out of the White-crowned Pigeon’s range so that will be the one major miss of this Florida trip — still pretty good to get three out of four main target birds, especially considering the Bachman’s Sparrow and Short-tailed Hawk had eluded me many times before!

We still had a bit of birding to do before wrapping it up though, and had a really nice LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE that sang for us roadside:

We missed Crested Caracara too, but I have seen that bird in Argentina, Costa Rica, and Florida before so I wasn’t too hearbroken about that dip. Overall, it was a solid morning of birding (and a bit of herping) with bird-of-the-day absolutely going to the Short-tailed Hawk again and runners-up to the Louisiana Waterthrush, Snail Kite, and Roseate Spoonbills. Good stuff!

And by the evening, I was back on the ground in the big apple!

To wrap up this trip, I gained three life birds:
Bachman’s Sparrow
Gray-headed Swamphen
Short-tailed Hawk

And I would have to elect the Hawk as bird-of-the-trip. The reason for this is because the other two species had specific locations where I was fairly confident I would get them, but the Short-tails are overall uncommon and very widespread over southern Florida — people only ever really get them soaring over highways, which is how I spotted both on this trip. For this reason, I had never found this species on prior Florida trips but I made a concerted effort to keep my eye on the sky at all times while in the car during this trip and it paid off with both a light morph (my lifer) and a dark morph (by photographic lifer) seen. Runner-up to the Bachman’s Sparrow as it is an awesome pinewood specialist, and third place to the Swamphen because it is an introduced (though relatively benign) species from Asia.

I am also including a list of herps from the trip:
Cane Toad (lifer, introduced)
Red-bellied Cooter (lifer)
Common Slider
Florida Softshell Turtle
Florida Snapping Turtle (lifer)
Green Anole (lifer)
Cuban Brown Anole (lifer, introduced)
House Gecko (introduced)
Rock Agama (lifer, introduced)
Southern Black Racer
Florida Ring-necked Snake (lifer)
Nerodia sp. watersnake (unidentified hawk prey)

As you can see, the herping scene in Florida unfortunately is dominated by exotics, as is the birding scene in most urban areas (particularly Miami). Florida and Hawaii, though also being home to many fascinating native species, are ecological disasters in terms of habitat destruction and released-pets-gone-wild. We must keep and maintain our wild spaces naturally wild because this wonderful biodiversity we all appreciate has predated humans here by millennia and it is our duty to make sure we are responsible stewards of the most imperiled ecosystems.

Thank you so much to dad for doing all the driving this week, we were able to cover so much ground, get great birds, and have a grand time together.

Stay tuned — it is March and spring migration and herp emergences are right around the corner! Very soon, I will also be announcing my full 2023 musical season!

Happy birding,
World Life List: 1149 Species (1 photographic [& recent] life bird today: Short-tailed Hawk)

Posted by skwclar 18:16 Archived in USA

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school is "it" this post was insightful. The thought of a Shrike singing insightful also.

by stephen fluett

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