Thursday, October 25, 2012

Birding The Conch Republic

While walking through the streets of Key West on our first day, I heard a loud unfamiliar flycatcher call above me. Shock and awe overcame me as I looked up to see my lifer Gray Kingbird. Key West, FL.

I have to say, if you are looking to go birding on your nonbirding vacation, Key West is a good place to be. Even frequent consumption of excessive drink and living on a sailboat anchored offshore (that's how we roll) were not able to get in the way of birding. The fact that the island is so small and that there are only a handful of places to bird (all easily accessed) make for very convenient birding.

Of course, in the first couple days I was completely slammed with year birds, and the bonus life bird was just extra frosting on the proverbial birding cake. My first afternoon birding there happened to fall on a very good day for migrants, and Zachary Taylor State Park was littered with birds. Another positive aspect of being there in the fall (and waking up late because you are raging all the time) is that there are tons of raptors flying around throughout the day; this is a major migration corridor and the numbers of falcons, accipiters, and Broad-winged Hawks streamed, kettled and puddled (?) overhead were impressive to say the least.

Here's some shots from my first couple days there.

Look at the size of that bill! This bird was right on Duvall Street, known more for its puddles of tourist vomit than its lingering South Florida specialties.

This Blackburnian Warbler (year bird) was one of the first birds I laid eyes on at Zachary Taylor State Park. The ABA birding guide recommends birding the native veg that grows near the Fort, but I had equal numbers of migrants (if not more) in the Australian Pines that grow near the beach.

Look at that stubby tail. For whatever reason, our west coast warblers are all relatively long-tailed in comparison.

A female Blue-winged Teal in the moat by the fort. Predictably, I didn't see much else in the way of waterfowl on this trip. Zachary Taylor State Park, Key West, FL.

You can still photograph Laughing Gulls while you are busy Not Birding. Key West Bight Marina, Key West, FL.

I love birding cemeteries, I'm not sure why. Key West Cemetery is worth checking out, although it doesn't offer the same level of birding that Zach Taylor or the botanical gardens do. It does have some pretty cool headstones though. Here is a Palm Warbler, the most abundant passerine I saw over the last two weeks. Key West Cemetery, Key West, FL.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are always suckers for a good pish (or even a "spish"). Key West Cemetery.

The long, thin bill of gnatcatchers are perfect for the emotionless crushing of hapless, stupid insects.

While hanging out in the bush with the gnatcatchers, my first Northern Parula of the trip popped in as well.

If Tennessee Warblers (year bird) always sat like this, people would not have such a hard time identifying them. Zachary Taylor State Park.

This sunset shot proves I was not on a birding trip. I was enjoying the sunset, like a normal person. Zachary Taylor State Park.


  1. Duuuude congrats on the lifer and all that... That cemetery gate shot is rad- the opposite of foreboding and shit.

    That sunset proves NOTHING.

  2. What a bill on that Kingbird! It looks like it is made for catching pterodactyls not flying insects.

  3. Oh, love the new header image with the White Ibis and wine bottle, was it red or white? Were the Ibis tipsy?

    Congrats on the lifer and the rest of the birds you saw in Key West. I love Key West but can't stay there long when I go because it is simply too much fun!