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Highlights of the First Days

September 5, 2017

A Swainson’s Warbler working the leafy floor of the Coastal Berm at Long Key. By Rafael Galvez

Although early September can be a bit slow in terms of migration, we have started our surveys at Long Key with interesting birds. Long Key State Park’s Orb Trail offers a fantastic mosaic of native habitats in a bite-sized 3km loop. At one end you start through a thick forest of Red Mangroves, then continue along a Coastal Berm flanked by dunes and a barrier of Black Mangroves.

Left: Red Mangrove forest. Right: Forest understory dominated by the finger-like pneumatophore roots of Black Mangroves.

The Coastal Berm transitions through scrub, Buttonwood stands and hardwood clusters until it curls back along an interior lagoon through a Salt Pan, which is composed of stunted vegetation tolerant of extreme hydroperiods that toggle between tidal and rain flooding, and overexposure to sun. Finally, the trail enters a tropical Hardwood Hammock.

Marc Kramer enters transect count data along the Coastal Berm at Long Key. Photos R. Galvez.

Jesse Amesbury documents birds along the stunted vegetation of the salt pan at Long Key. The ground is covered by shards of coral and shells washed up by the tides.

In the last three days, we have seen torrential rain, variable winds with gusts up to 15 km/h and plenty of sun. We have already experienced good flights of songbirds, and the start of raptor migration.

Kenny Fowler scans the skies from the hawkwatch deck looking for additional kites after the passage of back-to-back groups of Swallow-tails.

At Long Key, highlights have included several warbler species such as American Redstart, Northern Parula, Yellow Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler. Prairie Warbler, Northern Waterthrush and Ovenbird have been most common, particularly the first two. Most unusual – and a favorite – has been Swainson’s Warbler.

A Swainson’s Warbler nearly disappears into the understory as it searches for insects by burrowing into the leaves. Before long, it finds insects and spiders to eat. Photos – Rafael Galvez.

Other Long Key highlights included several Chuck-will’s-widows, Black-whiskered Vireos, White-crowned Pigeons, Ridway’s Osprey, many Bobolinks and countless Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and swallows flying overhead.

The Hardwood Hammocks of the Keys are great for finding Chuck-will’s-widows during migration, if you can manage not to spook them. Photo R. Galvez.

A Prairie Warbler in flight over the hawkwatch deck, nicely captured by Jesse Amesbury.

At the hawkwatch we are off to a great start with 10 species of diurnal raptors already detected including Mississippi and Swallow-tailed Kites, Short-tailed and Cooper’s Hawks, and the first of many expected Peregrines and Merlins. We are also documenting the passage of hundreds of swallows, with nearly 1500 Barn Swallows tallied on Monday alone. We are beginning to see flocks of ducks and shorebirds moving through, and a broad assortment of wading birds including Reddish Egret and Roseate Spoonbill.

Roseate Spoonbills flying over the hawkwatch deck at Curry Hammock. Photo by Kenny Fowler.

A Short-tailed Hawk parachuting towards potential prey on tree tops surrounding the hawkwatch deck. Photo by Kenny Fowler.

Jesse Amesbury (left) and Marc Kramer (on stepladder) scan for migrants atop our new larger deck at Curry Hammock State Park.

This is just the beginning. There will be many more migrants to share in the coming weeks. Keep your eyes on the skies!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 5, 2017 2:29 pm

    Love the SWWA pics! I need to post a CFBS blog, too.

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