Over twenty-five birders and photographers joined me for yesterday's Everglades National Park birding tour. Birds seen at our meeting place, Coe Visitor Center, included Northern Flicker, Great Crested Flycatcher and Yellow-throated, Prairie and Black-throated Green Warblers. In the parking lot at Royal Palm Visitor Center, the resident flock of Black Vultures were up to their usual no good. On Anhinga Trail, several Pileated Woodpeckers were observed, as well as a few American Alligators. Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret and Green Heron were also seen. Gumbo Limbo Trail was closed, so we walked the old Ingraham Highway to the borrow pit where the highway intersects the trail. A waterthrush, likely Northern, was heard at the borrow pit; other birds encountered along the way included Great Crested Flycatcher and a female Black-throated Blue Warbler.
Research Road was very good for raptors. Sharp-shinned, Red-shouldered and a light morph Short-tailed Hawk were observed during one stop; Northern Harrier and American Kestrel were also seen along the road. Northern Flicker and Pine Warbler were heard in the pinelands. Shorebirds including Killdeer, Least Sandpiper and Greater Yellowlegs were found in a wet area that had been cleared of Brazilian Pepper; a distant flock of American Coot was also here. Eastern Meadowlarks were common around the research center. The gates to the Nike missile base at the end of the road were open, so we took the opportunity to take a quick driving tour of the facility. An Everglades Racer was spotted in the road on the drive back.
After lunch at Long Pine Key picnic area, we continued to Mahogany Hammock. A small Red Rat Snake was seen near the beginning of the boardwalk. Songbirds seen along the boardwalk included White-eyed Vireo, Northern Parula, Common Yellowthroat and Black-throated Green Warbler.
A few Roseate Spoonbills and White-crowned Pigeons were found at Paurotis Pond. At West Lake, we encountered mangroves stripped of virtually all their leaves and tremendous damage to the section of boardwalk over the lake, our starkest evidence so far of the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma. A number of ducks were on the lake, later correctly identified by Luis Gonzalez as female Ruddy Ducks. A single American Coot was among them.
Several Roseate Spoonbills and other waders were actively feeding in a wet area at the entrance to Flamingo. All of the facilities at Flamingo are still closed due to hurricane damage, so our only time here was spent at the marina, where several West Indian Manatees and a couple of American Crocodiles were entertaining the throngs of visitors. Spotted Sandpipers were also observed flying back and forth between the mangroves. From this vantage point, we could see a number of birds on the sandbar out in Florida Bay. Among them were Brown and American White Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorant, Willet, Laughing and Ring-billed Gulls and Caspian and Royal Terns. The resident Ospreys were also conspicuous here.