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A Guide to John Audubon's visit to the Florida Keys 

 

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AUDUBON IN THE FLORIDA KEYS


 

 

INDEX

  
AUDUBON


INDIAN KEY
1832


CORMORANT


ROSEATE
TERN


GRAY
KINGBIRD


REDDISH
EGRET


LOUISIANA
HERON


SANDY KEY


WHITE IBIS


WILLET

 
ZENAIDA
DOVE


WHITE
CROWNED
PIGEON


THE AUDUBON HOUSE IN
KEY WEST


AUDUBON'S
KEY WEST


KEY WEST AFTER
AUDUBON


ROSEATE
SPOONBILL


GREAT
WHITE
HERON


GREAT
BLUE
HERON


KEY WEST
DOVE


FLAMINGOS


BLUE-
HEADED
QUAIL DOVE


FRIGATE BIRD


BROWN
PELICAN


MANGROVE
CUCKOO


TORTUGAS


SOOTY
TERN


BLACK
HEADED GULL


BROWN
NODDY


CAYENNE
TERN


BROWN
BOOBY


SANDWICH
TERN


NIGHT
HERON


GREENSHANK


GREAT
MARBLED
GODWIT


MANGO
HUMMING-
BIRD


TROPIC
BIRD




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Birding, Tours and Guides in the Florida Keys    

 

map of Florida Keys and Key West 

 


The Florida Keys famous for the beauty of its water is one of the top destinations in the world for bird watching. The Florida Keys is also known as an ideal spot to be to viewmigrating birds . Starting in April as migrating birds pass through the Keys on their way up north there are opportunites to see rare and unique bird species. With the warming of temperature many birds will leave the subtropics and migrate to locations in the north. Doves, ruby-throated hummingbirds and perching birds, like redwing blackbirds and many songbirds, will make this annual journey north along with a good number of pelicans.

 

Florida Bird Lists on the Web

 

http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/othrdata/chekbird/r4/flkeys.htm

 

Wings Over Florida

A free awards program open to resident as well as non-resident Florida birdwatchers.  The purpose of the program is to encourage birders to take their skills to the next level by identifying as many birds as you can within the state of Florida.

Awards are given as skill level increases more and more birds arfe identified. Color certificates are awarded at five levels starting at a life list of 50 Florida species (Beginner) and ending at 350 species (Elite Florida Birder). 

Identifying Florida's many birds is a challenging activity, especially for those who are just starting out.  Begin by ordering a free application packet (checklist, application sheet, and "Bird Watching Basics") or you can print this material online. 

 

 

Birding Spots

This page starts out with information on the Dry Tortugas, because of its importance in providing bird watch opportunities. The Dry Tortugas are the southernmost of Florida Keys. The Florida Bay sites which require water access are listed with the Everglade sites.

Otherwise information is provided for sites starting in the Upper Keys and working south to Key West.

There are a number of good birding spots in the Florida Keys. The Tortugas, Sandy Key, and the Everglades are perhaps the best known, but there are many others located throughout the Keys and Florida Bay. A list of places in Key Largo, Long Key, Marathon, Pigeon Key, Little Torch Key and Big Pine, together with information on Tortugas, Florida Bay, Sandy Key, and the Everglades is provided below:

 

TORTUGAS -

 

The moat around Fort Jefferson on Garden Key can be seen through an old gun turret opening of the fort.

Fort Jefferson on Garden Key - 305-242-7700 - The Tortugas may be accessed by ferry from Key West, by plane or boat. From Key West take the Dry Tortuga Ferry to Fort Jefferson on Garden Key.

Seagoing birders can view species that can be seen nowhere else in the U.S. at Dry Tortugas National Park. The Tortugas are small islands 70 miles west of Key West, and are known for their unique and diverse bird life since islands and islets lie beneath a major avian flyway from South America and Cuba to the northern United States and each spring and fall thousands of migrating birds rest and recuperate there during their flight between continents.

The best time to visit the Tortugas is during migration. The Dry Tortugas play important role in the migration of birds between South America and the eastern United States. The Tortugas are the first dry land sighted by birds in this migration. The spring months of April and May are probably the best, because there are more birds to be seen and the water is calmer for sea-travel. Sadly, the Tortugas offer rest but scant food and water. Many birds perish for lack of food. Birders can hope to see an Antillean shorteared owl, regularly sighted, along with warblers, frigatebirds, peregrine falcons and the ruddy turnstone.

The islands are home to the only nesting colony of Magnificent Frigatebirds in North America. The Tortugas are also home to the largest Sooty Tern colony (100,000 terns) in the Northern Hemisphere. The terns nest on nearby Bush Key along with some Brown Noddies. Bush Key is the only significant breeding colony of sooty terns in the U.S. From February through August, tens of thousands of terns gather to claim territory and mates. Brown noddies and the occasional black noddie also join the nesting fray. Bush Key is closed to the public during nesting season each year from March through September. The thousands of terns gathered there are hard to miss because of the noise they make and sight they make when they rise in flight. The rookery may be observed with binoculars from Fort Jefferson on nearby Garden Key. On Hospital Key about 2 miles away one sees Masked Boobies, and Long Key is home to Brown Boobies and frigatebirds. Red-footed boobies are regular visitors. Roseate terns can also be sighted on Hospital Key. Pelagic species like Audubon's shearwaters, band-rumped storm petrels and bridled terns can be veiwed in the channels between islands.

Occasionally sighted are the white tailed tropic bird, brown and red-footed boobies, black noddy and roseate tern. April is a popular time for tours of the Tortugas because of springtime fallout and trans-gull migrants.

During the ferry crossing one may see Roseate and Bridled Terns and Audubon's Shearwater. On towers and navigation buoys one often sees a Roseate tern.

The fort on Garden Key was built in the1860s to protect the sea lanes of the Gulf of Mexico. Today it serves as an oasis to thousands of migrating birds. On Garden Key there are Magnificent Frigatebirds, Brown Noddies and Sooty Terns. One may also see Warblers, Golden Warblers and Yellow-rumped Warblers, possibly a Gray Kingbird, The Tortugas inevitably produce surprises: one may see a Short-eared Owl or an American Kestrel perched in one of the trees of the parade grounds, Cave Swallows around the fort battlements of the fort, Double-Crested Commorant, Brown Pelicans, possibly a Shiny Cowbird and the rare Red-Necked Phalarope may be observed.

Other possible shorebirds one may see on the islands around Fort Jefferson are the Semipalmated Sandpiper, Black-bellied Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper, Turnstones, and Killdeers.

Arrange a Tour :

1. Yankee Freedom II Catamaran

Dry Tortugas Ferry™ at the Key West Docks

Leaves early in the AM and arrives in the late morning. You'll have four hours to watch Sooty Terns and Brown Noddys, and if your lucky you'll spy a Black Noddy or other rarity. Migrants around Fort Jefferson include thrushes, buntings, orioles and up to 20 species of warblers.

2. Victor Emanuel Nature Tours (VENT: www.ventbird.com), birding tour group for camping at the Fort or overnight on a boat, anchored offshore.

3. Photo gallery and tour schedule at http://southfloridabirding.com/

Information and Reservations Call- 1-305-744-9928

4. Wings Birding Tours... more than 30 years of worldwide experience ... South Florida, the Keys and the Dry Tortugas. . http://www.wingsbirds.com/tours/floridas.htm

 

EVERGLADES AND FLORIDA BAY

The Everglades Park (305-242-7700) supports a diverse population of birds and offers various birding tours, and a number of trails which can be explored. October through April is a good time for viewing birds in the Everglades due to the many types of wintering birds and the reduction of biting insects. Egrets, herons, ibises, wood storks, Anhingas and roseate spoonbills can be seen year round, but often concentrate at small ponds during winter months.

A Bird list of Uncommon, Common and Abundant birds for the Everglades may be obtained at -
http://i-bird.com/Location/FLEvergladesNP.htm

Trails and Places for viewing birds - Gumbo Limbo Trail , Anhinga Trail, Mahogany Hammock, the wet savannas near Mahogany Hammock for "Cape Sable" Seaside Sparrow, Paurotis Pond, Nine-Miles Pond to look for Roseate Spoonbill and American White Pelican, Snake Bight Trail, Eco Pond, and the Flamingo Campground mudflats to look for for herons, shorebirds and up to six species of tern including Gull-billed.

November through March - During this period it is difficult to find spoonbills roosting near Flamingo, but they may be observed flying to inland areas and flying back to Florida Bay islands to feed their young. They also visit Mrazek Pond in the Everglades for a brief period during winter.

In the Florida Bay nesting of most wading birds (Great White Heron, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis, Tri-colored Heron), is concentrated primarily on 3 islands; Tern Key in the northeastern Bay, and Frank Key and Sandy Keys in the western Bay.

November through March - In addition to Sandy Key, breeding pairs of Spoonbills nest on Tern Key, and Joe Key, plus other islands. The spoonbills leave the islands during the day and fly to inland feeding areas.

Nesting of the Great White Heron is distributed over much of the Bay. Great Blue Herons nest primarily in the western part of the Bay, singly or in small groups, and are sometimes found with Great White Herons.  

Observers during the year 2000 in April estimated 200 White Ibis nests at Frank Key. On Tern Key there were 300 White Ibis nests, 100 Roseate Spoonbill nests and 100 Great Egrets nests. Great Egret nests were also seen on Sandy Key and Horseshoe Key near Shell Key (off Upper Matecumbe Key) in June.  

 Arsnicker Keys - Arrange with a fishing guide out of Islamorada or Duck Key to go gunk-holing at Arsnicker Key to see White Pelicans and occasional nesting Bald Eagle. A guide out of Duck Key is:  

Capt. Joe Winter - Sightseeing Day Trips

Also Flats Fishing Guide. Light Tackle and Fly Fishing Charters for Bonefish, Permit, Tarpon, Redfish, Snook and Snapper. Catch them all from the " SKIMMER ". 305-743-7436 Evening live bait Tarpon trips and Everglades Park Fishing and $ 300 Half Day, $ 400 Full Day, $ 325/350 Half Day/Night Tarpon. email winter@marathonkey.com

 

Sandy Key - Sandy Key is located ten miles southwest of Flamingo. During winter it is a hub of spoonbill activity. Each evening hundreds of spoonbills roost in the islands' largest trees. At sunrise depart for the mainland.

Have a guide from Marathon, Duck Key or the Everglades take you to Ross Key to view the diverse bird population at the sanctuary of Sandy Key.

On Carl Ross Key you'll find a pristine beach of coarsely ground seashells visited by dozens of sandpipers. Camping on the north end of Carl Ross is allowed and the Park provides a picnic table and a primitive sanitation facility. The beach surrounding red mangrove trees and many species of plant and animal life. At the South end of the island grows mostly sea oat grass and prickleypear cactus.

 

KEY LARGO

The 48th annual CBC (Christmas 2002 Bird Count) in the Florida Keys in the Upper Keys-Plantation Key logged 101 individual bird species from dawn to dusk on Dec. 18.

Volunteers surveyed birds by land and boat counting all birds in a circle 15 miles in diameter in an area located 1/4 mile northeast of East Key. They were able to count more than 1,000 Double Crested cormorants. Semi palmated Sandpiper, Least sandpiper, the Short billed Dowitcher, Laughing gull, and Brown pelicaneach had counts of over 300.

Of note was a first time occurrence of a brilliant red-orange male summer tanager This migratory neotropical songbird, normally winters in Mexico, Central and South America.

This summer tanager or ( Piranga rubra ) eats primarily insects, but also favors ripe bananas, melon and citrus. Its size is about that of a cardinal size but without a crest.

 

Dagney Johnson Hammocks Botanical State Park - Mile marker 102.5 - Key Largo. Located half a mile north of the intersection of County Road 905 and U.S. 1.

Noted for annual nature lecture series held in January , February, and March

The Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park is named for Dagny Johnson who was instrumental in helping to preserve this large tract of Florida Keys hammock and is now part of Great Florida Birding Trail. The Keys serve as the anchor for the South Florida segment of the Great Florida Birding Trail. Altogether the trail has 116 segment in twelve Florida Counties. Details for individual parks may be found via a downloadable brochure at the Great Florida Birding Trail's Web site, http://www.floridabirdingtrail.com.

At the Dagny Johnson Hammock Botanical State Park may be found breeding populations of white-crowned pigeons, black-whiskered vireos, and mangrove cuckoos and at times migrating warblers. Also documented are sightings of the Zenaida dove, thick-billed vireo and the rare LaSagra's flycatcher.

 

Key Largo Hammock Nature Walk - Thursdays and Sundays 10 AM, meet at gate of Port Bougainvillea Resort, County Rd. 905, North Key Largo,451-1202

Key Largo Botanical Site -

From the Keys, take US 1 north to MM 106.5, turn right to County Road 905 just before Circle K. Go 1 mile, entrance is on the right. From Florida City take Card Sound Road to 4 way stop. Turn right and go 10 miles, entrance is on left.

 

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park - mile marker 102.5, John Pennekamp has 3,000 acres of mangrove swamp, hardwood hammock and rocky coast.

Birders should check at the Visitor Center for recent bird sightings.

This park famous for its underwater splendor, provides opportunities for Peregrine falcons sightings . There are nature trails for birders where birders can see gray kingbirds, short-tailed hawks, the white-crowned pigeon, mangrove cuckoo, and black-whiskered vireo. Gannets, petrels and sooty terns can also be sighted by those that take the John Pennekamp's glass-bottom boat tour. Birders might also spy a tropical travelers like the Bahamas mockingbird and thick-billed vireo.

 

Dove Creek Hammock - MM 94, oceanside. Look for sign.

Florida Keys Wild Bird Center - Mile Marker 93.6 - Key Largo

This center is a good place for children to see many wild bird species - peregrine falcons, great white herons, gulls, screech owl, ibis, pelicans, osprey, and peacocks. It was started by a single woman, rescuing hurt birds. The Center rescues injured, sick and orphaned birds and provides rehabilitation with the goal of releasing them back into the wild. Birds are kept in wire cages and enclosures and may be viewed from a wooden boardwalk path that crosses wetland grounds. Free but donations support half the Center's cost. A few guided tours but most are unguided to a lack of volunteers. 305-852-4486

 World Parrot Mission - Recently established at the Bird Center is the World Parrot Mission with purpose of caring for parrots. Parrot behavioral shows daily beginning at 11 AM , phone 305-853-BIRD, http://www.worldparrotmission.org

 

 

Caribbean Watersports' 'Enviro-Tours - http://www.caribbeanwatersports.com, two-hour Enviro-Tours of the Everglades National Park in specially-equipped Zodiac RIBs with experienced nature guides at the helm. Westin Beach Resort in Key Largo :1-800-223-6728 or 305 852-4707 for information, email - CWS@caribbeanwatersports.com

 

 

ISLAMORADA

Upper Matecumbe Key -rookery in northeast forested portion offers bird watching

Windley Key Fossil Reef Park

Located on Windley Key on the bayside - Thursday through Monday an hour long tour of 32 acre Windley Key is offered starting at 10 AM and 1 PM and costs $2.50 per person, children under 5 admitted free. Families with young children would be wise to take a self guided tour and pick and choose information that might be of interest to the kids from the park's wonderful Trail Guide available at the park store. Choice of 5 trails with numbered stations along the way. 305-664-25440 . The 70 plus page Trail Guide provides a five page illustrated bird list of birds which have been seen at the Windley Key Park.

Islamorada Adventure Tours

A guide out of Islamorada is Capt. Anne Baxter - MM 81.5 at WildWorld Sportsman. Islamorada, 305-852-4553

Adventure tours for the kids and family, specialty tours, Indian key ruins, Everglades, ocean reefs, photography, wildlife identification, learn ecology and science while in search of dolphin, reddish egrets, bald eagles, roseate spoonbills and sea turtles. half day or full day of exploring the waters of the Florida Keys, remote shallow bays and narrow creeks where tropical wildlife lives. Birding tours are usually around sunset when the birds are coming to roost.

For more information click on Easy Adventures at www.keysboats.com

 

LONG KEY

Long Key State Park in the Florida Keys - Mile Marker 67.5 long Key 305-664-4815

Nature trails and the park's canoe trail offer opportunities to see migrating spoonbills, warblers, and egrets. Egrets, one the most common birds found in the Keys, are likely to be seen no matter where a birder decides to bird watch. At Long Key State Park, birders have mudflats, mangrove swamp, hammock, beach and coastal berm habitats to explore. Also productive for sightings are sea grapes next to the parking lot.

At Long Key during low tide, birders can view roseate spoonbills usually joined by reddish and other egrets searching the shallows for food. The mudflats are frequented by shorebirds like ruddy turnstones. Following the Golden Orb nature trail birders may see warblers and vireos, mangrove cuckoos and white-crowned pigeons. Of note in 2005, a western spindalis was sighted by the parking lot sea grapes.

 

From Key Largo to Key West there are numerous locations to look for migrants as well as breeding species and several ponds along the way where shorebirds gather at high tide.

  

MARATHON AREA

Pigeon Key -

Pigeon Key is located across the 2.2 mile span of the north end old seven mile Bridge in Marathon. The island once served as work camp for railroad construction workers. For a time is was a fishing camp and park. Today it is the home of the Pigeon key Foundation, an educational and research center that preserves the cultural and natural resources of the island. 305-289-0025 Transportation is available from Knight's Key at the north end of the Seven Mile Bridge.

Excellent wildlife viewing from the old bridge and island. Visitors can walk, bike or skate the bridge to the island. Good viewing of fall raptor migration in North America. Great Blue herons , Great White Herons, and Reddish Egrets frequent the shallow waters.

In August and September, migrating birds such as Swallow-tailed kites, Ospreys and Mississippi Kites can be sighted moving through. The bird migration continues into November. In October there are frequent sightings of the Broad-winged Swainson and the sharp-shinned hawks, American Kestrels, and Peregrine Falcon. In late September the Turkey Vultures concentrate around the island's mangroves.

Other Key's birds such as the mangrove cuckoo as well as migrating songbirds can be seen in the spring and fall.

 Curry Hammock State Park in Marathon - Mile marker 56.2 on US 1 305-664-4815-

Between Grassy Key and Marathon. Located on both sides of US 1 starting at Little Crawl Key - Nature trails for hawk watching.

It's commonly thought that more peregrine falcons annually migrate through the Keys than through any other location in the U.S.

Visit the research and education staff of the Florida Keys Raptor Migration Project at Curry Hammock State Park between September 15 and November 13 each year to observe this exciting migration for yourself. Hawkwatch International leads an annual raptor count. At Curry Hammock, visitors have the opportunity to assist with the count of buteos, accipiters, falcons and eagles that fly through the Keys.

The Florida Keys is the premier location in the world to observe the fall migration of Peregrine Falcons. Over 23,000 raptors including over 1,700 Peregrines migrate through the Florida Keys each year, Other species to migrate to the Keys in large numbers are Merlins, American Kestrels, Sharp-Shinned Hawks, Cooper's Hawks, Ospreys, Northern Harriers, The Keys are also probably the best location east of the Mississippi River to see both Swainson's Hawks and Short-tailed Hawks during migration. 

 

Tropical Crane Point Hammock - MM 50.5 - Marathon across from K-Mart - Open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon - 5 p.m. A 63-Acre indoor-outdoor museum. In addition to nature trails, Crane Point is a great place to take children as it offers several things to see at one location.The Children's Museum, Natural History Museum, Nature Trails Tour, and Adderly Village free for youngsters 6 or under, $7.50 for adults. 305-743-9100. Underwater cave with windows let you see sharks, lobster, tropical fish, and turtles swimming in their 15,000-gallon saltwater lagoon. Marine touch tanks and indoor exhibits.

 . . . Nature Trails of Crane Hammock
Marked and self-guided tour trails take you through a hard wood hammock and tropical palm hammock containing 200 plus native and exotic plants and 10 endangered animal species.

 . . . Children's Museum of the Florida Keys
Things to touch and see from days gone by when the Florida Keys was home to Indians, pirates, wreckers, and railroaders. Marine life touch tank, fish feeding, interactive pirate ship, "Los Ninos de Los Cayos" . Plenty of fish and animals for kids to see at the children's museum.

. . . Museum of Natural History of the Florida Keys
Tools, shells, and dioramas of pre-Columbian Indians of the Keys, Spanish and British explorers, simulated underwater cave viewing tropical fish, sharks, lobster and marine life. Museum Gift Shop for souvenirs

. . . Tour the Adderly Village Historic Site
A short walk from the Museum of Natural History takes you to a restored Bahamian conch house. Tour the "Adderly Village" community , home of Bahamian families in the early 1900's. Learn how these Bahamian settlers lived, how they earned a living, what they ate, how they cared for the sick, the hardships they faced, and how they entertained themselves. Descriptive brochure available.

Marathon Wild Bird Rescue and Rehabilitation  - Wild Bird Center at 888/826-3811 - This site is located on Crane Point Museum property and a fee is requires for access.

In addition to resident birds too injured to live on their own and birds on the mend this area provides opportunities to see cattle egrets, yellow warblers, black-whiskered vireos, ruby-throated hummingbirds, thrushes, swifts, doves and some birds of prey such as peregrine falcons. The numbers of birds change during start of migration season.

 

 

Sombrero Beach off Sombrero Road in Marathon - Burrowing Owls

Lake Edna on Grassy Key (turn right for about 0.2 miles at MM 57.9, Mile Marker signs (green signs along the road) indicate the number of miles before US-1 ends in Key West.

 

BIG PINE KEY

OspreyCam - http://www.ospraylivecams.com - A group of Lower Keys residents created Ospraycam so that browsers might view the growth of a baby osprey from its Big Pine Key nest.

 

At Big Pine Key (MM 32.9): just after entering onto the Key, go south onto Long Beach Drive. Stop at any convenient spot. Ovenbirds, warblers, waterthrushes, siskins, buntings, and orioles may be present during migration and in winter.

 

Big Pine Key (MM 30.2):

Big Pine offers a number of nature spots with opportunities to see birds in various setting. - Mile Marker 30.5 - all sites on bayside

Big Pine contains a part of the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuge -established to protect wildlife and their habitat. North at the traffic light and immediate left onto Key Deer Blvd. Refuge office is in the shopping center on the right. Short-tailed hawk and turkey vultures may be observed soaring overhead.  

There are actually three Refuges in the lower Florida Keys.

National Key Deer - established in 1957 to protect the endangered Key Deer and other wildlife. Key Deer Refuge and surrounding non-refuge lands afford opportunities for birding. Lock your car, lock valuables in trunk or take them with you when you leave it.
Great White Heron - established in 1938 to protect herons and egrets from plume hunters. Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge encompasses many of the Keys north of U.S. Highway 1 from Key West to just west of Marathon. accessible only by boat
Key West National Wildlife Refuge - establish in 1908 to protect herons and egrets from plume hunters. Key West and Great White Heron Refuges are composed of many small islands locally known as the Backcountry. Key West National Wildlife Refuge lies west of Key West. Accessible only by boat.

They are part of a subtropical ecoregion and provide habitat for many species of birds. Combined they total approximately 23,000 acres of land. If the water within the boundaries of Key West and Great White Heron Refuges are included the Refuges cover an area of about 358,000:

The best times for birding are during the spring and fall migration. Some of the more unique birds that can be seen are great white herons, antillean nighthawk, gray kingbird, black-whiskered vireo, white-crowned pigeon and the elusive mangrove cuckoo. Together, these three Refuges protect habitat for 285 species of birds.

 

National Key Deer (Florida Keys) National Wildlife Refuge(s)

National Key Deer Refuge Headquarters - Mile Marker 30.5, bayside. At the traffic light turn north onto Key Deer Blvd. Go 1/8 mile, turn right into Big Pine Shopping Center. 305-872-2239. Look for birds and the Key Deer. The refuge is a Key Deer haven of approximately 2,300 acres located on Big Pine Key. There you may see in the early morning or late evening hours the small free roaming and endangered Key Deer. These small and graceful creatures inhabit the island of Big Pine which has fresh water and native foliage to provide nourishment.

Watson/Mannillo Trail - MM 30.5, bayside. 2.5 miles north of traffic light on Key Deer Blvd.

A Bird list of Uncommon, Common and Abundant birds at the National Key Deer (Florida Keys) National Wildlife Refuge(s) may be obtained at

http://i-bird.com/Location/FLNationalKeyDeer.htm

Blue Hole

Also on Big Pine is a sinkhole called Blue Hole. The Blue Hole has a nature observation platform and a walking trail. Freshwater fish and turtles as well as alligators at times reside in Blue Hole. Located off of Key Deer Boulevard on Big Pine Key , the Blue Hole is a great place for picture taking family photos and videos. 305-872-2239 Pied-billed grebes and green herons may be present. The masked duck and least grebe also have been seen.

Opposite the Blue Hole, take Big Pine St. and make a left onto Koehn Blvd. Near the end of the road and at the boat ramp shorebirds may be present at the mud flats.

Jack Watson's Nature Trail

A distance of several hundred yards down the road passed Blue Hole brings you to the entrance of the Jack Watson Nature Trail. The trail is about one mile long and the sites along the way are numbered. A tour brochure may be found at the beginning of the trail describing each numbered item. Key Deer have be found within the Hammock's undergrowth or in low lying areas that collect water. The trail leads under the canopy of trees where you'll see gumbo limbo or "tourist trees" named because of their red color and peeling bark. Also visible are Jamaican dogwood trees. Pieces of this trees bark were floated in local waters by Caloosa Indians to catch fish. The bark's chemical property caused fish to float to the top making them easy to gather, thus, the tree is also known by the lesser name "fish-fuddle tree". In addition to local Key's plant life you'll find orchids, bromeliads, and possibly golden orb spiders. 305-872-2239

The vicinity of the west end of Watson Blvd and along Narcissus Ave. is a good place to look for antillean nighthawks They are often present late in the day during spring and summer.

No Name Key - No Name Key Shoreline

In Big Pine at the traffic light, turn north taking the right of the Yonto Wilder Road. Continue one mile to the stop sign. Turn left and follow the road 2 miles to a small bridge. Continue on and cross over No Name Bridge 3/4 mile to end of road at yellow gate. Walk the shoreline to see wading birds. Another way to get to No Name Key - At the traffic light make a right turn onto Key Deer Blvd. Make a right at the intersection of Key Deer and Watson's Boulevard. Keep going till you cross a concrete bridge.

Yellow headed blackbird, dark-eyed junco, cave swallow, and Swainson's warbler have been seen on No Name Key. A good location for veiwing mangrove cuckoo and black-whiskered vireo is at the end of the road.

Drive slowly and look for Key Deer. Best place to see Key Deer is along the back roads of No Name Key. Drive slowly once your on No Name and start looking carefully. If you see a stopped car it usually means someone has spotted a Key Deer.

The best time of day to see Key Deer is in the early morning or at dusk. In addition to the roadside of No Name Key, Key deer may also be seen along the grassy road sides of Big Pine. Fawns feeding with their moms are seen during May and June.

 

FLORIDA KEYS NATURE TOURS AND ECO TOURS - Big Pine & Cudjoe Keys and the surrounding Lower Keys - http://keys-kayak-canoe-tours.com/ or http://courtesyfloridakeys.com/kayak.htm - informative and friendly guides! Call or email Captain Markus - KAYAKTHEKEYS@AOL.COM    Phone: 305-872-0032, Canoetours@aol.com  or  Ecotours@aol.com

Experience the Wildlife and Marine life of the National Marine Sanctuary, Great White Heron Refuge and National Key Deer Refuge - Backcountry waters and Oceanside flats, Mangrove Islandsand some of the most rare and beautiful Marine Life, Birds & Flora in the U.S.

Try the "Wayback Tour" on a flats' skiff and the "kayaks aboard". deep into the pristine areas of the backcountry known by a few locals and flats fishing guides. A little bit of everything - birding, nature photography backcountry beach lunch, kayaking along a mangrove tunnel , snorkeling, swimming, fishing

 

 

LOWER KEYS  

Lower Keys

The White-crowned Pigeon and Black-whiskered Vireo are landbird attractions one can see in the Lower Keys. On Sugar Loaf Key the illusive Mangrove Cuckoo has been seen.

Torchwood Hammock - Little Torch Key - Mile Marker 28.5, oceanside. Turn south onto Pirates Road. Proceed until the road ends. Ecological gem with 244 -acres and five different natural communities plus several rare and imperiled species.

Bahia Honda State Park - Great spot for birding. - MM37.5, Lower Keys, 305-872-2353, 305-872-1127- Natural Trail and shoreline, Marina, restrooms, dive shop, cabins and camp sites. Tropical hardwood hammock adjoins coastal berm, beach and dune communities. A trail leads up to the old railroad bridge built by Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway and is an ideal location to hawkwatch and proviews birders with a birds-eye view of the ocean, bay and islands.

An entrance fee is required. A wonderful place walk the beach to see shorebirds, gulls, and terns. Warblers may be found in trees close by the old store. Still other birds can be viewed at the east end of the beach and roadside past the camping area. Visitors can do it all here. Bahia Honda State Park allows for birding, camping, picnicing, boating, snorkeling, kayaking and or just swimming and relaxing on the beach.

Near the seagrape and poisonwood trees usually can be seen White-crowned pigeons and warblers feeding. Shorebirds and waders work the wrackline at low tide.

 

East end of West Summerland Key - MM 34.9: On US1, just west of the Bahia Honda Bridge, turn north until you come to the "Donut" (a manmade cove). For viewing shorebirds, terns, and gulls. and sometimes Snowy plovers.

Summerland Key - MM 25: first left after the bridge and salt pond on right. Ibis and egrets can be viewed in this area.

Travel right onto Margaret St and then the next left. On your left you will find a fresh water pond where Ducks, least bittern, sora rail, and white-crowned pigeon are found. Moorhens have been known to nest here.

Sugarloaf Key - MM 17: meander south at traffic light to end of the road. You should be able to view Hawks, harriers, woodpeckers here. You may be able to view ducks on pond to the right . Crossing the bridge brings you to pine trees where pine siskin, indigo bunting, and grosbeak have been seen.

 

KEY WEST

Key West Botanical Garden - Botanical Garden Way and College Road, Stock Island. free admission - an eleven acre garden with wood hammock and birds, Turn right off College Road just past Bayshore Manor. A tropical hardwood hammock with the only freshwater ponds on Key West and Stock Island this site provides birders with opportunities to look for the white-crowned pigeon, black-whiskered vireos, eastern and western kingbirds, scissor-tailed flycatchers, and seasonal migrants - tanagers, thrushes, buntings and flycatchers. Some lucky visitors have sighted the western spindalis.

Fort Zachary State Park - Truman Annex at Southard Street 305-292-6713 In addition to bird watching, take the tour of the Fort and picnic or go for a swim at park beach. Restrooms, picnic facilities and snackbar. Admission fee.  

 


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DISCOUNTED LODGING IN THE FLORIDA KEYS

Florida Keys Best is a regional website which provides information on average to over 30,000 unique visitors each month. Special Internet rates negotiated with a number of hotels and resorts are available to you through the Florida Keys Best website. We provide reservation and discounted rate information on more than 80 places of lodging in the Florida Keys.

These discounted Internet rates most often represent a savings over rates generally made available to the public by hotels and resorts.

The hotel and motel properties listed usually offer the best value to customers, as they offer the best discount.

You'll find a selection of lodging in Key Largo, Islamorada, Duck Key - Hawk's Cay, Marathon and Key West.

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Marathon and Duck Key

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