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Friday, May 06, 2016

Final Day of Ultimate South Florida Tour

Sugarloaf Key Bat Tower
The Wildlife Center and Zachary Taylor Park were only the start of a last day in Florida. Following those morning wanderings, Larry drove us north, with a stop to peak at a historical folly, the Sugarloaf Key's Bat Tower (same bat time, same bat location of course). This weather gray tower was built in 1929 in hopes of providing a base for bats that would then do the tower's builder a favor by eating all the malaria carrying mosquitoes.  Bats, carefully installed in the tower, flew 'bye-bye' never to be seen again; silly, ungrateful, mosquito nabbers... Luckily, this tower, which is on the National Registry of Historic places, does make a tolerably good Osprey nest support.

Later on the drive north, Larry ducked off to a road that ran parallel to the shore line. We only had a hundred feet or so to view the beach.
An unknown - to me - Florida key  shore 
There were clouds of Great White Butterflies dancing about, and a great many shore birds long the beach. Larry brought us there as a Neotropic Cormorants are there occasionally, but not today.

just off shore... Double-crested Cormorants and Brown Pelicans
Of great interest to me were more Semipalmated Sandpipers than I had ever seen in one spot before. There were dozens of sandpiper digital shots for me to take and mull over in quiet appreciation.

Semipalmated Sandpiper 
A little jog on the beach
You can very-nearly-almost see semipalmation, i.e, webbing, on its toes
Beware of hitting Key Deer

There are two things one looks forward to when visiting the Florida Keys, the second being seeing Key Deer. The Key Deer are the scaled down version of White-tailed Deer, that are nearly always endangered, certainly because among other causes, they seem to get hit by cars a LOT.      

We had our eyes peeled for mini-deer, but it wasn't until our last day a few were located, lolling about on someone's lawn.
Key Deer are about the size of a German Shepard dog
Key Deer fawn
Fawn and buck, with antlers in velvet
 Always does my heart good to see deer, and seeing Key Deer is seeing the .

the Precious...

For lunch our group dropped in on a small diner, located kitty corner to the Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge on Big Pine Key. While everyone else enjoyed a nice sit down lunch, I was off fumbling and fooling about in the Refuge Visitor Center. I got a stamps for my Blue Goose Passport book, a couple of t-shirts and, as I broke the bank, I was gifted with a free reusable Refuge satchel for toting my booty.
Best refuge toy section EVER!

Oh, and also had educational exhibits like the gator (top) and crock (bottom)

...got 'nuff meringue there Butch?
Now a bit ago I mentioned the second thing one looks forward to when visiting the Keys. The first one is, almost needless to say, Key Lime Pie.

In Key West I had a 'so-so' slice of pie at one of our Key West suppers, but it was mostly melange and though tasty, for me it just wasn't quite the real deal. One of us asked a waitress where we could get a really good slice of pie and she told us 'real deal' could be found in a different, but delightful form, on our drive north.

I was worried we might shoot past the pie location without seeing it, but as you can tell below, no way one zips past this confection of a building without noticing it.

Best Junk food E-vah! 
And there inside 'Key Largo Chocolates' were enough sweets to make your teeth spontaneously develop cavities...

Then HUZZAH! We found what we looked for - FROZEN, chocolate dipped key lime pie-on-a-stick! OHMYGAWD, OHMYGAWD, talk about delish. This frozen confection was totally worth the week long wait.


Additional view of the lusciousness that is frozen chocolate dipped key lime pie...
Following our frozen treats, we finally settled into the long drive back north to Miami, but there was one last treat to look forward to, that ran no risk of exceeding one's calorie limit for the day. Larry drove us over to a Miami area bridge where Caribbean Cave Swallows were keeping house... keeping nest. The Cave Swallows weren't lifers for any of us, but I was itching to get some kind of photos for the species. You can see below my shots are all a fuzzy, because I still haven't taken the time to learn in part, any of my 'fancy schmansy' camera's abilities, e.g., to increase the depth of field when shooting fast moving bullets on the wing. Ugh! Must learn to do so for my next pelagic trip, I mean having to learn this after a b'jillion years of field photography is, one must admit, a bit ridiculous.
Cave Swallow shoot past at speed of sound birdy
Note that lovely chestnut rump
My best-of-day Cave Swallow shot 
So mid-afternoon, my week long 'clean-up' trip for seeing the Florida birds I'd missed finding on my own via Larry Manfredi's Ultimate South Florida Tour ended. I totally recommend Larry's tours to any birder. All week long, under his care, I felt like Princess Claire. In the late afternoon, Larry dropped me off at a hotel I'd booked myself into during the afternoon, on line, on the fly.  While we drove there I mentally tallied up my trip lifers. I thought at first that I'd reached 650 on my ABA life list but after checking what birds are 'countable' the final tally was 648, But hey - make NO mistake about it, I am chuffed! Just for brag-ies, here's my list of lifer birds tallied up for me this past week - not to forget numerous non-lifer birds and other fauna I enjoyed all week. I'd celebrate a 'high-five' with you over any one of these feathery bits of awesomeness.

Common Myna                   Dusky Seaside Sparrow         Mangrove Cuckoo
Black-Whiskered Vireo       Monk Parakeet                      Spot-breasted Oriole
Egyptian Goose                   Nanday Parakeet                   Chestnut-fronted Macaw
Gray-headed Swamphen     Smooth-billed Ani                 Bachman's Sparrow
Short-tailed Hawk               Gray-cheeked Thrush            Antillean Nighthawk
Muscovy Duck

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