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Baltimore by the Sea

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

There Be Dragons in the Keys

Dragon, ready for its Jurassic Park close-up
Whizzing through the Keys
There be Dragons in the Florida Keys; all manner of beasties and birds. Today we headed south from Homestead, down Highway one, passing though each key. Larry gave us commentary as he drove and was sure to point out some of the sights. On Key Largo, we saw the little brown boat used in 1951's classic movie, The African Queen staring Humphrey Bogart and  Katherine Hepburn. I'm a classic from 1951 too, but unlike the Queen, I haven't sailed around the world twice.
The African Queen
Thar be deadly Poisonwood Tree
We arrived at Long Key, and as we entered Long Key State Park, a raccoon shot across the road, and before we knew it, Larry was leading us on a trail to look for a sparce exotic, the Key West Quail Dove. which either evaded us, or more likely had moved on to an area with better food. While we searched, Larry told us the names of many of the tall canopy of trees. They had interesting names, such as 'Gumbo Limbo' and 'Poisonwood' that has blistering sap. The spots on the tree on the left, are spots of oozing sap. Ewww...

There are thatched Seminole and Miccosukee structures all over Florida and they are made using Thatch Palm. The little palms are scattered all over on the Long Key trails.
Thatch Palm
Barbed Wire Cactus

A cactus that to my eye resembled the cacti of the Southwestern states, is an endangered cactus of the keys; Barbed Wire Cactus.

There were Sea Grape, a tree whose mildly grape flavored fruit is a favorite of many wild birds and mammals, including humans.
Sea Grapes shown are unripe - when ripe, are purple 
After searching one side of the park for the Key West Quail Dove, we went to the other side to search for Zenaida Dove. That was fun as we had to traverse a long wooden boardwalk over swamp.
Traipsing the Golden Orb Trail 
The Golden Orb Trail had its charms. There were little holes at the side of the white sandy trail, in which baseball sized Blue Crabs lurked.
Baseball sized Blue Crab in its burrow
Another crab I saw along the trail were little Mangrove Tree Crabs.
Only an inch worth of crab 
Walking the trail was fun, even though the spot shown below was flooded with ocean waters on the walk in, requiring taking off shoes to wade through. I did so, and was ticked off when my pedometer unfastened itself and PLUNK into the salty wet it sunk. It survived, & thank heavens, so did I.
Where the trail was under salt water on our way in,
high and dry on our way out
When we reached where the Zenaida Dove was last seen, we looked high and low but did not find the dove. Larry suspects the bird was off hiding on its nest.  I suspect it was off playing canasta with the Quail Doves.

We all headed further south, and on Key West. Larry took us to a shore where we enjoyed viewing the birds on the far off pier.
Three Roseate Terns, all in a row
The Roseates put on a show for one of their mates,  
as one sang capella, and a second danced a jig
a less musically talented Least Tern
And last and certainly not a Least, a Royal Tern
The terns were fun to watch, but then, so were the lizards at this particular spot. There was a huge Iguana around 2 feet long.

There was a Curly Tail Lizard, that was pretty dinky after seeing it's giant cousin nearby. Here are two views, which show the lasso-like tail on this tropical lizard.

We did a little birding on a Key West golf course. There were numerous Black Bellied Plover on the greens, and we were delighted to see this bird, which unlike most of the other birds, was still decked out in its breeding plumage.
Beautiful Black-bellied Plover.
Me, a Bahama Mockingbird? I don't think so!
The next stop was Zachary Taylor State Park, which I vaguely remember from my 1998 trip. Larry wanted to check out the current report of a 'alleged' Bahama Mockingbird, which he correctly predicted was a cute little immature Northern Mocking bird.

There were lots of other birds around, and come to think on it, a fair number of beautiful Butterflies. Of course it was the largest, brightest ones that caught my eye. Shiny! Purdy!

Julia Heliconian Butterfly
We still had a fair amount of day ahead of us. We located the motel - the Sea Shell - and checked into our rooms. By that time, the skies had opened up, and as predicted earlier , the tropical rains came a pouring down. I don't think any of us cared much. Rain is just an opportunity to see where ever you are at, in another light. And anyway, with 3 of the four of us having come from California, pouring down rain was kind of a treat. So through the rain we all headed out for a nice dinner in a part of Key West that reminded me of New Orleans. A Great dinner was enjoyed, and there is eagerness for our trip tomorrow, when we head for the Dry Tortugas.
The outside of the restaurant which had atmosphere to spare

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