Today we drove from Florida City all the way down to Key West, stopping at various points along the way. The first stop on Key Largo was unscheduled when White-crowned Pigeons were seen by Sveta flying across the road. Whilst parked in the carpark of a fast-food restaurant enjoying great views of at least 25 White-crowned Pigeons, we also found three Common Mynas, a Northern Flicker and another Belted Kingfisher, whilst overhead soared a Magnificent Frigatebird.
Marathon Key was next, where we had amazing views of Burrowing Owl down to just a few feet on a golf course! The southern end of the bridge to Missouri Key held a few migrants in the bushes: four Palm Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, a male American Redstart, Prairie Warbler, Gray Kingbird and another male Painted Bunting. We recorded our first American Herring Gull here and watched from very close range an immature Peregrine Falcon eating a recently-caught Rock Dove.
On Ohio Key, we found a flock of waders comprising Semipalmated Plover, Willet, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers and some dowitcher spp.
Next, we diverted on to Big Pine Key to take a look at seven Pilot Whales reported on the news, suffering from a virus and being cared for by a group of people.
On No Name Key we found three of the tiny White-tailed Deer subspecies restricted to the Florida Keys, plus Black-whiskered Vireo, four Prairie Warblers and two male Cape May Warblers.
At Saddlebunch Key we searched the mangroves finding our first Rose-breasted Grosbeak, but this was soon followed by one of the birds of the trip. First we heard it, then there it was, a Mangrove Cuckoo, but this wasn't the usual brief view, it showed extremely well for at least ten minutes, totally uncharacteristic of this extremely difficult bird.
Finally, we reached Key West and checked into our very nice hotel. Of course, we were quickly out birding again, this time to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. We set up 'scopes to view passing seabirds, much to the interest of the locals and holiday makers sunning themselves on the beach. Terns were abundant with Royal, Sandwich and our target bird Roseate Tern being easily seen. The sun was still above the horizon so we headed to the edge of Key West Airport. Pools of water held a normal and a white-phase Reddish Egret, White Ibis and 13 Semipalmated Plovers, whilst nearby in some trees we found Palm and Prairie Warblers and Common Yellowthroat. At sunset, we watched skywards looking for nighthawks. We saw three in all, one of which was a probable Antillean, but it was a long way off and not calling so, commendably, we didn't count it!