February 25: Today we add no. 716 – Zenaida Dove, a Caribbean species not seen in the US since June, 2009. Accordingly, when this one was discovered at Long Key State Park south of Islamorada in the Florida Keys this week it caused quite a stir. I had made the long drive to this exact location last year in an unsuccessful attempt to see a similarly elusive Key West Quail-Dove, so I was somewhat wary of another fruitless trip, but Zenaida Dove (ABA code 5) is also such a rarity in North America that I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity. This time I was fortunate to have Larry Manfredi along. If anyone can find a Florida bird, it’s Larry.
We arrived at Long Key just after 8:15 AM and searched all along the oceanside section of the Golden Orb trail for the better part of two hours along with numerous other birders with no luck. Finally, at around 10:15 the Zenaida Dove was sighted off the trail in dense brush and everyone was able to get at least an ID glimpse albeit a somewhat unsatisfying view through all the twigs. However before long, as has been its pattern for the past few days, the bird emerged out into full view onto the trail itself and remained in view off and on until we finally left just after noon. This individual, unlike last year’s reclusive Key West Quail-Dove, seemed uncharacteristically unfazed by the presence of numerous humans. Video.
Along the shoreline I spotted a curious blue object that first looked like some sort of water balloon but turned out to be a beached Portuguese Man-o-war – a venomous jellyfish that, in numbers, is a well-known swimming hazard in south Florida and not infrequently a cause for beach closures. Besides the tranquil views of pastel turquoise/green water, Long Key also has extensive mangroves and some exotic plants such as these forbidding venus flytraps.
Larry has the distinction of having attracted not just Painted Buntings, but all three species of cowbirds (Shiny, Bronzed, and Brown-headed) to his backyard feeders, so I spent a few minutes there getting a few pictures although the afternoon light was suboptimal. It’s not often one gets to see a dozen or more Shiny Cowbirds (ABA code 3) in one place.