It was March 28 and I had just finished a successful chase of the Thick-billed Vireo in Miami and Shiny Cowbirds in the Everglades. Next up was a trip down to the Key West area for another target lifer, the female WESTERN SPINDALIS that had been present at the Key West Botanical Gardens for several months.
I arrived arrived at the botanical gardens to high winds and warm temps. I knew it was going to be a challenge to find such a drab bird, especially one that didn't move around a whole lot. I started my search and nothing. Kept looking... nothing. I was honestly getting very concerned. But just then a van-full of birders from Ohio unloaded; they too wanted the Western Spindalis. I felt better, surely 20 people looking would be better than just me!
And that's exactly what happened. Fifteen minutes passed and then word traveled through the place like rapid-fire, someone had spotted it. We all rushed over and got splendid looks:
Top prize for whoever spotted it; this bird didn't move from that spot for probably 20 minutes. It was nearly invisible if you didn't know exactly where to look.
After that close call, I started to look around the gardens at other things like this GIANT SWALLOWTAIL:
... this CASSIUS BLUE:
... and LONG-TAILED SKIPPER (without the long tails):
I had never seen such a tame PALM WARBLER as this guy:
After the botanical gardens, I went down to Fort Zachary Taylor at the tip of Key West to look around. The birdlife was very dead, however. One of the only species I had was this flyover MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD:
The water looked inviting though, I won't lie:
Some movement caught my eye in one of the low mangroves, it was an iguana, probably 5-6 feet long:
I started my drive back up the Keys. In the back of my mind I was keeping an eye out for COMMON MYNAS. The only reason I was interested in this species was that I hadn't ever snapped a picture of one. Somewhere down the road, I saw some on the shoulder! Perfect. I yanked the car over, jumped out with my big lens, and took some distant photos back up the highway. I'm sure all the motorists were rather freaked out by a sketchy dude pointing some machinery down the highway at them but hey, what can you do? The picture is nothing great but I'm not in it for great photos.