DUNCANVILLE, TEXAS — Last February (2008), my friend Tom and I had a 24-hour layover in Miami while traveling from Costa Rica to Buenos Aires, so (being the sensible folk we are) we spent the time driving around southern Florida and the Keys. We didn’t have time to pursue South Florida specialties like Mangrove Cuckoo, nor did we stumble across any, but we did get a memorable first glimpse of this very unique part of our nation. I thought that my pictures of the adventure got lost during months of travel, but I found them last week. Here are a few — enjoy!
A Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) in breeding finery.
This isn’t a great photo, but it documents my first field experience with the “Great White” Heron, which is generally considered a color morph of the widespread Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). I’d always wondered just how distinctive these birds would be in the field, and as you can see from even this photo, the answer is very. (Oh, and not everyone agrees that it’s just a color morph.)
Boat-tailed Grackle, Quiscalus major. The resident population in Florida is dark eyed.
Mangrove habitat wasn’t something I’d had a chance to explore in North America before. I learned on this trip that a subspecies of the Prairie Warbler, Dendroica discolor paludicola, breeds in the Florida mangroves. They were singing when we visited in late February.
South Florida has plenty to warm a botanist’s heart too. Take for instance this spectacular Tillandsia fasiculata — or giant airplant — which is related to Spanish moss and is a distant cousin to the pineapple.
The spectacular tropical hardwood forests of the Keys are home to White-crowned Pigeons, or so I am told. Perhaps one day I’ll find out for myself.
This peculiar formation is called a ‘cypress mound.’ The land is flat, but the trees in the center of the swamp grow taller than those around the edges, forming what looks like a mound. Bald cypresses are deciduous, and they weren’t leafed out yet in February.
More photos are posted in the gallery, and putting together this post has made me eager to visit Florida again!
- Florida memories
- A postcard from south Texas
- More Gulf Coast photos
- Gulf Coast report and Long-tailed Duck
- Cranes and a kingbird