Going Crazy over a Cuckoo

This was my third time at Key Largo State Botanical Gardens, actually the second time within a few days. Mangrove Cuckoo is the elusive specialty of southern Florida, seen by some, frustrating many. I had checked three good spots so far in addition to the botanical gardens. I wandered for hours among the mangroves and hardwood forest on Big Pine Key, checked the dead-end road on Sugarloaf Key, and spent three days in the Dry Tortugas, all the way enjoying Yellow-billed Cuckoos without even a single nasal “aan” of the Mangrove Cuckoo. This was going to be it though, I mean, I had my paperwork in order, no really, accessing certain parts of the botanical garden requires registering at nearby John Pennekamp State Park for a permit (free).

I had been handed an inky map full of lines that looked like rough topography in an area flat as a pancake, it was about as legible as an eroded Mayan stelae. I just pulled off into the first space and started walking down the wide trail. Apparently the area had been slated for development, before this rare and endangered habitat was saved, and the asphalt roadbed was still visible. I planned on covering a large loop, hoping against all odds that somehow I would stumble across a cuckoo in the afternoon heat. My loopy plans came to a quick end when the trail terminated in a dense line of mangroves. I figured, come back in the morning. The low forest was utterly quiet on the way out, except for, what, finally the distinct “aan” of the Mangrove Cuckoo. I stopped dead in my tracks and within moments the bird was overhead, foraging right out in the open. I watched it for nearly thirty minutes and it stayed in view the whole time.

Sometimes one has to just put in the time to be rewarded, or just go to the right place from the start!

Mangrove Cuckoo Key Largo, Florida Photo Stephan Lorenz


One response to this post.

  1. My three nights aboard a chartered yacht was full of fall out mornings but my favorite was the stormy morning when the boat was surrounded by roseate terns. One day had 60 Cape May warblers in the trees at the dock.


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