Florida Day Three: A Morning Exploring Big Pine Key. And My First Key Deer!

Florida Day Three: A Morning Exploring Big Pine Key. And My First Key Deer!

Florida Day Two Big Pine Key morning deer January 12 2023 (18 of 31)
Previous Post
Next Post

I awoke early my first full day on Big Pine Key.  I was a little disappointed not seeing any key deer  the previous day.  Key deer are  an endangered smaller sub-species of the North American whitetail deer. If you follow my blog you would know  that  their  larger relatives visit my back yard in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The key deer once  roamed throughout the Florida keys but now are only found on Big Pine Key. There are only about 1000 key deer remaining. I was told they are commonly seen on the key and I would surely see one. I drove around the  back roads of the key the  previous evening and didn’t see one. So I was hoping to see one on  my morning hike. 

I decided to hike the beach trail I visited the previous afternoon and watch the sunrise.  The trail was only a mile from my lodging at the Barnacle Bed and Breakfast.  I parked at the gate and walked through the short trail through the salt flats  to the  desolated beach. There were no  wading birds in the pools along the trail at sunrise. I had a suspicion they would show up  later.

It was mostly clear and a pleasant 72 degrees when I got to the secluded beach. I was the only one there. It was a  wonderful,  primeval experience walking on the remote beach in the morning twilight. There were not many waves , just a gentle sloshing of the ocean on the sand and coral on the beach. 

Soon the sun appeared on the horizon, 

 I had just entered a grove of dead trees along the shore , a perfect place to watch it quickly climb in the southeastern sky. 

As I watched the sun rise, I soon discovered I wasn’t alone.. There was a flock of least sandpipers scurrying on the beach. 

And  a few turkey  vultures  were awakening in the  trees coastal forest above the beach. 

They didn’t not like me intruding on their private beach. 

I love walking  the shore early in the morning. There  weren’t a lot of seashells but it was still cool finding many old conch shells,


and beautiful green seaweed or algae growing on the beach.

I couldn’t explore the beach for long.  Breakfast was being served at my lodging at 8;30 a.m. and I wanted to hike some trails in search of key deer. Reluctantly, I left the beach , and walked back to the trail near the gate, On the way I  saw a few palm warblers on the beach, 

and this pelican in a pond above the beach. 

As I walked along the ponds I found dozens of wadding birds. It was an amazing sight, white ibises,

tr[-colored herons. 

and this reddish egret, a first for me, where  fluttering above the pond searching for food. 

The reddish egret was the most animated of the birds. It swooped and whirled and dunked it’s head under the muddy waters.  Seeing this small  pond filled with  these exotic wading birds was amazing.  Kingfishers and pelican flew overhead. It was already  a wonderful first day on Big Pine Key, 

I could spend hours watching these birds wading and scurrying in the pond.

However, I had 15 minutes until breakfast. So I decided to  talk a quick walk on  a trail  in the salt flats above the ocean, It was a good idea. Soon after walking  on the trail I saw my first key deer . It looked like a small doe.  So much smaller than our Pennsylvania white tail deer. It ran before I could get a photo  but I was just happy to see one.  

I continued my walk on the trail, and saw  these invasive but pretty Christmas bush senna, 

Jerusalem  cherry berries,

and bittersweet nightshade flowers both also  invasive in Florida.

 There were also some  pretty sea oxeye flowers, which are native to the Sunshine State. 

I also saw some more familiar resident of the woods of Pennsylvania, A pair of red-bellied woodpeckers.

 These noisy birds were squawking loudly on the dead trees in the salt flats. 

They did not mind my presence and almost seemed to be welcoming me to Big Pine Key . 

There were some larger, hardwood  trees on the other side of the trail and here I saw some more birds I now from back home, northern cardinals, 

gray catbirds, 

a female red-winged blackbird, 

yellow-rumped warblers, 

and one of my favorites a northern mockingbird. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website  with more photos of the birds I saw on  my sunrise hike. Florida Day Three Big Pine Key sunrise birds January 12 023. 

It was now 8;30 and I was a few minutes late for a delicious breakfast and as wonderful conversation with my host Jane and Time and  another couple from Maine. Here is a link to another gallery with more photos from my sunrise hike. Florida Day Three Big Pine Key sunrise hike January 12 2023. 

After breakfast I was back on the same trail, still  looking for key deer and anything else I could photograph. I was disappointed to find the wading birds had left the ponds Only this great white egret remained. 

I walked on the trail above the shore, being careful to avoid the many poison wood trees, These trees will cause a itchy rash far worse than poison ivy if touched.  However, they produce fruit which are an important food source for the local  wildlife. 

The trail got to be overgrown and unpassable  to follow so I made my way, through some thick underbrush to the beach, On the way I think I found the USS Minnow. 

I loved this desolate and unspoiled beach. 

And, also,  much to my surprise and delight, enjoying the beach was a young key deer buck. 

It seemed to welcome me as it foraged on sea weed and sea grass. 

It was a wonderful experience just me and the deer and the desolate beach. We watched each  other for a while until it decided to walk into the dense vegetation above  the beach. I accomplished my mission. I can share  a photo of the smaller relatives  of the whitetail deer that visit my backyard in Pennsylvania.

I continued my walk  along the solitary shore and saw this American kestrel and,

fittingly, a solitary sandpiper.

It was now near noon and getting hot  so I decided to end my hike. I walked though the  salt flats, and gumbo -limbo trees and returned to my room. It was a  wonderful morning  exploring Big Pine Island.  I know I will be doing a lot more exploring here on future visits to the Florida Keys.  I love the key deer! Here is a link to another gallery with some more photos from my morning hike. Florida Day Three Big Pine Key morning hike January 12 2023

“The richness I achieve comes from Nature, the source of my inspiration.” Claude Monet 


This is my first post