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Posted By Robin & Jim

We occasionally stop working on projects to do something fun and interesting, so a few days ago we headed down to Key West with friends to hear a lecture on the seven birds that are fairly unique to the Keys for one reason or another.  We left Marathon early enough to stop at the Butterfly Conservatory since Jim and I have never been.  WOW!  It was really excellent, with tons of gorgeous plants, beautiful little birds, and tons of colorful butterflies.  I brought my camera and spent a little time photographing there, and I definitely plan to go back again and spend even more time.  It's a small place, but packed with amazing things.

butterfly and red pod

I could spend a whole day photographing just the plants, and another day of the little birds, and yet another day or two on the butterflies themselves.

butterfly and red flower

Yesterday my friend Carol and I took a guided hike on a shoreline trail down on Big Pine Key.  We were looking for birds and small critters, but the highlights were the butterflies... in the wild this time.  We saw several different kinds, including this Great Southern White that differs from the Florida version because of the vivid blue tips on his antenna.

great southern white butterfly

He's perched on sea lavender which seems to be very salt-tolerant since it grows well along the shore.  The photo below is another kind of butterfly - I don't know the type.  The tiny flowers were blooming so that's why we saw so many butterflies on the trail.

big pine butterfly

This one was pretty - standing up on tip-toe...

butterfly on tiptoe

We also saw some palm warblers (small birds) as well as ibis, pelicans, cormorants, and osprey.  It was also neat to see how the gumbo limbo tree (aka the "tourist tree" because it's bark is always red and peeling) grows near the poisonwood tree.  Poisonwood lives up to it's name and is quite potent, but the sap of the gumbo limbo tree can provide some relief.  These are native trees, and the poisonwood is very important since it's the favorite food source for the white-crowned pigeon - an endangered bird.

The most interesting new find on our hike was a hummingbird moth.  I thought I saw a very small hummingbird, but the naturalist guide said that it's a type of moth!  Aside from it's smaller size and less vivid coloring, it behaved just like a hummingbird - very cool.

After our hike we headed up to No Name Pub for some pizza, and even though it was the middle of the day and hot we did see two of the diminutive Key Deer.  Always a treat!


 
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