The islands southeast of downtown Miami, Virginia Key and Key Biscayne, currently are hosting three vagrants from the West Indies in the space of about six miles: Western Spindalis (Code 3), La Sagra's Flycatcher (Code 3), and Bananaquit (Code 4).To get to Virginia Key and Key Biscayne, go to the southern end of I-95, then get on the Rickenbacker Causeway ($1.50 toll). The first island you come to is Virginia Key, and Key Biscayne is a short distance further. You can see the locations of all three birds on this map.
The Western Spindalis was the first one found, discovered on Nov 28 by Larry Manfredi. It already has its own #ABArare blog post, which can be found here. Just about all you need to know about finding it is in that post, except that the most recent sighting, on Jan 11, came from an area west of where it's normally been seen. To get to this location, take the bike trail that parallels the road to where it ends at a fence. There is a small meadow with a pile of rubble on your right. The Spindalis was in the shrubs behind the rubble.
Next to be found was the La Sagra's Flycatcher. Robin Diaz happened upon it on Jan 2, and it was still there as of Jan 11. From the Rickenbacker Causeway and across from the Miami Seaquarium, turn left (north) onto Arthur Lamb, Jr. Road ($5 toll). When the road splits, turn left onto Sewage Road. At first, there are guard rails on both sides of the road. Where the guardrail on the right ends, pull completely off the road and park. The flycatcher was first found in the vegetation just south of where the guardrail ends, and it has been seen a couple hundred yards further up the road (beyond the end of the guardrail). Diaz cautions birders to be careful, as the road is narrow and septic trucks going to the sewage plant travel through here fast. And let's face it: You don't want to be hit by a truck and especially not by a septic truck.
Finally, we have the Bananaquit. Also found by Robin Diaz, it was first seen on Jan 6 at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park (fee: $4/single-occupant motor vehicle, $8/vehicles with 2-8 occupants, $2/pedestrians and bicyclists; open 8 AM to sundown). From Virginia Key, take the Rickenbacker Causeway southeast. It becomes Crandon Boulevard. Continue to its end at the park entrance. Go to Area C and park at the south end of this parking lot. Walk a short distance south of the parking lot, and take the dirt Nature Trail on your right. Walk about 40 yards and look for some pink flagging. The bird has been in this area. It's been seen as recently as Jan 10, but not everyone has been successful.
You've probably noticed that all the photos are by Rangel Diaz. He's doing a big year in Miami-Dade County with a goal of 300 species, and he had a very good morning on Jan 8, managing to see and photograph all three of these vagrants before noon. You can follow the progress of his big year at his blog.
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