First things first - Let me say a big thanks to MarkBird for tons of help for locations and things to expect during our trip.
Wife and I (along with 11 other family members and our 2 young kids) traveled to Marathon Key last week for vacation. We knew there would be left over destruction from Hurricane Irma, but decided it was still worth taking the trip and trying to input some money into the local economy. We did not bird a lot (again, 2 young kids) but what we were able to do was very productive. There were limited locations within the middle keys to hike/bird, but we picked up several birds along the way and at the house we were staying at. Nothing like waking up and sitting on the balcony watching prairie and yellow-throated warblers 15 feet away in the palm trees!
After arriving in Fort Lauderdale, we grabbed the rental car and drove to Homestead where we stayed the first night. Nothing too interesting along the way, I was paying more attention on the road and construction than birds! The next morning we went to the Everglades and hit Anhinga Trail. It was very disappointing for the most part, except for a fly over snail kite (lifer). We got relatively good looks at it as it flew over the marsh. The water in the glades is extremely high and it seems like the birds are not concentrated at all. Our ebird list was pretty depressing.
After the glades, we drove to Marathon Key. Again, little birding along the way as the kids were sleeping and we were in awe of the piles of debris and destruction. Arriving in Marathon and after getting settled, we sat on the balcony and set up the scope. We were within scope range of the Gulf on a canal, so the birding was decent. Numerous fly over frigatebirds and brown pelicans, and several warblers in the palm trees. We also were treated to non-stop migrating raptors, with numerous peregrines, merlins and kestrels. Tons of osprey flying over as well.
We did ebird lists at several locations over the next few days but nothing we would call "serious birding," mostly me making lists while my wife walked with the kids. The first real birding opportunity we had was at Fort Zachary Park in Key West. We were able to convince an aunt to watch the kids and spent several hours walking the park and fort. The birding was incredible, warblers were everywhere and we picked up several life birds. The first bird out of the car was a pair of white crowned pigeons near the bathroom facility (lifer). At the same location were hoards of palm, redstarts, parulas and other warblers. Some trees had upwards of 30 birds in them! After picking through the birds, we made our way along the beach and towards a grassy area near the fort. The first excellent bird was a scissor-tailed flycatcher hawking insects 30 feet up the trail. We got awesome views for about 10 minutes. After it moved on, we made our way up the trail. Keeping an eye to the sky was worth the time as we had several falcons, merlins and even a Swainson's Hawk (lifer) flyover. The Swainson's was a real treat that we did not expect, and got excellent views as it flew low over the fort. After filling our need for raptors, we moved into the hammock area and quickly ran into a large pocket of warblers. My wife found the most significant bird of the day, a Swainson's Warbler! (lifer). At first she was the only one to see it, as in typical Swainson's warbler fashion it disappeared quickly. After several minutes, she found it again and I finally got great views of it. We ended up seeing it 3 times but got no photos (ugh!). From there we decided it was time to get back to the kids and ended the day with 57 species, 3 lifers and several birds seen for the second or third time.
The next opportunity to do some serious birding was in Palm Beach county on the way home. We stopped at Green Car Wetland complex with the kids (picked because of the boardwalk for easy stroller maneuvering). Let me just say....WWWWOOOOOWWWW!!!!! What an incredible place! Excellent nature center and trail system, and the birding was fantastic. Close views of limpkin (lifer), grey-headed swamphen (lifer) and all of the other wading birds was a real treat. We spent several hours walking the boardwalk and accumulated a pretty nice list (50 species) for the day. It was hard to leave but we had to get back to the hotel for an early flight home.
Overall, we picked up 8 life birds (up to 380 now) including Muscovy Duck, snail kite, white-crowned pigeon, Swainson's hawk, Swainson's Warbler, short-tailed hawk (on Key West), limpkin and grey-headed swamphen. We tallied 110 different species during the 8 day trip. The people we met in the Keys were fantastic, and did everything they could to make our stay enjoyable (despite many losing most or everything they owned during the hurricane).