TAS Florida Keys Birding Tour, April 20-22

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Posted by Brian Rapoza on 18:32:51 04/23/12

Ten birders joined Paul Bithorn and me for this past weekend s tour of the Florida Keys. The tour was to include a day trip to the Dry Tortugas on the Yankee Freedom, but trips this weekend were cancelled due to Saturday s storm and Sunday s high winds. We made the best of it in Key West, spending most of Saturday and part of Sunday at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. Saturday s heavy rains forced large numbers of songbirds to make landfall at the park. By birding from whatever shelter we could find and venturing out between squalls, we managed to tally an impressive 21 warbler species on Saturday, including Swainson s, Nashville and Blue-winged. The Swainson s was found in the picnic area on the south side of the park, foraging among dozens of Ovenbirds and waterthrushes. Large numbers of warblers were also seen along the Fort View Trail, around the blacksmith exhibit, in trees surrounding the parking areas and just about everywhere else we looked. Though songbird numbers had diminished significantly when we returned to the park on Sunday, we still managed to spot a few new species for the trip.

We spent Friday making our way down the Keys, stopping first at the Card Sound Bridge, where we found at least three Cuban Yellow Warblers in the mangroves at the bridge s west end. At Crocodile Lake NWR in North Key Largo, we had good looks at least one Clapper Rail, and heard several others. Our first Black-whiskered Vireo was found along Carysfort Circle; a male Painted Bunting was also seen there. Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park was quiet, save for the hordes of mosquitoes; we failed to find a Mangrove Cuckoo or much of anything else there. After lunch in Islamorada, we stopped briefly at Lower Matecumbe Beach and Lake Edna on Grassy Key, adding a few shorebirds to our trip list. Two Burrowing Owls were found at a well-known burrow along Ocean Drive in Key Colony, just east of Marathon. Only Least Terns were found at Marathon Government Center. Several Key Deer were sighted during a side trip to No Name Key. A Mangrove Cuckoo was heard, but none were seen at the end of CR 939 on Sugarloaf Key. We ended the day at Key West Airport, hoping for Antillean Nighthawk but finding none. A return visit on Sunday added Upland Sandpiper to our trip list, but no nighthawks.

After saying goodbye to Key West on Sunday, we headed back to Sugarloaf Key, hoping to locate a Mangrove Cuckoo. Another was heard, but once again, none were seen. Several migrants were found during our search, including Gray-cheeked Thrush, Scarlet Tanager and Grasshopper Sparrow. En route to Marathon, Paul s van stopped briefly at Ohio Key, where copulating Wilson s Plovers were spotted. After lunch, both vans made a return visit to Marathon Government Center, where two Roseate Terns were found, including one perched on a dock behind the building where terns have nested in recent years. Our good luck continued at our next stop, Marathon Airport, where flooded grassy areas at the west end of the airport attracted a nice variety of shorebirds, including Solitary and Pectoral Sandpiper, Wilson s Snipe and three more Upland Sandpipers. Paul s van couldn t get enough shorebirds, adding Semipalmated and Western Sandpiper to our trip list during a return stop at Lower Matecumbe Beach. Now desperate to find a Mangrove Cuckoo, both vans paid a return visit to Dagny Johnson, but were once again denied. Heading back to the mainland, we made one last try for the cuckoo at Black Point, but again came up empty. A Bald Eagle was spotted while searching. Quick stops at Cutler Wetlands and the bridge at the Turnpike and SW 216 Street produced our last new birds of the tour: Northern Shoveler at the wetlands and Cave Swallows around the bridge.

The trip list:

Muscovy Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Red-breasted Merganser
Pied-billed Grebe
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Magnificent Frigatebird
Great Blue Heron
Great White Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Reddish Egret
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
White Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Clapper Rail
Common Gallinule
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Wilson s Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Black-necked Stilt
Spotted Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Upland Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Wilson s Snipe
Laughing Gull
Least Tern
Roseate Tern
Royal Tern
Rock Pigeon
White-crowned Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Common Ground-Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Mangrove Cuckoo (heard only)
Burrowing Owl
Common Nighthawk
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Gray Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
Black-whiskered Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Purple Martin
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Cave Swallow
Barn Swallow
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Common Myna
Worm-eating Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Northern Waterthrush
Blue-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
Swainson s Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
American Redstart
Cape May Warbler
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Yellow Warbler (nominate and Cuban races)
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Grasshopper Sparrow
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Painted Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
House Sparrow

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