TAS Dry Tortugas Trip

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Posted by Paul Bithorn on April 15, 2002 at 20:27:30:

The TAS Dry Tortugas trip from April 10 to April 13 was a great success despite steady 20 knot winds out of the east all 4 days. The caravan from the Doc Thomas house in South Miami to the Keys included White-crowned Pigeon, Red-Whiskered Bulbul, White-winged, Yellow-chevroned and Monk Parakeets, Blue & Yellow Macaw,Hill Myna, Snail Kite, et al. After lunch at Flamingo's in Key Largo the group birded its'way down the Keys. A stop at the Community College on Stock Island at dusk to search for Antillean Nighthawk came up empty, so on to dinner at El Siboney's Cuban Restaurant in Key West for excellent Cuban cuisine.

The Yankee Freedom I left Oceanside Marina on Stock Island at 5:30 a.m. the following morning due to rough seas. This afforded us additional daylight pelagic birding and it paid off in a big way. A White-tailed Tropicbird flew right over the boat between Rebecca Shoals and the Fort. This much sought after species has become conspicuously absent the last ten years.

The strong winds discouraged any mass migration to pass over the Tortugas and needless to say, land birds were very scarce. An Arawak Short-eared Owl, Black-whiskered Vireo,Gray Kingbird, 11 species of warbler, Brown Thrasher (rare), Eurasian Collared and
White-winged Doves, Sooty Tern, Brown Noddy, Masked & Brown Booby and the constantly kiting Magnificent Frigatebirds were the highlights of the birding around the Fort.A night-time moat walk around the Fort included Queen and Horse Conch, three species of sea urchin, sea cucumbers, luminscent sea worms and many assorted tropical fish.

A dinghy run along Bush and Long Keys gave us close-up looks at nesting Sooty Terns,Brown Noddies, Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, the only nesting colony of Magnificent Frigatebird in North America and roosting immature Brown Boobies. Two Magificent Frigatebird males put on a show by inflating their throat pouches to look like bright red beach balls.

A trip to Loggerhead Key had all three species of falcon and an Arawak Short-eared Owl.

Forty Masked Boobies were seen on Hospital Key, the only nesting colony in North America. An adult Northern Gannet left as we pulled up to the Key.

When we left the Fort Saturday morning the windy weather conditions and rough seas forced us to return via shallow waters, but still produced Roseate and Bridled Terns and Northern Gannet.

Despite non-optimum weather conditions the birding produced many lifebirds for our group,but more importantly, many friendships were made, our passion for birding and natural history our common thread. Life is good.............

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