TAS Keys and Dry Tortugas Tour, April 20-22

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Posted by Brian Rapoza on 19:57:23 04/23/13

Nine birders joined Roberto Torres and me for this weekend s TAS trip to the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas. Considering that a cold front was forecast to pass through the area during our visit, we had high hopes for a spectacular weekend of birding. While the weather failed to produce large numbers of migrants, we still saw a nice variety of birds.

We spent Saturday birding from Miami to Key West. Morning stops included Card Sound Bridge, Crocodile Lake NWR, Carysfort Circle, Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock State Botanical Site and the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center. After lunch at Islamorada Fish Company, we continued on to Key West, stopping at Lake Edna on Grassy Key, Key Colony and Sombrero Beach Golf Course on Marathon (no Burrowing Owls were found at either location), Marathon Government Center (no Roseate Terns seen or heard) and Ohio Key. After our motel check-in and dinner at the Hogfish Bar and Grill on Stock Island, we ended our day searching unsuccessfully for Antillean Nighthawks at Florida Keys Community College.

Sunday was spent at Dry Tortugas National Park. Joining us on the Yankee Freedom ferry were birders from California and the Washington DC area, who we ran into again and again at locations visited on Monday. We were greeted at the Garden Key dock by Larry Manfredi, who was leading his own Tortugas tour; a group led by David Simpson and Gallus Quigley arrived on the island later in the afternoon. During our 3.5 hour visit, we scoured the island inside Ft Jefferson and out, spending a good amount of time observing birds coming to the plastic water trays set up at the site of the old bird fountain that was removed in January. (Note: late last week, I was informed that the National Park Service has approved TAS s design for a replacement bird fountain. Money raised during the just-concluded TAS Birdathon will be used to fund the project; with installation targeted for the fall migration season.) Upon our return to Key West, we had dinner at the Turtle Kralls, followed by another try for Antillean Nighthawk, this time at Key West Airport. A nighthawk flew over the group shortly after we arrived, but it never vocalized.

We spent Monday morning at Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park and Key West Botanical Garden. At Ft Zachary Taylor, we searched in vain for an Arawak Short-eared Owl that had been present for the previous week, but did run into a couple of good birds while there. At the Botanical Garden, we ran into a birder who told us he had just seen the Western Spindalis that had been wintering there. While searching the area, I spotted a bird that I initially thought was the Spindalis, but it turned out to be a ratty-looking Blue Grosbeak. After lunch at Mangrove Mama s on Sugarloaf Key, we headed back to Miami. Our last stops of the day were at Black Point Park, our last hope for Mangrove Cuckoo and the Baptist Hospital area, to search for exotics.

Here s what we saw in three full days of birding:
Muscovy Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Pied-billed Grebe
Audubon s Shearwater one en route to the Tortugas
Masked Booby many on Hospital Key
Brown Booby several, including seven on a channel marker near Garden Key
Northern Gannet an adult bird floating near the dock at Garden Key, plus others seen en route
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
Turkey Vulture
Cooper s Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
American Kestrel
Common Gallinule
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Black-necked Stilt
Ruddy Turnstone
Semipalmated Sandpiper on Ohio Key
Least Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Laughig Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Gull-billed Tern one en route to the Tortugas
Royal Tern
Sandwich Tern
Roseate Tern on the south coal dock at Garden Key
Common Tern on the south coal dock at Garden Key
Least Tern
Sooty Tern
Brown Noddy
Rock Pigeon
White-crowned Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
White-winged Dove in Ft Jefferson
Mourning Dove
Common Ground-Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo at Dagny Johnson and Ft Zachary Taylor
Mangrove Cuckoo at Black Point, first heard by our friends from California and the DC area, later provided extended crippling looks, was still present when we left
Common Nighthawk at Doc Thomas House, our first bird of the trip
Chuck-will s-widow perched in a bush near the north coal dock on Garden Key
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Gray Kingbird
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher several at Ft Zachary Taylor
Loggerhead Shrike
White-eyed Vireo
Black-whiskered Vireo seen at Card Sound Bridge and in Ft Jefferson, heard elsewhere
Blue Jay
American Crow on 18-mile stretch of US 1 between Key Largo and Florida City
Fish Crow one seen in Marathon was assumed to be this species; also seen near Baptist Hospital
Purple Martin
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cave Swallow SW 216 Street in Cutler Bay
Barn Swallow
Red-whiskered Bulbul two in Kendallwood
Ruby-crowned Kinglet one in Ft Jefferson, an unusual species for the Tortugas
Gray-cheeked Thrush one in Ft Jefferson
Swainson s Thrush one in Ft Jefferson
Wood Thrush one in the Garden Key campground
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Common Myna several seen from South Miami to Key West
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Waterthrush
Blue-winged Warbler two, maybe three in bushes between the restrooms and helicopter pad on Garden Key
Black-and-white Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler several on Garden Key
American Redstart
Cape May Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler Cuban race at Card Sound Bridge, nominate race in Ft Jefferson
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Summer Tanager in Ft Jefferson
Scarlet Tanager in Ft Jefferson
Northern Cardinal
Blue Grosbeak at Ft Zachary Taylor and the aforementioned bird at Key West Botanical Garden
Indigo Bunting several at Ft Jefferson
Painted Bunting at Key West Botanical Garden
Dickcissel three in the same tree at Key West Botanical Garden
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Shiny Cowbird one seen in Florida City
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole in Ft Jefferson
Spot-breasted Oriole two in Kendallwood
Baltimore Oriole in Ft Jefferson

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