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Audubon Society of the Everglades Florida Keys Tour, October 18, 2009
I had the pleasure of taking 14-members of the Audubon Society of the Everglades birding in the Florida Keys.  We were going to start in Marathon midway in the keys and then hit birding areas going north. I made the decision to head south instead of north, I wanted the group to go to Key West.  Key West is only about an hour from Marathon, I figured that with the cold front coming through, that Key West would be the place to be.  We made a beeline for Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West.  Along the way I could see warblers along the road and flying across the road.  I felt that the birding was going to be really good at Fort Zachary Taylor.  We arrived at the park about 9:00 a.m. and were greeted by dozens and dozens of migrants.  We were in the middle of a fallout with birds everywhere we looked.  The birds were very flighty and not staying in one place for very long.  This made in difficult to get on many of the birds.  There were many Eastern Wood-Pewee present with many of the birds calling.  We also had a calling Acadian Flycatcher which would not show itself, darn it!
 Eastern Wood-Pewee

There were many Indigo Buntings calling and a few Painted Buntings, we got good looks at a few Indigo Buntings.
Indigo Bunting

American Redstarts were everywhere you looked, mostly females.
American Redstart

We also had a few Yellow-throated Warblers which showed well.
Yellow-throated Warbler

When we were driving into the park, we saw dozens and dozens of Palm Warblers, they have come back in a big way!
Palm Warbler

There were many, many Gray Catbirds, like everything else they were very active.  I guess they were getting a good meal before crossing the gulf!
Gray Catbird

We saw the Disney cruise ship come in and then the Ft. Myers Ferry, I wonder if any pelagic birds can be seen from this catamaran?  Carl Goodrich joined us and helped find more birds.  We we checked the Australian Pines near the beach where we saw many more warblers.  We also had at least two calling Dickcissel which did not land were we could see them.

We had dozens of raptors and swallows, many Sharp-shinned Hawks, Cooper's Hawk, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin and great flyover views of Broad-winged HawkBirds were in the air on the ground and in the trees, everywhere we looked!

We had an excellent lunch right on Higg's Beach after about four or five hours of "fast and furious" birding. While eating lunch, an American Avocet landed on the beach with a Willet and Black-bellied Plover.  This was an excellent fallout, I wish that we were able to stay the whole day, it would have been well worth it!

After lunch I departed the Audubon group and started driving out of Key West.  As I came to Flagler near an Irish Pub, I saw a soaring immature Mississippi Kite.  I called two birders on the Island and the Audubon group to alert them to the kite.  No one was able find it after I left, I at least was able to get a photo of it.  I even got to see it land in a huge Tropical Almond Tree.  The bird was dive bombed by a couple of Kestrels, perhaps they made it move on?
Mississippi Kite

I did not keep a list of total birds seen, but have included the warblers and other cool birds.  There were dozens and dozens of Kestrels trying to cross the water along the 7-mile bridge.  I don't think I have ever seen so many Kestrels in one day, they were certainly in the hundreds of birds.  I saw them all along the 130 miles back to Homestead, it was truly amazing the numbers that I saw!

Tennessee Warbler a lifer for a few. Cooper's Hawk
Northern Parula Sharp-shinned Hawk
Magnolia Warbler, many, many birds. Broad-winged Hawk
Black-and-white Warbler American Kestrel
Black-throated Blue Warbler Merlin
Black-throated Green Warbler Peregrine Falcon
Yellow-throated Warbler Mississippi Kite
Prairie Warbler SNAIL KITE, seen by 2-members on US1!
Palm Warbler Dickcissel, at least two birds
Hooded Warbler, several seen including males. American Avocet
Ovenbird Black-bellied Plover
Common Yellowthroat, very abundant. Willet
American Redstart, very abundant. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, US1 and Long Beach road on Big Pine Key.
Boblink, several birds Magnificent Frigatebird
Summer Tanager Rose-breasted Grosbeak, seen by the group after I left.
Scarlet Tanager  
Gray-cheeked Thrush  
Swainson's Thrush  
Eastern Woodpewee, everywhere  
Acadian Flycatcher  

Our group saw 13-species of warbler in the 4-5 hours that we birded which is pretty darn good.  Carl Goodrich was able to bird the whole day and ended up with 19-species of warbler.  He had Chestnut-sided Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler and a few others that we did not have time to see.  It was a wonderful half day of birding with a great group of people!



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