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Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival Dry Tortugas Tour
September 27, 2009

We had a really good turnout for the Dry Tortugas Tour, 24-participants signed up including six birders from Belgium.  We saw some Black-bellied Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher, Ruddy Turnstone along the rocks as we were  leaving the port. We had a beautiful 70-mile ride out to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas.  The seas were flat calm as we cruised along at 30-plus miles an hour.  We saw many Magnificent Frigatebirds on the way out and an interesting jaeger species or better???  We saw what I first thought was a Pomarine Jaeger near some Laughing Gulls, it was all dark with white in the wings.  I looked hard to see any tail projections but there were none.  When the boat is moving so fast, you don't have much time to go over details.  The very experienced Belgium birders first words were Great Skua!!  If I were to guess as to which skua, I would say dark morph South Polar Skua based on what I saw.  The bird was larger than the near by Laughing Gulls, the birds were flying over the water behind the boat.  It is a shame that the boat was so fast, it is like trying to bird from a car.  I guess were are going to have to leave it as an unidentified bird, it is a shame we could not turn the boat around!

As we got closer to Ft. Jefferson we saw a Brown Booby fly by.  Once in the park boundaries we cruised over to Hospital Key.  We had some Masked Boobies in flight which was nice.
Masked Booby

We were able to see many Masked Boobies as well as Brown Boobies on the sand bar of Hospital Key. 

The birds were on Middle Key last year at this time, but it is now under water.  Hospital Key is not much bigger and seems to keep shrinking and growing, mostly shrinking. 

We had the ever present Magnificent Frigatebirds soaring over Long Key as well as Fort Jefferson.
Magnificent Frigatebird female

We were all anxious to get on shore to see what migrants we might find.  We had a pretty good assortment of migrants including some that are not that common in Florida.  We had a few Ovenbirds which are a common migrant there.

We also had several other warbler species including this Prairie Warbler.
Prairie Warbler

A male Hooded Warbler is always a beautiful bird, can't see enough of these!
Hooded Warbler

Black-and-white Warbler

We had one Swainson's Thrush but no other thrushes.
Swainson's Thrush

We had a nice Canada Warbler and a Chestnut-sided Warbler, I was not able to get a photo of them.  We also had an American Golden Plover that we saw fly by with a Black-bellied Plover.  The bird landed far from Garden Key.  When we saw it again, we were all on the boat leaving.  It was on the beach area near the north coaling docks.  I was not able to get a photo but always a nice bird to see.

A list of birds seen are below, we had great weather and smooth sailing.  I can't wait until the next festival in 2010!
Click here for next year
Masked Booby Bank Swallow
Brown Booby Cliff Swallow
Brown Pelican Barn Swallow
Double-crested Cormorant Swainson's Thrush
Magnificent Frigatebird Northern Parula
Great Egret Yellow Warbler
Cattle Egret Chestnut-sided Warbler
Green Heron Magnolia Warbler
White Ibis Prairie Warbler
Sharp-shinned Hawk Palm Warbler
Peregrine Falcon Black-and-white Warbler
Black-bellied Plover American Redstart
American Golden Plover Ovenbird
Willet Northern Waterthrush
Whimbrel Kentucky Warbler seen by one participant.
Ruddy Turnstone Common Yellowthroat
Sanderling Hooded Warbler
Laughing Gull Canada Warbler
Sandwich Tern Bobolink
Eastern Kingbird Baltimore Oriole


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