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Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival Pelagic tour, September 25, 2009

We had four participants on another great pelagic trip off Marathon in the Florida Keys.  We had sunny skies with 2-4 foot seas which makes for a not too bad ride.  We had a pretty good variety of pelagic species as well as a few other non pelagic species.  We were on a 30' boat with a 12' stern.  We all had plenty of room to move around and were able to get great looks at most of the birds. 

We left the dock in Marathon at 8:00a.m., we proceeded  toward the Marathon Hump 22 miles from shore.  The hump creates upwelling which attract bait fish and then the larger fish that feed on them.  All of the bait and larger fish, attract pelagic birds which makes the twenty two mile run well worth it.  The first bird we were able to see was a Bridled Tern not too far past the reef.  We had ok looks at the bird as it flew away.  As we went farther out we had the first of many Brown Boobies.
Brown Booby

It was nice to see so many adults, in the spring I see almost all immature birds and hardly ever any adults.  We had several Magnificent Frigatebirds which is always nice, it is amazing how they soar for hours without flapping.
Magnificent Frigatebird, male

Magnificent Frigatebird, immature

We had a Merlin cruise close to the boat feeding on a migrant bird, perhaps a thrush?

We also had some phalaropes fly by, they may have been Red-necked but I could not see them well enough to be sure.  We were able to see where the Marathon Hump was by a large flock birds feeding around it.
Flock of Brown Boobies with a couple of Sooty Terns

One of a few large flocks of Brown Boobies present

While scanning through the flocks we were able to get a good look at a single Black Tern
Black Tern

We also had several Sooty Terns including some immature birds.
Sooty Tern

Sooty Tern, immature

While continuing to scan the flocks we were able to see a couple of Cory's Shearwater.
Cory's Shearwater with Brown Booby

Cory's Shearwater

Cory's Shearwater

With so much bait in the water and so many fish around, we dropped a line over and caught a few fish.
Blackfin Tuna

Another scan of the flocks revealed a Brown Noddy, which was very cooperative and sat in the water for us!
Brown Noddy

We had a flock of herons go by, a couple of them were Little Blue Herons, the others may have been Cattle Egrets.  In the channel on the way in, we saw a  Great White Heron, white morph of Great Blue Heron.  It was standing in a little skiff near a house.
Great White Heron, white morph of Great Blue Heron

Last year we were able to find four Black-capped Petrels, I had hoped for some on this trip but no luck.  Here is a list of birds seen.
Brown Booby 75
Sooty Tern 6
Bridled Tern 4
Black Tern 1
Magnificent Frigatebird 6
Cory's Shearwater 2
phalarope species 2
Great White Heron 2
Little Blue Heron 2
Royal Tern several
Merlin 1

For next years festival click here


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