March 23, 2011

Florida Birding

Here's my trip report from Florida. People pics coming soon :-)
March 28 – About two weeks ago Noah, Chris and I began our big southeast spring tour. We started in Atlanta, GA and drove to Florida. On March 18 I got up early and drove out to Osceola National Forrest where, after some searching, I found a very cooperative pair of RED-COCKADED WOODPECKERS. Beautiful birds. I watched them for quite a while, had really nice looks, got to be more familiar with their call and even took a few decent pictures. Eventually a third bird was seen as well. Other fun southern species seen that morning were Brown-headed Nuthatches, Yellow-throated Warbler and White-eyed Vireo. On March 20 I found a pair of LIMPKIN and a few MUSCOVY DUCKS (Life Bird) on a small pond in Boca Raton. I guess the Muscovy Ducks in Florida are countable. But the biggest birding highlight of the trip came on March 21 when I took the Yankee Freedom II out to the Dry Tortugas! MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRDS and Black Skimmers were at the dock in Key West, Northern Gannets and Royal Terns were seen on the trip out. Soon after we entered the National Park I had my first looks at SOOTY TERNS (Life Bird) and BROWN NODDYS (Life Bird). The boat went by Hospital Key fairly close and slow so we had pretty decent looks at the MASKED BOOBY (Life Bird) colony. Even got to see a Frigatebird attack a Masked Booby briefly! And then as we got a little closer we had our first looks at the enormous Sooty Tern colony with thousands of birds in the air at once. It was an amazing experience. The terns and noddys swirling around like crazy, the frigatebirds just hanging in the air completely motionless. We landed on Garden Key and got to explore Fort Jefferson looking for migrants. Right inside the fort I had my first looks at a GRAY KINGBIRD (Life Bird) catching flies in tops of the trees. Lots of Palm Warblers were in the lawn and I had my fos Northern Parulas, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush and Black-and-white Warbler near the fountain. The coolest land birds for me were two CHUCK-WILLS-WIDOWS flying around inside the fort! These were my first ever looks at this bird which means that King Rail is now the last “heard only” species on my ABA Life List. Finally, as we were on the boat leaving the park we passed a channel marker that had three BROWN BOOBYS (Life Bird) perched on it. It was a wonderful day of birding and I can't wait to go back. The next day I had a Cape May Warbler on Marathon, terrific looks at a Merlin on Big Pine Key and a Great White Heron on Key West at sunset. On our last morning in the keys I had a couple Common Mynas in a parking lot on Marathon. My first SWALLOW-TAILED KITES of the trip were seen along the highway on March 24. My last memorable birding experience for this part of the trip came yesterday when Noah and I went with some friends out to the beach near St Petersburg. On our way out I briefly caught glimpses of a couple parakeets and possibly a parrot as well perched on telephone wires. So on the way back we stopped and I had my first good looks at a pair of beautiful BLACK-HOODED PARAKEETS which were life birds for me but I guess not countable for my ABA list. My North American year list is currently at 161.

Red-cockaded WoodpeckerMerlinLimpkinNorthern GannetMasked Booby
(notice the dark secondaries!)Brown BoobySooty TernSooty Terns w/ Brown NoddyBush KeyMagnificent FrigatebirdGray KingbirdChuck-wills-widowBlack-hooded Parakeets