Birding the Keys

Female Magnificent Frigatebird

As you may have noticed in my previous post we were in the Florida Keys, not to view devastation, though there was plenty of that, but to look for birds. We weren’t even sure the trip was going to “fly”, so to speak, but Road Scholar assured us we would be fine so off we went. Ended up there were five of us plus our guide and our driver/coordinator. A lot of people were scared off. So we had almost individualized birding guidance.

The hurricane changed some habitats, plus the day before we arrived they had 9 inches of rain. So areas where shorebirds were usually found (shallow waters) had no birds. The water was just too deep. Some shorelines had been changed by the winds which moved sand pretty far inland. At one beach there were guys with little bulldozers literally pushing the sand back on to the shore. So even though our guide had scoped out the areas we planned to visit, things had changed, birds had moved on and we just had to work a little harder.

Pushing the beach back

But even with these challenges we added 41 birds to our yearly list, seven of those were life birds.

Just a refresher here. We keep two lists. One is a Yearly List which is all of the bird species we see in the year. So the first robin, the first bluejay, the first chickadee of the year and so on. So far I have 220 for 2017. Our second list is the Life List. This is the total species we have seen in our lifetime. So not a lot get added every year unless we travel to different habitats. Our Life Birds from this trip included the Brown Booby and the Masked Booby (both seen from our boat on the way to the Dry Tortugas), the White-crowned Pigeon and the Worm-eating Warbler (in the Everglades), the Common Ground Dove, the Short-tailed Hawk, and the Magnificent Frigatebird. The Frigatebird is the only one I was able to photograph and she is at the top of this post. You probably are more familiar with the male in his breeding plumage. He is all black and he puffs up a bright red pouch under his bill.

Here are my photos I was able to get of some of the birds we added to our 2017 list.

Cattle Egret, Brown Pelican, White Ibis

Ruddy Turnstone, Palm Warbler (in flight), Black-throated Blue Warbler and a Parula Warbler

Royal Terns (orange bill) and Black-bellied Plovers (black belly only in breeding)

An uncle asked me recently ,”Why do you travel so far to see birds?” The only answer I could think of was, “That’s where they are. And besides, there aren’t any Frigatebirds in Wisconsin.” Bottomline, we don’t ski, or play hockey or run marathons. This is our sport, this is our fun.

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