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Friday, September 27, 2013

Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival 2013

Where do I begin?  I have been at the festival for three days now and it seems like a week!  Rafael Galvaez has done a great job along with the rest of the planning committee in putting on a fine showcase of migration in the Florida Keys.  I have been helping out wherever I can.  Attendance at field trips has overcome expectations.  Fortunately, I was able to help with the crowds and co-lead field trips and workshops at Long Key State Park and the Florida Keys Hawkwatch with Rafael.  This morning we witnessed a classic example of migration in the keys.  We were forewarned of birds on the move through the magic of radar ornithology (Badbirdzreloaded).  Nocturnal flight calls were few this morning, so we were not sure if the day would bring much.  We were pleasantly surprised in the daylight.  The nature trail at Long Key State Park offers a variety of habitats, starting in mangrove swamp with a tower with a great view of the sky, transitioning into a ridge running along the edge of the gulf through hammock and mangrove, then through a very interesting xeric section where high salinity stints the growth of the Poisonwood and other tropical trees and shrubs and shells litter the ground, back to a nice hammock before dumping us out onto the parking lot again.  Jeff Bouton was our celebrity birder this morning and he helped a lot with his knowledge and willingness to share.  Rafael took the lead while I pulled up the rear and Jeff floated about.  The birds were fantastic as flocks of gnatcatchers flew along the island along with Palm warblers, a few other warblers, identifiable and not.  Swallows were in slightly lesser numbers than yesterday afternoon, but many species were represented including Cave swallows that Jeff picked out and Northern rough-winged, also Jeff.  Peregrine falcons continued to prove that this is the capital of the world with eight in one group circling over the xeric section of the trail.  We saw many more, and I hear that there were 100+ Peregrines in an hour today.  We may be in for a new record as the peak of Peregrine migration is still two weeks away. We ended the day by seeing what we think may have been a LaSagra's flycatcher in the parking lot, but like a good fish, it got away from us.  I recorded the birds of the field trip on BirdLog but I have not finalized numbers yet.  The total species sits at 46 with four other groups (Yellowlegs sp., Swallow sp., Cliff/Cave swallow, Warbler sp.) in addition.  Perhaps I should add flycatcher sp.

When I am sufficiently recovered from the heat and lack of sleep, I will drag myself out to do some more birding in the keys.  Perhaps more stories are to come.